By Abigail Boatwright
Explosive turns and acceleration are inherent to barrel racing. The wrong footing conditions can cause dangerous slipping as the horse digs deep into the ground on the straightaway and around the barrels. Good arena footing is an absolute necessity to avoid injuries to both horse and rider. But what exactly is good ground, and how can you get it? Several factors play a part, and as our experts explain, they all are important to achieve safe conditions.
The Importance of Good Ground
Chuck Dunn is co-founder of D&G Barrel Productions, and he has many years experience handling barrel racing footing. He says improperly prepared footing can cripple a barrel racer, and he’s unfortunately seen it happen too many times.
“Safety is always our biggest concern,” Dunn said. “When you’re dealing with unfamiliar ground, you don’t know how the dirt’s going to react. That’s why we prefer dirt that’s just a little bit on the deeper side because it is safer ground.”
Good ground for some events is a bit “faster” than others, says Dunn. Some competitions prefer a safe, deeper ground. Others, like futurities and rodeos, prefer a bit harder ground.
“Hard ground is when you just barely drag your harrow over it and it just barely covers your holes,” Dunn said. “A lot of futurity trainers like it that way. They like the fast dirt. But if you have your choice between hard ground and deeper ground, slightly deeper ground is always safer ground.”