Fighting the “dark” side…..

I hate winter. Well, to be more precise, it’s the short days I hate more so than the cold, since we don’t have a lot of that here, except for last winter. I am definitely ‘solar powered.’ Even when it’s overcast, my energy level slumps. When I get home and have to race out to the barn just to get about 20 minutes of riding in true daylight…well, it sucks, Add cold weather and it’s enough to put me in a blue funk. And this year, to top it all off, I have nowhere to ride. Of course you are asking – didn’t you just spend a butt load of money on an arena renovation. Yessiree, I most certainly did. Not only a butt load of $$$, but four grueling days playing general contractor/compactor driver/water tank filler/ etc. etc. etc.  And the arena was fabulous. The best footing I’ve ever had. Until the first time it rained in late October. And I haven’t been able to ride on it since. Even with a week of dry weather – my horses are punching through the sand down to the base, which is quite soft and wet – making lovely divots all over the arena. So, it is essentially unrideable.  It is definitely the base material. The dozer guy did his job perfectly  – it drains. I can find no low spots. There is no standing water. The best guess, from materials guys I’ve talked to is that there was too much clay in the fill material. This is the fourth arena I’ve built – none with rock bases, and all with garden variety ‘select fill’ (which is what the local sand pit guys also refer to as a 60//40 mix of sand/clay) and I’ve never had this problem before. And this time I really went by the book and compacted it before putting the sand on it. And right now it’s a $7500 sand box.  I’ll have plenty of time to contemplate my options since it will be almost impossible to fix it with winter coming on, and I have no money to fix it anyway.

I know a few options, none of them ideal. They include:

1. Smooth out the divots, drag the arena and plant bermuda grass on it. Wait about 8 months and the grass should cover and the roots will form a support system that should make the arena firm enough to ride on. The down side – I did not spend that much money to have a turf arena – which is essentially what I had before. Also, should I decide I need a rock arena, it will be hell getting all the dead grass and roots out of the sand to reuse it and I may be looking at buying all new sand – about $3,000.

2. Find a soil engineer and see if tilling crushed granite (or decomposed granite as it is sometimes called) into the top 2″ or so of the base (after removing the sand) will help firm up the surface. DG is not cheap, tho, and that option may not be a whole lot cheaper than just putting in a limestone or crushed concrete base.

3. Have dozer guy scrape off a few inches of ‘bad’ base and have him dig new material for base by enlarging our pond. That is what I used for the original base and it was plenty hard enough – it was just crowned way too much and had developed low spots from settling unevenly over the past 7 years. I would havve done that in the first place if I had realized just how much material we were going to need tgo bring up the too-crowned sides. If I do this I will first have soil samples analyzed to make sure it has the right clay/sand ratio.

4. Price crushed concrete and crushed asphalt to see how they compare, price-wise to limestone. The limestone alone to put in a 4″ base is $10,000. Add about another $2500 for dozer guy and equipment rental to finish the job. I found a local company that specializes in both, and they do have it both crushed 3/4″ and smaller. The limestone was only available in 1.5″ and smaller. USDF specs call for 3/4″ and smaller. I am going to call the salesman tomorrow to get a price quote. If I go this route I won’t be showing next year OR buying a new horse trailer, that’s for sure.

On the up side, horses are working very well. Faeryn and Fling are getting ridden in the ten-acre field. Since I do not feel comfortable riding Faxx out there (yet — I will do a test ride on the weekend when I have enough light) he is stuck in he round pen, which also has no lights.

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