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Safe Arena Footing Committee (SAF) is a non-profit organization working to establish ground standards for the rodeo industry. SAF is a member of several American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) committees with the goal of creating standards for equestrians on surfaces and providing testing methods, tools and practices. The organization offers education and consultations to anyone looking to improve their arena conditions. SAF has a database with Environmental Technical Services of more than 200 equestrian surface analyses, and sources of materials from all over the United States. Learn about SAF at safearenafooting.com.

Meet the Experts

Neil Merrill is the owner, designer and sales director of Black Widow Groomer, a ground-working implement used by several major barrel futurities at South Buckeye Equestrian Center in Arizona to prepare the ground. His wife, Barbara, is a barrel racer that has competed at the National Finals Rodeo and trained many winning barrel racing horses at all levels of competition during her career.

Chuck Dunn owns and operates D&G Barrel Productions. Dunn, along with the late Phil Goosetree, founded the company that now has more than 50 years’ experience producing barrel races. Both Dunn and Goosetree worked the ground for the Barrel Futurities of America World Championships as well as the National Barrel Horse Association World Finals. In the past 15 years, D&G has produced more than 100 shows with a payout in excess of $3 million.

Jim Brown is a co-founder of the Safe Arena Footing Committee (SAF). He has 40 years of experience working with sport and equestrian footing, including testing the composition of arena dirt. He has a degree in Agronomy from Stephen F. Austin.

George McDermott is a committee member of SAF and is a member of ASTM. An equine service specialist with 40 years experience with ground and maintenance, he was the track superintendant for two racetracks. Today he consults on racetracks all over the country.

Steve Thornton founded SAF, and has produced the ANHA SHootOut in Waco, Texas, for 30 years. It is the oldest independently run barrel race in Texas. He is a PRCA Gold Card Member.


Abigail Boatwright is an award-winning journalist based out of Texas. Email comments on this article to [email protected].

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