California Riding Magazine • June, 2013

Arenas Done Right
West Coast Footings expands to be one-stop shop for every phase of riding surface development.

Left to right: Dean Hendrickson of West Coast Footings South, aka Tractor Dean,
with John Dienhart of West Coast Footings. Photo by Deb Dawson Photography.
Photo editing by Damion Dasaro, www.tenfourgraphics.com

Although its last name is "Footings," that is only one aspect of West Coast Footings' wide range of products and services. A leader and innovator in the field for many years, the company prides itself on its ability to solve just about any problem or challenge involving riding surfaces.

Whether working with a show venue, a public training facility or a privately owned arena, the West Coast Footings team offers soup-to-
nuts service. "We are not just selling you the footing material," says longtime principal and renowned dirt expert John Dienhart. "We deliver the whole pie. We can diagnose the footing challenges and talk about solutions," he continues. "We have the products and knowledge to change the characteristics of what the footing is doing: to modify it to provide the right combination of stability and cushion for any discipline."

Earlier this year, WCF expanded by partnering with Dean Hendrickson, aka "Tractor Dean." This adds a Southern California branch to the company's longtime base in Northern California and it multiplies the number of materials that WCF can offer. The company's Northern California office recently forged an alliance with Martin Collins Equine Surfaces, a leading provider based in the U.K. The Southern California set-up is a distributor for equally well-known GGT Footing and, of course, West Coast Footings has its own collection of footing additives and blends.

Just as all footing is not created equal, there are specialized tools to maintain your arena. This harrow was specifically designed to work with the new synthetic footings and is pictured hard at work grooming the CLOPF footing in Sonoma Horse Park's Grand Prix Arena for their May 2013 show. Photo: Deb Dawson Photography

In addition to ample material choices, West Coast Footings has a full line of harrows and other arena maintenance implements. John and Dean lead crews to work on arenas for every discipline, from barrel racing to cutting and dressage and everything in between. This includes grass riding surfaces. Whatever the challenge, they show up with the right equipment on the truck.

Equipment and materials, however, would be worthless without expertise and John and Dean have tons of that. John's long resume as a dirt doctor is highlighted by doing the footing for the World Cup Show Jumping Finals in Las Vegas in 2000, the National Barrel Horse Assn. State Finals in Tulare for the last six years, the Cal Expo arena for Horse Expo's upcoming Magnificent 7 competition and much more.

JD EeeZ 3-row with ripper working ground for Western Speed Event in natural soil.
Photo: West Coast Footings.

Dean has been working with and studying footing for eight years, after a long career in aircraft manufacturing. That background instilled in him the critical nature of what happens at the point of impact, whether on a tarmac or in a riding arena, along with the conviction that customer service and attention to detail are as important as equipment and material.

The Too-Hard Trend

Show managers are frequent clients, with projects that range from installing completely new riding surfaces in one or more arenas to providing equipment for the manager or venue's crew to maintain the ring on their own.

John and Dean are currently working together on new footing for the Sonoma Horse Park. Although the relatively new venue had good footing to start with, John believes it fell victim to a trend that's affecting many arenas of late: surfaces that are too hard.

Stop by the WCF Trailer for a hands on footing experience. Photo: Barb Dienhart

In the show jumping world, John connects this trend to increasingly technical courses in which horses are asked to land, turn sharply and take-off in tight spaces. "If the footing moves or rolls too much, the horse doesn't have enough to push off against." The trend is toward shallower footings, which means the arena's hard base is that much closer to the surface.

Such surfaces provide grip, "but at what cost?" John asks. "I think things have gone in the wrong direction to where it's unforgiving to the horse. Yes, these footings don't get divots where the horse lands or steps, but we all know that the energy of landing and galloping has to go somewhere. It's either the footing or the horse's ankles, knees, shoulders, etc."

At the Sonoma Horse Park, West Coast Footings is installing five-and-a-half inches of silica sand and fiber footing. It is known as CLOPF, by Martin Collins Equine Surfaces, and it compresses to four-and-a-half inches. "It's deep enough to provide great lateral support and, so far, it is maintaining these qualities even though it hasn't been watered for five days."

"To the practiced eye, these hoofprints speak volumes." Photo: Barb Dienhart

The longer the footing can go between maintenance treatments -- harrowing, watering, etc. -- the better, John explains. These intervals vary according to traffic and type of use, but there are some general rules. "If you harrowed your arena in the morning and your track lines (the most heavily used areas, usually along the rail) are hard an hour later, then you don't have control over the air in your material."

Arenas that get exceedingly dusty or won't hold water for very long are red flags. These indicators aren't just maintenance inconveniences; they are warnings that the riding surface is not doing its job. Reworking an arena to eliminate these problems is the best way to prevent the bigger problem of unnecessary wear and tear and even injury.

That's just a glimpse of the expertise that enables the West Coast Footings team to advise clients through every phase of arena installation and maintenance. "We are more than just a footing company, we are a knowledge source," John summarizes. "We can help you design it from scratch, work with facility planners, and choose the most suitable materials, maintenance equipment and watering systems."

For more information, visit www.wcfootings.com or call 800-585-7000.