This unique arena footing converts old tennis balls to top grade footing—helping the environment along the way.
BY April Bilodeau
What do you get when you combine tennis balls and equestrian sport? An innovative footing that benefits both horses and the environment. RecycleBalls Green Gold arena footing takes the best of one sport and applies it to the other.
“The tennis balls provide a cushioning in the footing that not only aids in less impact on the horse’s joints, but it also provides stability and traction,” Jordan Wooten, sales consultant for the Green Gold division of RecycleBalls, tells The Plaid Horse.
Wooten, who rides Western, was amazed at the benefits of the footing for the horses.
“I look at the horses as athletes,” she says. “Anything that’s better for them, I’m game for, and this really is better.”
From Tennis Balls to The Ring
Every year, 125 million tennis balls are brought to market. At the end of their life, they end up in landfills, adding an overwhelming amount to our planet’s waste. The balls are difficult to recycle due to their construction.
Derrick Senior and his son Ryan, both lifelong tennis players, saw these numbers and knew something needed to be done to change the lifecycle of tennis balls and repurpose them for use in other avenues rather than contributing to trash.
In 2016, RecycleBalls, a 501c3 non-profit, was born, with the mission to save the planet by reusing and recycling all tennis balls. To date, they have saved twelve million tennis balls from ending up in landfills.
The new uses for tennis balls vary widely, from using them to construct tennis courts to making footing for equestrian arenas.
All About the Footing
RecycleBalls Green Gold footing, which can be used indoors or outdoors, is a mix of rubber and felt, which comes solely from the tennis ball. Additionally, the fibers help with drainage, keeping your arena as dry as possible. This footing additive was conceived and created by an equestrian for fellow equestrians.
The odor-free natural rubber is described as low maintenance, assisting in keeping dust to a minimum by spreading out moisture through the fibers. In the manufacturing process, the footing is ground down to a small size.
“We did a lot of early testing and arena owners liked a small, rubber material,” says Wooten. “So we reduced the footing to a fine crumb so that it’s not slippery.”
One of the developers in the early stages was Suki Flash, a professional trainer and rider, who saw the potential in recycled tennis balls as horse footing and made the initial suggestion to the company to consider this new avenue. Spending years working to perfect arenas for various riding disciplines, she saw the blend of natural rubber and fiber as a win for horses and the environment.
Flash volunteered throughout the development process and collaborated on countless iterations of the product to get a footing that met the real needs of equestrian athletes.
“We worked through so many different blends. Finally we got a mix that creates a soft and smooth ride and could work in almost every arena.” says Flash. “When we finally got it just right, it changed the whole ride. Not only was there better cushion and rebound for the horses, but it’s a quieter ride and requires less time to maintain the arena.”
The mix blends best with a sand or dirt base and can be easily maintained with any drag that you have. On average, customers find that the footing stays fresh for two to three years before needing to refresh anything.
Satisfied Green Gold rider Cynthia Harrocks, founder of the Timber Cup, says that the footing has been a game changer for her mare, who suffered a tear to her ACL.
“Green Gold has been a savior to her soundness. Since we installed it, the footing is stable and has cushion,” says Harrocks. “There is little dust and dragging is minimal. What a great and reasonably-priced solution for quality footing!”
And about that bright green color…it does fade!
“A lot of customers get worried about the color of the footing,” says Erin Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer at RecycleBalls. “The footing mixes in pretty quickly, so in just a couple weeks you won’t even notice the color.”
Easy Install and Bonus Good Feelings
The company has made ordering the footing simple for buyers. Farm owners can visit the website, enter their arena shape, dimensions, and location, and have their custom amount delivered right to their door.
Installation is easy. Simply unpack and empty the bags across the arena (each bag is made up of 7,500 tennis balls!) and spread out with your drag or tractor. Once spread evenly, your arena is ready to be used.
While pricing is subject to change, currently the footing is $1,600 per sac, which includes shipping.
In addition to the company doing their part to save the environment by reducing waste, RecycleBalls has also made it easy for you to do your part in helping their mission. By selecting the “Take Action” tab on their website, you can print out a shipping label to give a second life to any old tennis balls you have laying around.
“This year alone we will recycle three millions tennis balls,” says Wooten.
To be a part of the effort or to learn more about RecycleBalls Green Gold arena footing, visit www.recycleballs.org.
RecycleBalls Green Gold has been a truly wonderful addition to the footing in both our indoor and outdoor riding arenas. Since adding Green Gold to our arenas, I have seen great improvement in the horses who are training on it. It gives a great amount of cushion and spring when my horses are doing Dressage and also provides shock absorption and stability when my horses are jumping. I have also noticed that the moisture retention of the footing has improved greatly which reduces the dust and amount of watering needed to keep the footing riding at its best. I believe the addition of Green Gold will largely help increase the longevity of all of my horses’ riding careers.”
—Stephanie Spiece, Heavenwood Farm