Does a rubber crumb arena topping reduce dust?

Does a rubber crumb arena topping reduce dust?
26 Dec 2015

Dusty environments are common when working with horses. Dust, when inhaled is not good for humans or horses and various studies have linked dusty environments to the prevalence of bronchitis and asthma in humans and IADS (Inflammatory Airway Disorders) in horses. Riding arenas can become dusty if they are not maintained properly and depending on the type of surface used. Indoor arenas can be particularly bad being an enclosed space and good ventillation is important.

Researchers in the USA conducted a study to see whether putting a top layer of recycled rubber crumb on top of a sand based indoor arena could reduce particulate dust. Particulate dust is defined as dust particles that are small enough to be breathed in, with larger particles making into the upper airways and smaller particles making it right into the lungs. For this study, particulate dust was measured using three air quality monitors placed at various heights.

Results were taken two times a week during an advanced riding class containing six horse and rider pairs. The study was conducted over a three-week period in total. For the first week, the arena was left with its normal sand surface. This indoor arena was typically maintained with 25 minutes of watering three hours before the class in order to try and reduce dust levels. For the second week, the arena was covered with 1.5 inches of crumbed rubber. For this surface type, the researchers noticed a significant reduction in dust, approximately 50% less particles in the air. For the third week, the arena was topped with 3 inches of crumbed rubber. This topping was equally as good at reducing dust as the 1.5-inch layer but not better.

During the study, the researchers came across some challenges with the rubber surface. Firstly the crumbed rubber adhered to manure making it more difficult to dispose of as rubber does not break down like manure does. Secondly, the researchers noted that the rubber surface had an extremely strong smell initially, which was not pleasant. This smell did dissipate with time.

What surface do you use on your arena? Do you find dust to be a problem when you are riding?

Reference
Venable, Erin, et al. “Effect of crumb rubber made from recycled tires on air quality in an indoor riding arena: a pilot study.” Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 36 (2016): 97-100.

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