California Riding Magazine • June, 2012

The Rudy Harrow
Popular geotextile and sand surfaces benefit from West Coast Footings' equally specialized harrow.

As arena footing gets increasingly sophisticated, it's not surprising that the equipment needed to maintain that footing is following suit. This is especially true in the hunter/jumper and dressage worlds where geotextile and custom sand footing blends are fast becoming the surface of choice in competition and training rings.

This firm, dense footing doesn't do well with standard harrows. They dig too deep and rough up the surface. A few years back, the footing veterans and innovators at West Coast Footings recognized the need for a gentler harrow that would preserve the footing's unique characteristics. That was the catalyst for the Rudy 3 Row, two years in the research and design process and now two years on the market.

The Rudy harrow coil tines "tickle" the footing surface and provide gentle harrowing required by some felt footing additives and custom sand. The leveling bar works behind the tines to smooth and prepare the surface to provide balanced surface leveling before the screen roller does its work. The leveling bar can be adjusted at six different height levels per operator preference. The adjustable screen roller will provide leveling support for the harrow, desired compaction rates, and help avoid scalping of the surface. The screen roller pillow bearings have greaseable "zerks" (a lubricant mechanism) for proper maintenance.

The Rudy's swivel hitch allows a smooth turning radius for the greatest possible access and coverage. The swivel hitch also provides a highly satisfactory relationship between the tractor and the harrow by reducing negative friction on the tractor when turning. The swivel hitch is equipped with a lock bar that allows the operator to travel from one arena to another without uncomfortable fishtailing.

Experience Pays

There is no shortage of footing suppliers and "experts" these days. Experience is always a plus in that environment and West Coast Footings has a lot of it. The company's founder and the creator of the Red Master line of harrows, John Dienhart has been developing ideas, materials and equipment for maintaining riding surfaces for 35-plus years. Owned by John and his wife Barb and based in Northern California's Mokelumne Hill, West Coast Footings has grown into a unique one-stop shop for all things related to safe and suitable footings for every discipline.

John has designed footing and maintenance recommendations for everything from small private facilities to the World Cup Finals forshow jumping in Las Vegas. On the 16-20 of this month, he'll be at the Murieta Equestrian Center handling the footing for a dressage show. The Rudy harrow will be perfect for that competition, where just one discipline is using the arena. At other shows, it's a different story and one in which John's expertise shines.

Hunter/jumper shows, for example, need slightly different footing for each division. "I'd say there is a half-inch difference in the air pocket we want for a hunter class versus a jumper class," John told us in a 2006 interview. "Generally, the jumper classes use higher jumps, so you want more cushion on the landing. In hunter classes, the fences are usually lower so you need less cushion, and the shallower air pocket better facilitates the smooth, fluent performances that are needed to win in the hunter classes.

"Each discipline has its own optimum footing conditions. In cutting work, we can set the footing to affect the speed of the cow relative to the speed of the horse, because we know that hoof size affects the speed of compaction."

John knows what's riding on his footing. "Demand for our services is constantly going up, in part because the value of horses is always going up. In any sport, the athletes are getting better every day. The footing has to be as good as the horse. We see that more people realize that footing can change a horse's performance.

"If a dressage horse, for example, enters at A through a wet spot, he's going to be nervous about slipping and falling through the whole test," John continues. "Performances in any discipline can only be as good as the footing."

Education is a big part of what John and his staff do. "I'd say about half of our time is spent teach­ing people how to take care of what they have. It doesn't matter how much you spend on equipment and products if you are not taught how to take care of and use them."
Getting that know-how is another benefit to going with a well-established footing company. John admits it irks him when new clients come to West Coast Footings expecting an inexpensive fix for footing installed by less-experienced suppliers. In the long run, customers save money by doing things right the first time, he says. And that is West Coast Footings' claim to fame.

For more information on the Rudy Harrow and West Coast Footings, visit www.wcfootings.com or call 800-585-7000.