June 2020 - GGT-Footing: At the Footing Forefront
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 28 May 2020 04:45
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A quarter-century of experience brings best-suited products and wise council to all arenas.

by Kim F. Miller

An arena riding surface can make or break a training facility. It’s one of the biggest budget items and dictates the extent to which horses and riders can properly pursue their sport. And most importantly, how safely they can do so.

It helps tremendously if decision makers have both horsemanship and construction experience. That was the case at Far View Farm and what led to choosing GGT-Footing at the San Diego County training facility.

 


Amateur eventing riders Jordan and Ava Chase purchased the former Roper Ranch, a western training facility, in San Marcos in March. Led by their longtime coach, Olivia Loiacono-Putrino, they’ll move their horses in this month to fulfill a mutual dream of having a top-notch equestrian facility. Olivia brought highest-level experience as a trainer and competitor and Jordan brought a career’s worth of experience and contacts in the construction world.

 Jordan began the Far View footing search by doing “a ton of research,” he explains. Well before contacting footing providers, he gathered experiences, opinions and lessons learned from other stable owners in the area. “The biggest takeaway was how important it is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on installation, the right sand type and footing blends and maintenance,” he reports.

He landed on GGT for several reasons. “Everything I learned from my research was validated by what GGT said,” Jordan explains. “They were extremely helpful in a way that their main goal was to communicate, rather than being pushy about selling me their product. They asked me what I was finding in my research and offered additional points to consider.”

“Taking care of our horses is our #1 priority,” chimes in Olivia, who did her own research. “I knew that the Kentucky Horse Park and the Devon Horse Show use GGT-Footing and I talked to people at facilities around the country. We found GGT to be trustworthy and well-established. We have high expectations and they have been fulfilled.”

In converting what had been two rings used for western riding to a jumping and a dressage arena, the Far View team chose GGT’s jumping footing for both — 28,000 pounds of it.

Eventing trainer Olivia Loiacono-Putrino and Subway, her partner from Pony Club “A” graduate to Rolex Kentucky. Olivia’s business is based at Far View Farm in San Marcos, which features a new GGT-Footing arena installation. Photo: © Michelle Dunn

GGT’s jumping footing has a higher fiber percentage: 30% fiber to 70% geo-textile. This provides more impact resistance and support for the take-off and landing involved in jumping. Like its dressage blend counterpart, it has energy rebound with cushion and stability that are critical to protecting joints and ligaments. Many stables use the jumping footing for their dressage arenas.

The jumping additive was mixed with 20,000 tons of sand that GGT helped Far View source in Simi Valley. It wasn’t cheap to truck it in from two hours north, but the Chases understood the importance of the right sand to the arena’s function, safety and longevity.

Jordan is grateful for GGT’s help understanding the shear and sieve characteristics needed for sand to best blend with its jumper footing. The same goes for the company’s advice regarding maintenance that is equally important to footing that functions as designed.

At the Footing Forefront

“GGT” stands for German Geo Textile. The company was founded in Germany and has a long history in European sport horse training and competition facilities. Its range of footing additives is combined with in-depth knowledge of sand and sand/additive interactions, plus the biomechanics involved when horses run, jump and dance on a riding surface. The combination of synthetic, chopped non-woven material and ideally-paired sand has made the company a go-to brand in equestrian sports worldwide.

GGT-Footing also makes arena mats and groomers, everything needed for creating and maintaining a safe and suitable riding surface. Each riding discipline has distinct riding surface requirements and preferences and GGT has options for all.

Cynthia Brewster-Keating has had a front row seat for the evolution of footing knowledge in the U.S. GGT-Footing’s 25 years of global experience include 15 in the U.S. market. “The industry is getting more and more educated when it comes to footing,” she notes. Prioritizing horse health and horse and rider safety is not new: it’s the understanding of how footing influences health and safety that has evolved, she observes.

Along with its arena products, GGT has led that evolution by building awareness in ways that support the sport, like show and series sponsorships. These include the GGT-Footing Grand Prix Series staged since 2012 at West Palms Events hunter/jumper competitions. With $286,000 in prize money, the mid-level Grand Prix series has been a terrific stepping-stone to the international level for many.  

Water Worries & Sand Scarcity

Water conservation is a big issue for arenas in the West, Cynthia notes. “One of the major issues we run into is the ability to water. Many people want a dust-free or water-free product, but find the cost to be prohibitive. We offer a moisture extender that has been successful, and we continue to educate clients on various options.”

Good quality silica sand is also hard to come by in the West. “We recommend that because it does not break down as easily as other types of sand,” she explains. “Now, the West Coast has seen many horse shows invest in high-quality footing that includes GGT Footing textiles, giving more exposure to the benefits of using the right sand and fibers.

“We recommend a sub-angular silica sand that falls within a certain sieve analysis,” she continues.  The company is “very happy to share our sand information and contacts” -- as they did with Far View.

Never scrimp on sand, Cynthia asserts. “We always suggest buying the correct sand first. You can always add GGT Footing textiles later.” When budgets are tight, she urges clients to pursue less expensive options for irrigation or arena grooming equipment, but never sand.

General education on footing’s importance to horse health and performance is helping correct misunderstandings that are not unique to the West Coast.

“The biggest misunderstanding is thinking that our product alone makes an arena work well in all weather,” Cynthia explains. In reality, a truly all-weather arena is the result of the right footing blend on top of the right base for the area, plus proper drainage. “Our products work in all types of weather – from hot and dry or humid, to freezing cold in Canada,” she says. “But

only together with the other components in a riding surface.”
Far View’s arenas, for example, are graded for a 1-degree slope. It’s not noticeable to horse or rider, but is enough for the arena to drain properly.

Maintenance is critical, too. GGT offers single and double roller arena groomers in a range of sizes, from 57” wide to 98” wide. These suit everything from small private arenas to competitive center stages, and arenas used for english and western disciplines.

Having been at the footing forefront for some time, Cynthia predicts the next wave of interest may be arena mats. “We have seen a lot more people use our butterfly matting system as a base material replacement,” she explains. “Our mats are commonly used in Europe. They are strong, they interlock together and give a great rebound energy when combined with our footing materials.”

She also sees health and environmental concerns arising over the raw materials used in some footing. “Some of the less expensive products are coming from a waste stream and can break down easier. Some, like rubber, can be considered a hazardous waste when it’s time to remove them.”

Cynthia advises all to do as the Far View Farm team did: “Do your homework! And let us know how we can help you get nice, safe footing for your equine athlete partner.”

For more information on GGT-Footing, visit www.ggtfooting.com.