Riding on the Lunar Surface
Horse keeping in New England is accompanied by a host of environmental challenges including frozen water lines, flirting with frostbite, and being buried in snow. Not to mention, horses that are sweet and docile in the summer seem to be possessed by a demon when the temperatures wildly fluctuate in the winter months. As a riding instructor and barn owner, my grocery budget relies heavily on being able to keep my lesson program rolling year-round. Today, I will be sharing one of my favorite discoveries that has enabled me to keep my lesson business profitable despite the freezing temperatures.
I was so excited when, after scrimping and saving, we were able to put up an indoor riding arena. I would no longer have to submit to mother nature’s whim and I couldn’t wait to ride through the winter and build and honest-to-goodness, viable, year-round lesson program. I was well on my way to living my dream! Little did I know, Jack Frost had other plans for me. October, November, December- the arena was everything I wanted and more! Then, BAM, January hits, the temperature plummets. My nice fluffy arena sand hardens up like concrete. The footing that I had so lovingly groomed and raked had turned into the lunar surface! The arena floor was so frozen that it was no longer a viable riding surface.
Lucky for me, a friend mentioned that the barn where she takes lessons spreads MAG in their arena which not only prevents the arena from freezing, but minimizes dust in the summer. I did a little research, asked around, and decided to give it a shot. We were back in business (literally) right away!
If you are not familiar with MAG, it is magnesium chloride, a mineral sourced from the dead sea. It comes in flake form and is a humectant (holds on to moisture) and is hygroscopic (grabs moisture from the air). Use those two words at your next dinner party and you’ll impress everyone! Magnesium chloride is a type of salt that is PH neutral so it does not have the corrosive nature of other ice melts like calcium chloride. This means that you don’t have to worry about MAG drying out hooves or your painted metal buildings and tractor turning into a ball of rust prematurely. When the weather is super cruddy, I sometimes turn my horses out in the arena, so I was worried about my fur-babies eating hay off the MAG treated sand. Here is what the MAG website says about toxicity:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses a document called a “Material Safety Data Sheet” (MSDS) to standardize information about all materials. On this form OSHA uses an industry standard for toxicity called an “LD50”, which is the amount of material that is required to kill at least 50% of the test subjects. While this is a morbid thought, it is the standard that the government has established and is recognized industry wide. The LD50 for strychnine, a rat poison, is 16 (milligrams per kilogram of body weight). The LD 50 for aspirin and calcium chloride is 1000 mg/kg. The LD50 for table is salt 3,000, and the LD50 for MAG is 8,100! That means that MAG is 2.5 times less toxic than table salt, is about half as toxic as baking soda and is very comparable to vitamin C, ascorbic acid.
When speaking with the owner of Emerson Supply (where I get my MAG), Doug Emerson mentioned that there was a study done which concluded that a horse would have to eat 50lbs of MAG treated sand in order to reach a toxic dose. If your horse is eating 50lbs of sand, you’ve got bigger issues than MAG, right? Also, MAG is comprised of only magnesium chloride, while some other ice melts are a mix of sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride. For the safety of your horse, it’s important to know exactly what you are putting down.
MAG has proven itself in the summer as well. We don’t have the clouds of dust that some barns deal with, which is much healthier for our riders and our horses. This stuff was such a great find and has had a huge positive impact in our footing year-round. The best part is, MAG sticks to the sand particles indefinitely and once you have completed your initial application, there is very little maintenance and expense. I spread about five bags of MAG each year right before the first hard freeze, and we are good to go for an entire year. In warm arid climates MAG would be worth the investment just to keep down the dust!
Another benefit of MAG is that Doug and the nice folks at Emerson Supply work really hard to make sure that shipping costs are minimized. Some retail stores (feed stores, etc.) carry MAG, but you can order directly from the dealer. Great, right? No middle man, talk directly with the experts, and limit shipping hassles…perfect!
If you are looking for a way to manage your footing, I highly encourage you to check these guys out! I am not a paid advertiser, I don’t work for Emerson Supply, and I am getting nothing from this review- I am just super impressed with this product and I know you’ll be impressed too!!
Seriously- you need to look at this website:
and then call Doug!