***Yes, I’m still doing my annual Black Friday sales list! Have no fear, it’ll be here tomorrow. If you just can’t possibly wait that long to get started, Riding Warehouse’s sale starts today. Otherwise – check back here tomorrow morning for my usual giant list… it’s already over 50 sales!***
As a former lifelong h/j rider, I’ve spent a lot of time in arenas. Don’t get me wrong, arenas are very important. Having access to a flat open space with good, even footing is a must-have. But give me the choice between riding in a nice arena and a nice field, and I’ll pick the field 99% of the time.
For people who are thinking “is she really about to write a whole post about a field?”. Yes. The answer is yes. Why? Because it’s difficult to find good natural footing in this particular slice of Texas. Really difficult.
See, on one side of town there’s black gumbo soil… it’s a dense, dark clay that, when wet, will suck the shoes right off of a horse. When dry, it’s a bit like trotting on pottery. It shrinks and cracks and can closely resemble concrete in the summer (just ask Hillary). It grows some really gorgeous grass, but it’s not so great if you want to ride on it a lot. On the other side of town the top layer gets rocky and the grass becomes sparse, which is equally bad, for obvious reasons.
There are a few areas more north and east of town where the soil gets a lot better – little oases of sandy loam. Unfortunately most of those areas are about an hour’s drive from me. Therefore you have to understand how much I geeked the hell out when I realized that the hay field at the barn is a little mini-oasis in the middle of black gumbo territory.
First of all – it’s a huge space. Giant. Like it takes 10 minutes to trot a lap. It’s also sloped, which is probably part of why it dries so quickly after rain. The slope varies in different parts – most is just a gentle slope, but then there’s one decent hill out in the back that’s perfect for hill work. There’s enough flat-ish space to be able to set up a jump course or do flatwork. And because it’s got a lot of sand in the soil, it doesn’t get muddy when it’s wet or hard when it’s dry. It’s the weirdest and most miraculous thing, and probably some of the best footing I’ve seen anywhere in Texas. That’s why I have dubbed it The Field (formal title), and that’s why it has become hallowed ground for me.
As an eventer, this chunk of space is incredibly valuable. I can do just about all of my riding out here, if I want to. I have a TON of room for trot sets and gallops, plus varied terrain to help us practice our balance and make us stronger. The barn owner has no problem with me putting jumps out there, as long as I move them when it’s time to cut hay. My beloved coop is already out there, but I’m going to drag a few stadium fences out as well. It would be awesome if I could jump in the field all the time… there’s so much space to build whatever course you want, and there are so many options for using terrain within the exercises. It’s an eventer’s dream space.
I’ll save the arena for days when it’s a little too wet to ride in the field (the arena can withstand fairly monsoon-like rains)… I don’t want to put so much as a divot into any square inch of that space. It’s perfection, and I want to keep it that way.