Thursday, June 4, 2015

Footing Frustrations


I come to you today to rant about my riding ring situation again. This time it's about the footing. I've never really been a huge footing snob - I understand it's importance for safety reasons, but I've also always been a make-do-with-what-you-have equestrian, which often means riding in imperfect footing. However, the riding ring at my barn is really making me nervous at the moment.


Let me back up for just a second...

Last fall the property owners started building a new house way in the back of the lot. It wouldn't affect the barn at all except for the fact that they had to put a new water line in and this required tearing up the ground in our riding area, which is located between one of the barns and the future house. This wasn't a big problem during the late fall, since it was the end of the show season and I was giving Maggie some time off. But boy, have they taken their sweet time putting the ring back together.

Here's the ring in March, just as the snow was almost gone:

Once a trench, now a...pile?


Ok, fine. It's was only March at this point and the weather was still crappy enough that I was riding in the indoor next door.

But here's the ring in late April:


  
A little better, but ehhhh....

It improved slightly more in the middle of May to the point at which we could at least do something. My friends at the barn did some light rides in our ring while I was still renting the rings at the farm next door. Even though our ring is now "rideable" it's still in pretty poor condition, even by my standards. Over the past week, we've each collectively spent several hours simply rock-picking the area.


I'm pretty sure that Massachusetts' number one crop is rocks - we really have barely made a dent in removing them. They just...keep...coming. Sure, our ring was far from perfect before they dug that trench, but it's like they've since disturbed a relentless underground rock-spawning monster.

It's out to get us.
We hooked up our ghetto drag (which is a price of chain link fence attached to a price of wood attached to some rope attached to my friend's Subaru) and had a grand time kicking up dust and attempting to level it out a bit. 



It almost made it look like a real ring...


...unless you looked at the ground too close...


I'm still really worried about all those darn rocks though. I'm giving it a couple rides this week to feel it out - we just had two days of rain so perhaps that has help it a little - but I'm wondering if I'm going to have to rent the rings next door for the rest of the summer. 

I don't want Maggie to get laid up from a stone bruise, but the extra $120 a month to rent the rings next door puts quite a damper on my bank account. I can swing it in the winter because I'm not paying for any shows, but if I start paying for it in the summer too then I think that something else will have to give; either shows or lessons. 

I don't want to give up too many lessons because, well, I want to learn how to ride better and I feel like we're really making some progress. I don't want to give up the shows we have planned either because that's what the lessons are working towards and I enjoy them. However, if Maggie goes lame from stepping on a rock then we can't exactly enjoy either of those things, now can we? It's just kind of a Catch-22 I guess. 

So I'm just not sure what to do. For the record, Maggie is barefoot and has rock hard feet. The farrier loves them. Knock on wood, she's never bruised them before. For now I think I'll see how it goes in our ring...and keep rock picking whenever I have a free minute (ha). 

What would you guys do?

20 comments:

  1. Have you been able to talk to the BO about it? They really should be willing to put some of their own effort into improving it, especially if they don't want to lose boarders. Honestly, I'd probably leave if the BOs aren't willing to improve the arena's condition. Rocks are too dangerous to be acceptable. I totally understand what you mean about the finances though, it all adds up in the end. Is there any way you can find to make an extra $120 every month? It sounds like, if it's possible, that it'd be worth moving.

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    1. The situation with the BO is interesting...they're not really horse people. They essentially just happen to have some barns on their property and rent them out to make some extra cash. The only care of the horses they're involved in is tossing breakfast in the morning - otherwise it's an entirely rough board situation. It's an incredibly cheap place to board ($200 a month, which is pretty much unheard of in Massachusetts) so we're getting what we pay for essentially. I lot of the maintenance of the barns is up to the boarders themselves, sometimes they reimburse us for the costs/materials and sometimes not. For example, last summer my husband and I rebuilt one of my horse's stall walls and we got them to reimburse us for the cost of the materials, but over the winter we bought a new snow rake for the roof and asked us to reimburse us for that and they wouldn't. One would think that it would be worth the $100 to keep the snow from collapsing your whole barn (because if that had happened they would have lost $800 a month) wouldn't you think? Especially if someone else is going to do the work. I digress a bit...

      In terms of the footing, I can say with certainty that I'm the boarder that uses it the most. A lot of the other boarders either do nothing with their horses or just trail ride. During the summer my friends (the other boarders in my barn) use the ring maybe a couple times a week as well, but still not nearly as much as I do. I don't think the BO sees the ring getting a lot of use, so perhaps doesn't see the need to put the money/ maintenance into it.

      On the positive side for this barn, since the BO is somewhat dissociated it can be really nice at times because we're just left alone to do our own thing and take care of our own horses the way we see fit. The other big plus are the 3 other ladies that are in my barn - we have a co-op situation for taking care of all our horses and we're all really close friends. It would be pretty sad to leave them behind if I moved. I've thought about moving before (especially after the winter we had) and there would certainly be pros and cons. Plus this barn is literally 2 miles form where I live. Something will have to give to make the extra $120 during the summer work...I'll have to figure something out!

      So yeah, in short, it's complicated :P

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  2. Jodi's got the right idea about talking to the BO. No hoof, no horse, and those are BOULDERS! Stone bruises can take forever to heal, what if she had one all summer and you couldn't take a single lesson and lost a whole season's worth of progress? I wouldn't risk it. I, like you, can grin and bear a lot of things as a boarder, but footing is worth putting my diva crown on.

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  3. Whoa - those are some serious rocks. I was going to suggest a harrow but it looks like you've already tried that with the Subaru rig! And I love the fact that Maggie is barefoot (mine are too) but it does present an issue with potential bruising and/or soreness. Have you looked at the cost of another type of footing? I'm thinking with you renting the other rings that you could instead put that money towards footing that would be more suitable for the ring - I would, of course, talk with the owners and present it from the perspective of improving their home value (my mom is an appraiser who specializes in horse properties and I can tell you that this is a BIG resale point). You mentioned in another comment that they aren't horse people so def approach them from an angle that would be more beneficial for their lifestyle and see if they are willing to do a 75/25 split with you and the other boarders OR (and I know this isn't the best answer) maybe they would be willing to pay for new footing at the rate of $50 more a month from each of the boarders. This would save you money in the long run because you wouldn't have to rent the other rings. I feel your pain with the riding ring situation - this was one of my main reasons for buying my own farm - the former boarding situation that I was in also had the potential for a very nice riding ring BUT the owners didn't want to hear any solutions because they were worried about the almighty dollar. I hope it works out for you!

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    1. Those are some great suggestions, thank you! I think it's absolutely worth trying to do some negotiating with the BO. You're right that it would be worth me investing in the footing as well, since it would save me money in the long run. Hopefully we can work out some kind of agreement!

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  4. I'd be happy to talk to them with you, Abby! Even though I prefer the trails, I need the ring as well at least 2-3 times during the work week to lunge or ride since it's too dark out to go out for a decent trail ride. The other thing that I was thinking of doing for Rio was to put his Easyboots on just as a preventative measure while riding in there. Not ideal, but a one time $120 cost compared to renting the indoor for that much every month. Just a thought!

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    1. Ah yes, the easyboots! Forgot about that option. I'm always afraid they'll fly off at the canter or something though. And who knows if I can jump in them?

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    2. Well, I don't think anyone would buy them if they came off every time you cantered! I've used them in Acadia and on rides to Appleton Farms, where we cantered and went through water. I also did extensive research on the pair I chose prior to buying and people do in fact use them for cross country. As long as they are fitted properly, they should definitely hold up to popping over some fences in the ring.

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    3. http://blog.easycareinc.com/blog/horse-boots-customer-help/jumping-in-easyboot-glove-hoof-boots-yes-you-can

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  5. yikes - that's definitely not really an acceptable condition for the riding ring :( the risk to Maggie's feet is huge - but also, what about if a rider falls on a rock? i'd be so so so frustrated too (tho i love your creativity with the subaru / fence drag situation haha). but really hopefully talking to the BO makes a difference. they can't really list the ring as an amenity in that condition... good luck!

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    1. Good point about rider safety too...yeah, I don't really want to fall on a rock. I hope talking to the BO helps too!

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  6. That's way too many rocks for my liking... and I'm a self admitted footing snob. I'd talk to your BO about it.

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  7. I do self-care board as well, but the barn owner is awesome and actually cares about my horses. So I don't live in fear of my horse colliding and it going unnoticed. And our footing is pretty good. The lower ring was re-sanded last year. I don't know that I could board somewhere that doesn't care about my horse's well-being. Those rocks are a problem. I'd have them fix it or move or pay the 120$, but I wouldn't ride in there.

    Alternative: Go to Home Depot on the weekend and hire some day laborers (the guys who stand out by the road looking for cash work). Pay them to pick all the rocks out of the arena. It'll probably cost you $100 +lunch. I always thought this was super-sketchy, but I've now done it a bunch of times and it really does work.

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    1. Hmmm never thought about the day laborers! Interesting. I'm not sure I've ever seen random people hanging around home depot like that, but then again as my husband will tell you I can be really unobservant sometimes so perhaps I just haven't noticed them lol

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  8. I don't like the looks of that footing. If the owners are reasonable, maybe they could work with you to do something different. Your horse's health and well being are too precious to fool around with that. I've also hired day laborers to help out once in a while--odd jobs like adding mulch around my yard. That's not a bad idea. I wish I paid $200 for board! Dang,girl! I'd buy a second horse. What a great situation--minus the boulders.

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    1. Yeah it's a pretty sweet deal! Aside from the ring right now it really is an awesome situation, especially in this part of MA too where barn are not cheap! the 200 is literally just for the stall though - still have to pay for our own hay, bedding, grain etc, plus doing chores but it that cost does still come out to being cheaper than most other barns around here! I would totally get a second horse if I had the money to feed it and the time to ride it!!

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  9. Um our arena looks like that all over! They put a good surface down day one but the rocks just keep rising to the surface. They DO care about it and they harrow it regularly - the track gets very hard which bothers me a lot more than the rocks. Both my horses are barefoot : Flurry will work 100% happily in it with never a gimpy step, Aero being more delicate (sigh) wears Renegades in front and it works fine, riding in W/T/C and doing little jumps either on the lunge or at liberty (I don't jump any more so can't comment on boots and jumping)
    It's definitely worth trying Maggie with her boots and see how you feel about it.

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    1. I'm betting that would happen here too - having the rocks just pop back up through the layer of new footing eventually. I've been told by another boarder who has been here for a long time that a while ago (maybe 8-10 years ago?) all the boarders chipped in for a new load of footing and it helped for a while. I wouldn't expect the rocks to disappear for that many years after just one layer of new footing. Plus I'm not under the delusion that any ring in MA is going to be perfect or totally free of rocks (except perhaps a ring that had some serious money put into it when it was built to have it "done right").

      Glad to hear that you're making it work for you with your two barefoot horses though and the easyboots work well with the sensitive one!

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  10. Wow those rocks ): Our BO does a poor job maintaining our indoor/outdoor ring too. He's got two barns and where I board is the lower-not-as-fancy place. He drags it like twice a year and a quick trot kicks up dust for days...I've got a half-arab as well and she's got super tough feet too but I wouldn't be happy about leaving footing to chance on those rocks. Hope something gets figured out soon!

    Oh, and hope you don't mind a new/reader follower! (:

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    1. The more the merrier! Welcome/ nice to meet you :)

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