Friday, February 27, 2015


I give up!

I've been doing pretty well with riding this winter. I mean, I'm not training the Grand Prix Special or anything, but I've been getting out there and getting the basics done. The horses are fit and don't think they're retired, at least. But this last round of weather has thrown a wrench in the works.

The secret to winter riding without an indoor is having an exceptionally good surface to start with. When I built my arena, I built it with this in mind. The base is rock solid, it's crowned, and the footing is a mix of fast draining coarse sand and heat retaining rubber. Not to brag, but it's pretty much the perfect all-weather surface. Unfortunately, February decided to accept that challenge and crap all over my nice arena.

It started with about four or five inches of snow, which usually isn't a problem. If the footing is smooth before the snowfall (you have to drag it before it snows to accomplish this), you can ride on the arena just fine. The frozen footing acts as the base, and the fluffy snow becomes the footing.  I mean, don't try to jump a 4' course or train one-tempi's, but for just basic WTC exercises it's fine.

The problem arose when the temperatures rose to 45 F a few days later. All that snow turned into a sticky, soupy mess that was going to freeze into an ice rink as soon as the sun went down. I knew I needed to get out there and get rid of it. 

Unfortunately, chain drags don't like sticky snow soup messes, and my drag was completely fouled after only two passes through the arena. 

Yes, there is a chain drag in there.

I abandoned it where it was in the middle of the arena, because there was no hope of salvaging that mess.

February:1, Chain Drag:0
The next day, temperatures were back into the 20s, so I was able to get out and work the snow around.  I've learned through the years that the secret to getting my arena to not be an ice rink in subzero temps is to break up the surface with the drag. That increases the surface area, and exposes the black rubber to the sun, which speeds up the un-freezing process.  I've successfully gotten the arena rideable in freezing temps just with my neurotic dragging.

Not pictured: The sippy cup full of brandy that's keeping me warm while I'm doing this.
Alas, it was just not to be this time. My neurotic dragging did unfreeze the arena, but the water from all the snow has nowhere to go because of the snow dams on all sides. My arena is a mess of puddles that freeze every night.

It will eventually dry out and become normal again, but until then I think I'll just read some books, maybe clean my tack and wait for spring.


  1. I'm jealous of your arena. And totally relate. (also an ocd dragger)

    My arena does double duty as a paddock, so if there is any hope of preventing mounds of manure fork breaking frozen poo pyramids, not to mention ride, prophylactic dragging is a necessity. Plus, circling around on the tractor is very soothing lol.

    Fingers crossed that a weather break comes soon!

  2. Good try. I commend you for your extraordinary effort. This time this dreadful weather just had too much control.

    Better days are ahead. It's supposed to warm up over the next couple weeks....well, after another storm passes by.

    I think you're probably losing the impact of your normally good drainage because the ground is frozen too deep below the surface. It's been too darn cold for too darn long.

    Wishing you sunshine. You'll be back in the saddle soon.

  3. This is actually really interesting to me bc I don't understand the basics of getting decent all-weather footing, except to know that our arena comes nowhere close lol.

    But all the same - sorry to hear that it seems to be foiled temporarily. You can join the rest of us drinking sippy cups of wine while we clean our tack and dream of warmer days... :)


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