Pro Tips For Winterizing Your Arena
so you can stay riding well all season long
A little chilly weather certainly isn’t going to stop me from riding all winter and it shouldn’t stop you either. Growing up in riding Wisconsin I’ve learned a few tricks to keeping arenas in working order regardless of the conditions outside. And I can confidently say its way easier to tackle winterizing your arenas before everything freezes.
I’d love for you to put these tips to use and get prepped while you’ve still got fair weather so you and your horse can ride well all season long.
Winterizing Indoor Riding Arena Like A Pro
1. Keep your indoor footings frost-free and fluffy
Now is the time to get the moisture level just right and apply dust control/frost prevention to your indoor arena footings. I’ve found it works well to level and drag the arena (you can check out more on that in this article here) then apply magnesium/calcium chloride or crystal solar salt with a broadcast spreader. I like to use the walk-behind type and spread the whole arena one direction then go over it again in the opposite direction. You can use a pull-behind spreader just be sure not to over-apply the ends or miss out on the center of the arena. After it has a chance to sit for a few hours drag it again to mix it into all the layers of footing.
*If you’re not sure whether you should go with salt or magnesium chloride they will both keep your indoor arena footings from freezing but there are different advantages to both of them. Salt is a bit less expensive and allows you to water all winter to keep the dust down without much re-applying. Magnesium chloride/calcium chloride is pricier but acts as a dust control as the flakes turn to liquid when they interact with the moisture in the footings. Depending on the type of footing you have and arena use you may have to reapply it throughout the season (it binds best to inorganic material so it’s awesome for giving a bit of grip to sand arenas). Be sure not to get salt or magnesium chloride on the metal doors.
2. Seal up the drafts
Most of us don’t think about the drafts in the indoor arena till the snow blows in piling up the corners or the far end gets flooded in the spring thaw. It’s way easier to get after these problem areas when the weather is still nice but it can be tricky to know just what spots need to be fixed. The easy trick to finding drafts is to have a helper walk around the outside of the arena on a dark night with a bright flashlight (you may need to flip the breaker on the dusk to dawn yard lights if you’ve got any), meanwhile you will be inside the arena looking for the areas where the light shines in through the gaps. The trouble spots are usually around doors that need to have weather stripping replaced or areas that the footings have migrated away from the walls.
3. Prep for traction control
Mixing barn lime with your ice melt salt provides great traction control and makes the ice melt stretch a little further saving money. It’s handy to keep a bucket full with a scooper at each exterior door to catch the icy patches before you find yourself crawling out on all fours to see your horse.
4. Bust out the squeegee
Wash all windows, doors, and mirrors before it’s freezing outside. Don’t put this one off, you’ll be stuck looking through dirty windows all winter.
5. Show the sliders some love
Oil sliding door tracks (WD-40 Specialist Dry Lube is great for door tracks as dirt and dust won’t stick to it like other oils) to keep them sliding easily in frigid temps. You’ll also want to make sure there is good ground clearance for sliding doors to open and close when the ground expands in the winter. Prevent the door from getting hung up by clearing excess dirt from around the guide rail and door path. A gardening spade is a perfect tool to make a nice channel and not have to worry about creating a gaping hole for drafts to come in under the door.
Winterizing Outdoor Riding Arena Like A Pro
I’ve been to lots of barns where spring roll around and the outdoor arena is out of commission for weeks after the weather has started to warm up because it’s too wet and muddy to safely ride in. It’s such a bummer and its preventable.
If you live in an area that doesn’t allow for much outdoor riding in the winter a few extra steps of winterization in the fall can get you back to riding outside much sooner in the spring.
1. Level it out
Level out, drag, and close up your outdoor arena for the season. By leveling the footings and working out any skink holes or rail dips your arena won’t have areas of standing water when the ground freezes and thaws.
2.Drag like you mean it
After filling the major gaps you’ll want to drag the entire surface several times with varying patterns (you can find more on this in my article about arena maintenance in a budget). It’s worth putting in the extra effort to get it just right as this will help the snow and ice run off quickly when things thaw out in the spring.
3. Close it up
I’m not one to padlock the gate shut for the winter season like some barns that I’ve been at but I do think that posting a few extra rules for arena use during times when the ground is unstable will ensure that it stays on track to handle tough winter conditions and be ready to go first thing in the spring. Even just asking everyone to avoid lunging, riding in it when it’s wet, and letting their horses run loose in the outdoor will help to maintain all your winter prep work.