Susan Whitehead of Wilsonville, AL, whose flooded 20m x 60m dressage arena had drainage problems. In her own words, here’s how removing and re-grading her schooling space (and a blend of Premier Equestrian Arena Aid and Protex footing), gave her a perfect 10.
“My horse, MB, and I had struggled with riding and training in our old arena. The drainage problems we had been having with an arena that was barely three years old kept me from riding my horse more than four times a month. That isn’t enough riding to keep a horse fit much less to train for dressage.
Now, thanks to Austin, (and especially after it rains), our new arena is the best place to be on the whole farm!
It all began with finding someone who really specialized in arena construction. As I started asking for references, one suggestion kept coming up as referral: “Get the guy from South Carolina.” No name. Just ‘The Guy.’
Well, that guy turned out to be Austin with Diamond W Contracting and within 10 minutes of our first conversation on the phone, I knew The Guy was going to our guy. I warned him that I could only tell him what was going on in layman’s terms and within three sentences he stopped me and said, “I understand. Completely.”
Phew. But I wasn’t the only rider with a ring problem, and he was up front about telling me he was already booked seven months in advance. I said I could be patient, and in the interim, sent him pictures and information about the silica sand and fiber we had been using. And Austin, without having yet set foot on the farm, was able to come up with different remedies and price points.
I got accustomed to hearing, “Well, we can fix this two ways…” I never once felt pressured about a step in the process or that I didn’t have options. (We had put a lot of money into the first arena, but it just hadn’t worked out for us and never had a very good drainage system.
At the start I confessed to Austin that this was home to a silent-can’t-figure-out-type of person and there was nothing I wanted more than to just hand the project (and problem) over to Austin and let him make it work for me. And he said, okay, that’s fine.
The day he arrived it had been pouring rain for three days but that didn’t stop him. He drained the ring, which was full of water, took it apart, and started practically from scratch. The original base was still there but he put in a new drainage system and brought in new sand from Tuscaloosa.
I swear I’ve never seen anyone work so hard or so fast. But what impressed me the most was how, on the very last day of tilling and rolling the new arena, I walked out to give it a test walk and Austin was so concerned about whether or not I was happy with the result.
(Apparently, my husband later said, I had a ‘weird Lost in Space’ look on my face that Austin couldn’t read.) That’s understandable because I was feeling so many emotions! From I-can’t-believe-the-problem-is-fixed to I couldn’t believe I actually had an arena that was this… nice.
I must have told him about 272 times how happy I was. Including while he gave us a personal tutorial on how to use the new drag and how to maintain the new arena. It was like getting a private seminar on my own property. Including his assuring how well the new arena would respond to rain and “tighten up” at the base.
So (of course) it must have been nearly two weeks until it finally rained. But when it did, it was a huge storm that filled all the farm’s ponds up to steps of our pavilion and left standing water in the horse pastures.
But in the arena, there wasn’t a single puddle and it was wonderful.
And no question, bless him, was too stupid to ask as he finished the project. Because (to me) having something as nice as this new dressage arena made me want to be sooo good about taking care of it!
I want my new dressage arena to always feel this way, not just for me but because I think it’s such a gift for my horses, too. In fact, Austin asked me how my horses felt going on it (psst, he’s a rider, too).
Now, MB is such a pretty mover he could probably dance on concrete (not that I would ever try) but after riding him on the new arena, I honestly can’t convey how absolutely ‘floaty’ he felt! His lateral work also feels like it has improved and he ‘sits’ better on his hind end.
MB’s work has definitely improved, but where the arena’s improvements really brought tears to my eyes was in seeing how much better our ‘momma mare,’ an arthritic old Lipizzaner mare we rescued, felt under saddle. She told me that she wanted to go longer, and was warming up better. So as thrilled as I was for my younger horse, a happy older horse really, really makes me happy.
I guess the bottom line is that I can’t recommend Austin and Diamond W highly enough. He’s a rare one and worth every penny. There aren’t a lot of people like Austin who will work so hard to make sure someone is so happy.
He is the perfect person to create the arena that you want (and your horses deserve)."