Chat Transcript – Mike Rheinheimer

Mike Rheinheimer: Hi there! Let’s talk footing!
Ruffian: Greetings, Mike. What advice can you give us about keeping dust down in indoor arenas? What is your idea of the perfect footing?
EquiSearch Staff: We recently had a reader question on additives. What’s the best additive to keep the dust down?
Mike Rheinheimer: The best additive? My best additive is water. I truly believe that’s the only thing that really does the job. I’ve noticed some additives cause the footing to break down faster–if it has detergents in it. The footing packs faster. Water seems best.
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, my solution to less water is a little bit coarser material.
Ruffian: If you use water, don’t you get slippery spots?
Mike Rheinheimer: I go to a quarry and look for a material that water will run right through. That will keep the dust down–whether it be sand, or a limestone mix, doesn’t matter.
Rowan: Hi Mike! What can we do in New England to keep our outdoor footing workable?
Ruffian: Following that thought, what is the best combination of materials for an indoor ring?
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, you get slippery spots if you don’t dig down into your footing.? If you have 4 inches of material that will absorb water, you won’t get a slippery spot.
EquiSearch Staff: Rowan, we will be with you in a minute!
Ruffian: Great. Thank you.
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, the best combination of materials are a top soil, sand and clay. About 25 percent top soil, 25 percent clay, and 50 percent washed sand.
Rowan: Thanks, let me qualify–I mean in winter.
Mike Rheinheimer: Rowan, it depends upon what the ring is doing as to what you can do to keep it workable. In the winter, you want more sand on top–and rock salt as well to keep it broken up–make sure to seal it. Don’t leave it rough on top. I try to keep the snow off areas using a back blade. It’s a combo sand/misc. ring we use to school lightly, some jumping, some ground work. We get snow and it tends to freeze in the course of the winter
Mike Rheinheimer: Sometimes if you get the rock salt on before the snow comes, it will dissolve it.
EquiSearch Staff: Another question we had recently on EquiSearch was regarding air cleaners. Have you had any success with them?
Mike Rheinheimer: About air cleaners? I haven’t seen any difference with them. It depends where it’s located. I personally, though, have not had much luck with them.
Mike Rheinheimer: Rowan, keep stirring it, then seal it at night.
Doc: Hi, I’m looking to build an outdoor ring and will be schooling over fences–what would you suggest to use?
Mike Rheinheimer: It’s very hard when you get terrible weather, to keep your footing in good shape.
Rowan: Does the rock salt create any problems with a horse’s hooves or skin?
Escapade: When designing a course, how do you makes sure the landing areas on jumps are safe?
EquiSearch Staff: What is your advice on raking the ring?
Mike Rheinheimer: By sealing it, I drag 2 4x4s on top of the footing. It creates a barrier so any water that comes on top falls off to the side.
Mike Rheinheimer: Raking the ring? It all depends. . . My tool advice is the TR3 rake.
Niki logged on.
Escapade:I’m not familiar with the TR3 rake. What is it?
Mike Rheinheimer: Anybody can use it. You can even float the ring with the blade on it. Make sure you have depth and cushion–you need 6-8 inches of cushion. You dig a ring up once a month, turn the ground, and make all the mixture the same consistency. If you can’t dig that deep, add more cushion on top.
Mike Rheinheimer: If you can’t dig down because of rock–add limestone or sand on top. Your base and the top should be the exact same material–that’s what I’ve found to be the absolute best.
I personally go with any type of limestone material–limestone screenings.
Rowan: What’s your view on adding shavings or manure to a ring?
Mike Rheinheimer: Depending upon how much excavating is involved, build up with the limestone instead of cutting out–if you cut out, you’ll build an area for water to collect. At your lowest spot have at least 8 inches of limestone. It takes about a year to set up.
Doc: Do you think there is a different recommended depth for jumping vs. dressage arenas?
EquiSearch Staff: Escapade, you’re next!
Mike Rheinheimer: At the end of the year, go in with more limestone screenings. Then, add more limestone screenings. Get so you’re built up to 8-12″ of limestone screenings. The second year, you’re adding cushion and material that will absorb into the ground. The third year, you’ll find that packs in much quicker. At the point it gets hard, you can add the sand on–about an inch. Then you mix that with the limestone. Later, you’ll find you may add a little more–just don’t add too much sand at one time. No more than an inch at a time. Then you mix that with the limestone. Later, you’ll find you may add a little more–just don’t add too much sand at one time. No more than an inch at a time. Then, keep working it and it will work for you. Make sure the ring drains–don’t bother putting drains under the ring. After the first year, it won’t run through.
Mike Rheinheimer: Escapade, the TR3 rake has a floating blade. It has fingers–If you come to a hard spot, it will make a ridge. If you drag it until you don’t see any ridges, you’ve got a uniform ring. They have a Web site for the TR3–
EquiSearch Staff: Rowan, you’re on deck–
Mike Rheinheimer: If you see ridges, you have ridges, if you don’t see ridges, you don’t have ridges.
Escapade: Sounds good. Can you set it to different depths?
Mike Rheinheimer: A lot of rakes make the ring look pretty–but it’s still rough underneath. Underneath is really where the horse feels it.
Mike Rheinheimer: Rowan, shavings and manure are good for softening, but it can make it break down. It can make a slick or dangerous environment–and eventually needs to be removed.
Ruffian: Any suggestion on making my existing ring drain better?
Mike Rheinheimer: I’ve replaced a lot of rings that have used that. It gives you places that are deep–very inconsistent footing.
Mike Rheinheimer: Doc, I think they’re one and the same. Indoors, I always shoot for clay with jumping–a clay and topsoil mixture. Outside, I recommend limestone and sand. You want the cushion underneath. You get that by working it. The easiest way to gauge it is to judge by the hoofprint. I try to build them exactly the same.
Doc: Hoofprint??
Mike Rheinheimer: If you have holes in the ring, fill them. Don’t ever drag through standing water.
Rowan: Not sure what you mean by hoofprint. . .
Mike Rheinheimer: Add material to it. Probably add some type of limestone screening or sand–adding to the holes. If I have standing water in my ring, I fill it with the same material.
Ruffian: By limestone, do you mean limestone dust, the pea-sized gravel?
Mike Rheinheimer: Rowan and Doc, if the hoofprint is deep–leaving a 3-4 inch hole when they walk across it, that’s too deep and not good for jumping. It should go in 1 inch or so. The footing shouldn’t come over the hoof.
Horsey logged on.
Barn sour logged on.
EquiSearch Staff:
What are some of the pros and cons of using recycled tire rubber footing? Where can you get it?
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, the dust–screenings are anything 1/8 inch or under. A lot of this isn’t available at all quarries. Take water with you to the quarry and see if it runs into the pile, or falls off. If it runs into the pile, use that as your top. Screening material will shed the water. When it sheds the water, it packs.
Mike Rheinheimer: Using recycled tires? Footing Unlimited provides several varieties.
Ruffian: I’ve found that limestone dust packs, but I guess I’m not turning it enough?
Mike Rheinheimer: My biggest problem with it is without digging it and constantly turning it there seems to be a separation in it–and then it becomes slippery.
Rowan: When planning an outdoor all-weather arena, do you build in a gradient, and in so, how much? And how does it flow?
Mike Rheinheimer: I like to go the natural way and keep working it. You can spend a little money over time and have a ring that is usable all the time. I think a ring needs continuous freshening up.
EquiSearch Staff:A recent reader question: “I live out in the country on a cattle farm. We have lots of hills around our house. I’d like to have a riding arena, but it’s difficult on hilly ground. Do you have any advice for leveling out footing for a riding arena?”
Mike Rheinheimer: Everybody’s looking for something you don’t have to work to keep up. That doesn’t exist. If you have sand and dirt in your arena and that material becomes dry, you have no pliability. Limestone dry, is like concrete. So whatever you have you have to keep working it and adding to it. I go in and put the price of limestone down for a year–and keep adding that low cost to the ring.
Escapade: You’re a course designer. Which came first, design or footing expertise?
Mike Rheinheimer: I think the rubber can be done, but Mother Nature has a better idea. It can be too much of a cushion.
Barn Sour: We live in eastern Washington and have 18 inches of top soil on top of basalt. We want to build an all-weather jumping arena. How much do we scrape off and then what do we use as a base and subbase?
Mike Rheinheimer: I’m personally not fond of it [recycled rubber], because I like to add material to a ring and you can’t do that with rubber.
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, you may need to use more sand. It does pack.
Doc: What grade do you recommend for proper drainage?
Mike Rheinheimer: Rowan, I try to crown the center. If that can’t be done, I use a 1 percent grade toward whatever end will drain–and a 2 percent if I crown it.
Mike Rheinheimer: Escapade, footing expertise came along with many a year of dragging before I became a course designer.
Mike Rheinheimer: Barn Sour, Dianne Johnson will know the name of the material we used at the Monroe County Fairgrounds.
Mike Rheinheimer: I would build right on top of the 18 inches of materials. It will be a natural cushion. Go in with a limestone screen, granite screen, anything that will pack on top of the material you have already. Just drag on top of it. Put in about 6 inches, water it, roll it, put in 6 more inches, water it, roll it, then flat drag it back into place. Once it becomes hard, ride on it, and then eventually add sand. If you’re building an outdoor–use a material that will shed water to create a base. Just be able to go deep enough so you can keep freshening up. Why spend the excavating cost to remove old material when you can use the old as a cushion?
Mike Rheinheimer: Doc, I like to go a foot per 100. That’s a 1 percent grade. You don’t get a wash. At the same time, it’s a little harder to maintain. I try to go out in 4 directions with the grade. If there’s a crown, for every 100, drop 2 feet if you have a crown and it’s going the length of the ring.
Barn Sour:Is 3 inches of stone dust enough to get started?
Rowan: This may seem dumb but if you are planning an indoor, do you set the footing first or build the arena, then install the footing?
Doc:I am not sure what you mean by going all four directions in the grade?
Mike Rheinheimer: About the hilly area–you just need to remove the dirt. You could always fill in the middle of a valley, which helps keep moisture into an arena, but it needs to be kept flat. I actually saw a ring in Minnesota where they covered over an old pond. They kept it flat and kept moving moisture off of it and it worked fine–anything’s possible.
Mike Rheinheimer: Barn Sour, you need at least 4 inches. A hoof will go through 3 inches to whatever’s on the bottom. Shoot for 6 inches.
Mike Rheinheimer: Rowan, build the arena, then install the footing. Leave enough room for adding a foot of material.
Rowan: Phew!
Mike Rheinheimer: Doc, if you picture the roof of a barn, you have the peak, then the ends bevel down. The water will run off 4 sides with the crown in the middle.
Ruffian: What can you do when you plan an outdoor show and it pours rain? Anything absorbent you can put down?
Mike Rheinheimer: That’s exaggerated–we’re only talking about a 1 percent grade.
EquiSearch Staff: Where have you designed courses?
Barn Sour: Thank you for your help-Happy Holidays!
Mike Rheinheimer: I’ve designed courses at the National Horse Show, Arizona, Harrisburg, Capital Challenge.
Doc:Very helpful. Thanks.
Mike Rheinheimer: I’ve even done a few Western shows–I did the Congress.
EquiSearch Staff: Thanks for coming, Barn Sour. Happy Holidays!
Anne11: What show is your favorite – why?
Mike Rheinheimer: I don’t think there’s much difference in Western and English events. The difference would be reining where you need the horses to get in and slide. If you feel the concept of footing, it’s very easy to create that footing. You never dig deeper than you want the horses’ hooves to slide.
Doc: Do you think that the extra focus the ASHA and USDF have put on footing (surveys, awards, etc) has improved show footing?
Mike Rheinheimer: What works great in one place may not work well in another place. The limestone and granite screenings are pretty much universal. Another test I use to see if a ring is slick: Take the wooden handle on any fork and put it down on a 45 degree angle. Sliding on the ground, if I slide, the horse is going to slide, too.
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, beat the rain! Float–made of 4×4 timbers–the ring to smooth the surface and help the rain run off. I’ve gotten lots of criticism for that, but it works–if you do it before it stops raining. I’ve been known to drag a jump gate around if it’s pouring down rain. Two years ago we had 9 1/2 inches of rain in 2 hours. Everything was closed down–I was soaking wet, but dragged a jump gate around, used the TR3, and at 11:00 we had to water the ring before the Grand Prix!
Ruffian: I’ve been through a few of those rainy show nightmares. How do you know when to call off jumping for safety’s sake?
Mike Rheinheimer: I’ve had situations–at Saratoga this year–we had people thinking they’d have to leave. I seal the rings if I think it will rain at all. Then it’s OK. It’s like floating concrete.
Mike Rheinheimer: Ruffian, when you can’t see is when you call it off. It’s a hard call. If it starts to rain, I’ll close it down and seal the ring, then start again. I’d rather close it down early and seal the ring, then hope you can get back. Keep the base protected–keep the water from getting to it.
Mike Rheinheimer: Anne, I have a lot of favorites. The Saratoga June horse shows are probably my favorite. I enjoy the challenge of New York. I also enjoy the Merrill Lynch Classic in Cleveland. That’s a beautiful day. Capital Challenge is pretty special, too.
EquiSearch Staff: How was the National this year with the emphasis on the hunters?
Mike Rheinheimer: I believe my favorite show is yet to come.
Mike Rheinheimer: Doc, I think exhibitors have improved show footing. The most important thing I have as a show manager is a good footing. Second is the aesthetic. You can hold a horse show anywhere if you have good footing. If there’ bad footing, that’s worse than bad management.
Mike Rheinheimer: The National this year? It went incredibly well.
Doc: Thanks for the insight and your time.
Mike Rheinheimer: The new footing was dressed with sand and had a lighter color. The hunters brought out the best horse in the end. It was certainly great jumping. It went very smoothly. There were a couple of mistakes, but it went well. Security, heightened security, made it feel comfortable for the people there. It was very peaceful.
EquiSearch Staff: Thanks for coming, Doc.
Ruffian: Thank you, Mike. Great advice.
Escapade: Thank you for your time, Mike. Happy holidays.
Mike Rheinheimer: Overall, people need to use their judgment as to what they see and what material they use. If you have a lot of sand, it’s harder to get through and dry–that’s evident from walking on the beach. Look at the roads near you–what’s making it bind up? Then, think about the top–mix sand with the limestone so you don’t have abrasiveness. Use common sense and look around to see what works. Don’t just leave it up to a contractor. Do your research. Otherwise, you’re spending money you don’t have to spend. You can spend a lot of money in the wrong direction. Look at what’s available.
EquiSearch Staff: Thanks for coming, everybody. Thanks, Mike, for your time and sharing your expertise with us. And thanks to our sponsor for this chat, the TR3 Rake. For more information on the TR3, go to To contact Mike directly, call (561) 301-7630. Goodnight, everybody!
Anne11:I appreciate your time and help–see you at the shows!

?Kate Light. All Rights Reserved.