In the midst of El Niño, wet weather is a huge concern for the equestrian community. Water can have numerous negative impacts on the equestrian arena footing, and therefore the horses. Most obviously, the rain can wash away expensive arena footing that is combined specifically for maximum comfort and support on the horses feet. It is also important for horses to work on a dry surface because when a working area for horses becomes soaked with water, it is much easier for horses to slip and sustain an injury. Another concern of the rain is the saturation of the footing and the base beneath it. When a dressage riding arena is over saturated with water, the footing and base become soft. You need a firm/hard base for your horse to push off of. If you ride on that overly wet surface, you will push your footing into the base, dent it and potentially cup out a hole in it. Once that happens you no longer have a flat surface to work your horse on and you risk injury to the horse. It would be like stepping in a hole that you can’t see. If all the sudden the horse steps into that hole, it makes the hole bigger or causes the horse to trip or get injured.
Covering the dressage arena surface has countless benefits including keeping the footing in good condition, avoiding injury due to the damp, slippery work space, and keeps us working when most equestrian businesses are out of commission due to the long drying period of outdoor horse arenas.
Another way the rain tarp aids in minimizing injury is that when horses are cooped in their stalls for a long period of time, they can get restless because they have nowhere to release their energy. Because the down period is so much shorter with the rain cover, it minimizes dangerous situations with people trying to hand walk or get back on horses who have too much energy.
The riding arena cover is much more cost efficient and is a quick fix to rain in an environment where it only rains on occasion, rather than investing in a covered arena. By covering my dressage arena surface, I am able to preserve my work space and continue riding much quicker than if the equine arena were to get wet. While a covered arena is a permanent solution to the rain situation, in an environment that does not get a lot of rain, the cover is a much more cost efficient solution. The only downtime where I am not able to work horses is while it is actively raining. The rain cover eliminates the waiting period after the rain, while the riding arena surface dries.
Pending the forecast, I usually try to cover the horse riding ring an hour before it starts raining. If I know its going to be windy, I try to put it out before the wind picks up. I take precautions to anchor it securely and I have found that water is surprisingly the best weight. If it is especially windy, I will spray water on top of the rain cover so it stays down with the wind. Sometimes I will cover half the dressage arena surface and keep working until it starts raining so I can get all the horses worked and still be able to cover quickly. With anywhere between twelve and fifteen people, it can take as little as 15 minutes to cover. I have also covered the equine arena surface with as few as two people, and that takes around 45 minutes. Generally I have around 5 or 6 people to help me cover and uncover.
About the Writer: Kristina Harrison is a USDF Gold Medal dressage trainer and rider based in Los Angeles, California. She established Kristina Harrison Dressage in 1995, and has been teaching her philosophy on Dressage training to a growing clientele of horses and riders of all levels. For the last several years, Kristina has been using a Covermaster Equestrian Arena Raincover to keep her arena dry and has provided CoverLine with some great feedback on the benefits of owning a Covermaster Riding Arena Raincover.