Rocky’s scrapbook – there’s a lot that goes into a new footing system

nullHi friends,

A couple of weeks ago, I told you how excited I was about the new footing system being laid in our arena. I didn’t know it at the time but this was not just any footing system.

It’s something really special.

And it’s possible because of my friends at Premier Equestrian. How’s that? Well, Children’s TherAplay is a nonprofit organization so, if we’d had to pay for the footing system ourselves, we would have been looking at something quite modest.

But then the kind folks at Premier stepped forward with a donation – a BIG donation – of footing materials so the surface that supports 750+ equine-assisted occupational and physical therapy treatments each month is as strong as it can possibly be.

Before I go any further, please join me in a giant hooved high-five for our friends at Premier. Thank you, friends.

Ready to see my photo scrapbook?

It turns out there’s a lot more that goes into a footing system than you might expect. (I sure learned a lot!). Here’s how it all happened.

  • First the old footing had to come out. That was a big job all on its own.

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  • Then my friends used a special laser level to find out where the high and low spots were and how everything needed to be graded.

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  • The new arena will require a lot less watering than the old one but, as with most arenas, it will still benefit from a drink now and then. This crushed stone base helps ensure a nice, level surface and a way for water to drain from the upper layers of footing.

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  • If you look under the shavings in my stall in the barn, you’ll see heavy rubber mats. In the same way the stall mats help keep me comfortable when I’m in my room, these heavy mats (4,600 pounds of them!) will help everyone do their best work when they’re in the arena.

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My friends at Premier Equestrian told me that these perforated mats absorb up to 40% of the energy caused by my hoof fall. My friends here at Children’s TherAplay say that’s like wearing a good pair of running shoes with insoles and an extra cushy pair of socks.

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To work properly, though, these special mats must be spaced at precise intervals. (The wooden frame in the picture is called a jig. It helps make sure the mats have the appropriate spacing throughout the entire arena.) This gives them room to expand and contract – without creating craters or lumps! – as the temperature changes.

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  • Then came one of my favorite new tools: the stone spitter! It helped get the mountain of crushed stone out of the parking lot and into the arena where my friends could work it into the mats as a fill layer.

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  • The next mountain that got moved was made of sand, which makes up the top layer of our arena surface. I was surprised to learn there’s a big difference between what you find on the beach and what’s appropriate for the arena.

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Walking on a dry beach is a lot of work because the sand particles are round like marbles. That’s great for sand castles but not so good for walking on. The sand in our arena has sub-angular particles (kind of like worn-down hexagons) which means I can move through it easily and safely. (Premier Equestrian explains it quite well.)

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  • In the past we had a type of footing mix-in that resembled shredded rags. This made for a very stable surface … that had to be watered frequently to keep the dust down.

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Because the new fluff (that’s what it looks like to me) footing bonds with the sand, we get to have a safe, comfortable working surface with less dust and less watering. Good news for everyone!

  • Out came the tractors again to smoosh everything together and then smooth it out one last time.

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Some people say it looks like a beach. I say it looks like something that helps me help my kiddos. (That’s equine program manager Lauren in green. She’s beaming about the footing. As are all of us.)

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So much to be thankful for

There’s already so much to be thankful for at Children’s TherAplay. Through equine-assisted physical and occupational therapies, we’re able to bring hope and new possibilities to families and kiddos with special needs. We therapy horses have meaningful work and many friends, both large and small, who love us dearly. And we get to be part of a community that makes all this possible.

With the new footing system, there’s one more reason to be thankful. And so many people to thank:

  • Premier Equestrian (especially Keri – second from left in this photo – who took most of the photos on this page) whose tremendous in-kind contribution made the new footing system a possibility;

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  • Austin Wood and the crew from Diamond W LLC, who somehow found a way to complete the entire project in just three days, instead of the usual five, so the arena was ready for my kiddos;
     
  • And Children’s TherAplay founder and board member Craig Dobbs and Scott Sutton of Sutton Mechanical who spent three days lifting, toting, and raking as part of the footing system installation team.

nullDo you know I was a barrel-racer?

I sure was! And back then, as a youngster, I didn’t give much thought to how my body would feel 10 or 20 years down the road. With this new surface, me and all my colleagues – human and equine – will be able to do this important work – physical and occupational therapies on horseback – for the kiddos even better and more comfortably than before.

Thanks for being part of it.

Your friend,

Equine ambassador and therapy horse Rocky

 

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