We meet the team set to change the way the UAE looks at arena surfaces, one footfall at a time…

Scratching the surface

If there’s one thing horsey people in the UAE love to talk about, it’s surfaces. With so many equestrian facilities located throughout the country, surfaces vary from absolute excellence to somewhat less than professional. Irrespective of the structure and content, one issue facing each and every equestrian centre, regardless of size, is the need for significant amounts of water to compact arena surfaces and minimise dust. The watering, sometimes twice a day or more, affects not only the environment, but the pocket!

The money spent on water to suppress dust – and the subsequent environmental impacts – can come as a nasty surprise for those new to the industry, or be an issue that is overlooked by bigger and long-established centres. Either way, when the cost of using water for dust suppression is added up, the figures can be sobering. 

Enter ArenaKleen (or Dustless as it was originally called in the US where it began its life as a product used to counteract asbestos dust particles). By spraying the product on areas where asbestos had permeated construction material, it prevented the release of carcinogenic dust.

But the product was so versatile that the team quickly realised that it had applications way beyond its original purpose. Several decades later, and with a team working around the clock on research and development, ArenaKleen was born. Under testing, ArenaKleen has been found to perform exceptionally well with all types of riding arena footing – such as sand, stone dust, finely processed screened gravel, and all the various blends that include many fibre products such as rubber, leather, and wood – providing a true alternative to water use for dust suppression.

Because ArenaKleen never dries up, never evaporates, never hardens, and does not wash away with rain, it is ideal in indoor or outdoor riding arenas. Simply spray ArenaKleen on the sand area, allow the product to permeate the actual sand not float in the spaces between particles. Once the surface is saturated, riders have the ideal conditions – with no additional water needed – ensuring stable footing and excellent traction, without stickiness or tracking.

The product

So, what is ArenaKleen made of? It is a plant-based oil that is completely sustainable, non-toxic, non-hazardous, and will not hurt people or plants, nor pollute water systems. It has been tested to the highest possible environmental standards globally (including the European REACH certification). But the bottom line, in the Middle East in particular, is that the product saves wasting money water – and conserves a hugely important resource in this region. 

Every 100m3 of water that is used can run up a bill in the region of AED 800, using current water tariff data for potable mains water. With the standard large-size arena typically 60m x 20m which is a surface area of 1,200m² and optimal ground penetration somewhere in the region of 20cm per watering, and you are looking at an ever-increasing sum of money every time you damp down your arena.

With most facilities having multiple arenas of varying sizes, this operating cost is huge, especially considering that this water – and the expense – is quite literally evaporating. Jordan Crawley, managing director of ArenaKleen Australia, says: “After initial application we’re seeing a saving of around 20 percent in the first year. And with a second-year reapplication the savings go up to 70 percent, although this does fluctuate slightly depending on the surface materials, depth, and environmental factors. “Given the UAE’s desert location, it’s not only arenas that need dust suppression with water. There are also sand turn-out areas, horse-walker areas, endurance and racing tracks and even stables.

“ArenaKleen works on every surface, regardless of materials used, and there’s no dust, no tracking, no watering, no stickiness, and it doesn’t wash away or clump. It just creates an optimum surface with no dangerous dust particles released into the air.”

Hoof health

Over the years, the team has monitored equestrian facilities that have used the product. One significant and somewhat unexpected benefit reported by all is the improvement in overall hoof health.

Jordan said: “They all reported a significant improvement in feet, initially we thought it was a coincidence, but farriers and vets continued to note improvements. Because the product is based on a plant oil it’s much like painting on a hoof oil, except our processing system means the oil, over time, penetrates the cells of the hoof wall… in fact, we sell the raw product in several countries where they use it as a base for their hoof oils.

“Because of the amount of exposure horses have to ArenaKleen when they are working or turned out, the hoof health is vastly better.”

Respiratory gains

However, ArenaKleen is not only beneficial environmentally. Scott Flinn, the global technical director who heads much of the research and development for the product, realised the potential benefits of ArenaKleen in both human and animal respiratory health. “I have 21-years of breeding, managing, running, and developing thoroughbred stud farms and young-stock production units across Australia, and I realised quickly that ArenaKleen might be the answer to a reoccurring problem in Australian young-stock, a disease called ‘Rattles’ – a  bacterial pneumonia caused by the bacterium R. equi (rhodococcus equi).

“The affliction sees the bacterium, which is found in dust and dirt, inhaled by young-stock causing devastating respiratory issues such as abscesses on the lungs. The infection can have devastating effects on horses, particularly young-stock.”

Rattles can be devastating to even the best-bred youngsters and see their value drop to nothing if the infection causes lasting and visible

damage – and sometimes even death.

“ArenaKleen works on every surface, regardless of materials used, and there’s no dust, no tracking, no watering, no stickiness, and it doesn’t wash away or clump. It just creates an optimum surface with no dangerous dust particles released into the air.”


The results of the application of ArenaKleen are clear to see.

Realising the potential of ArenaKleen, Scott applied the product to several breeding yards and sure enough, the number of Rattles cases fell, sales figures improved, and veterinary bills were significantly reduced.But making it easier for horses to breathe generally improves performance and capability. Horses are estimated to use up to 3,000% more air when working than resting. Ensuring that air is cleaner to avoid any inflammatory conditions, improve performance, and ensure the health of the animal is a key consideration.

However, the dust suppression also had the added benefit of making riding a safer activity for riders with asthma. “We have to be aware of what our young riders and competitors are breathing in whenever they are riding on dusty arena surfaces,” said Scott.

Marginal gains

Regardless of discipline, today’s performance horses not only cost into the many millions but they are expected to compete throughout the year and around the world.

Competition has become so tough that it’s now a game of marginal gains. Take showjumping for example. The arena will be watered and harrowed, then the course walked and the competition starts. Initially the arena will be saturated, becoming drier throughout the course of the competition.

Jordan says: “The water acts as a lubricant, and fills the gaps between the sand particles. This means it starts out saturated and becomes drier as the competition progresses - leaving a small window for optimum surface performance.”

Watering creates a surface that changes with each ride. Initially it’s waterlogged, then as compaction, drainage, and environmental factors come into play, the water recedes. In a class of 15 competitors, only two might be riding in optimum conditions.

While most amateurs might remain oblivious to the changing conditions, the UAE now attracts some of the biggest names in showjumping, with classes up to CSI5* International, tens of thousands of euros prize money and riders flying in from as far as New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK to compete. For a facility to offer optimum performance to every rider could become a game-changer.

The ArenaKleen Specs

“We’ve been testing the product at 70C in an extreme trial and now, after six months, there’s still no change,” says Scott. “Another trial is now at day 210 at 40-50°C and we’re seeing a decrease in moisture of less than two percent.”

ArenaKleen is a plant oil-based product and is not acid or alkaline and is completely harmless to animals and people. It doesn’t corrode machinery and is safe as a base for fodder. In fact, there’s a story that to prove just how safe the product is, the developer actually drank it!

But despite the inherent benefits of ArenaKleen, the team behind it are very aware that tradition and habits are not easily broken. “We’re asking people to make a paradigm shift, ArenaKleen requires people to think completely differently about the surface… it’s not snake oil… people are tired of salesmen knocking on their door and claiming this incredible new product will change their lives… but ArenaKleen really will!”