Shell – The Increasingly Popular Choice For Horse Arena Surfacing

Horse Arena Ocean Shell Surfacing
Horse Arena Ocean Shell Surfacing

Shell – The Increasingly Popular Choice For Horse Arena Surfacing

Many horse arenas are surfaced with sand, but recently the benefits of shell as an alternative are becoming more widely recognised. In the last year, Wholesale Landscapes has provided shell as a surfacing component in over 50 arenas throughout Canterbury and the Top of the South. What’s more, this burgeoning popularity of shell seems set to continue.


The best arena surfaces should allow your horse to move freely, with security underfoot to reduce the risk of injury. It should also work well in all weathers, require minimal maintenance and be long-lasting. Wholesale Landscapes’ Ocean Shell is a superior product which meets all these criteria.The relationship between arena surfacing and equine soundness, especially that of the feet and legs, is well established. Every stride of your horses is influenced by how the hoof interacts with the ground and the various qualities of the arena layers. An ideal arena surface allows horses to move efficiently through the landing, loading and push-off phases. 


The surface should minimise concussion, absorb shock, provide support, and return energy back to the horse. To accomplish this, the surface should have a combination of firmness, cushioning, rebound and grip. Too-shallow a surface results in concussion of the feet and legs and too-hard a surface can stress the joints. Surfacing materials must maintain their loose nature without compaction while providing stability for riding and provide purchase for changes in direction or speed while riding.


A recent British University study, found that sand was likely to become uneven in both wet and dry conditions, thus elevating the risk of horse injury. It also found that sand surfacing was most associated with horses tripping, with coarse sand more likely to cause loss of balance.Despite its solid, inorganic nature, sand will erode and compact into an unsuitable surface over time.


Sand quality, type and grain size can vary greatly. It can become increasingly dusty through wear, causing horse and rider respiratory issues. The shape of the grains matter too: angular sand compacts easily, requiring excessive maintenance; whereas rounded sand particles behave similar to millions of ball bearings underfoot, providing limited traction. Sand dries out rapidly since it drains well, so frequent watering is essential. This may prove uneconomic where water is metered or droughts are frequent.


Sand as an arena surface can be an expensive option, given the cost of cleaning and processing it requires. Transportation costs are also high, as trucks can only move small volumes due to sand’s weight.Wholesale Landscapes’ Ocean Shell is the economical and green choice. Manufactured using a by-product of the successful local mussel industry, shell arena surfacing exemplifies Wholesale Landscapes’ belief in resourcefulness – in making the most of what we have been given.


Re-purposing this waste also eliminates ecologically-costly landfill disposal.Ocean Shell has been aged for 12 to 18 months, which removes odours. The natural process of weathering bleaches out the colour, leaving an attractive white shell. Wholesale Landscapes allow a natural bacterial process to remove any residual mussel from the shell, whilst it is monitored and turned. During this process, the sharpness of the mussel shell reduces significantly, which provides a safe surface for your horse.


Ocean Shell is crushed to a size which will accommodate a horse’s impact over a 2 – 4 year span. The range of particles in the mix means that your horse gains high-impact protection.Wholesale Landscapes’ Ocean Shell provides the ideal base surface for a horse arena, as it reduces leg concussion, giving support to the hoof without giving way. It provides an excellent non-slip surface and is easy care. As it is organic, natural trace elements contained in the shell base, such as lime and calcium, will improve horse’s hoof health, making them less susceptible to injury or disease.


The surface of an arena affects your horse’s athletic ability and longevity. The science of building an arena is well-studied and shows an essential component of a safe, durable arena design is a quality surface. Wholesale Landscapes can provide yours today.

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Our Truck Volumes

3T Truck

Full truck load volumes
  • Bark: 7m³
  • Compost: 4m³
  • Supersoil: 3m³
  • Soil: 3m³
  • Shell: 3m³
  • Stone: 1.5m³

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Full truck load volumes
  • Bark: 20m³
  • Compost: 10m³
  • Supersoil: 7m³
  • Shell: 8m³

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Full truck load + trailer volumes
  • Bark: 25m³ - 65m³
  • Compost: 17m³ - 38m³
  • Supersoil: 12m³ - 29m³
  • Shell: 12m³ - 30m³

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  • Wholesale Landscapes – Stoke Yard (that's us!)
  • Stoke Garden & Landscapes
  • Bay Landscapes & Garden Centre
  • Goldpine Richmond
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  • Woodend Landscape Supplies
  • Amberley Hire & Landscape Supplies
  • Hanmer Landscape Supplies
  • Garden Box – Middleton
  • Urban Paving & Landscape Supplies – Harewood
  • Pearsons Landscape Supplies – Bromley
  • Styx Mill Landscape & Nursery  – Styx
  • Mitre 10 Mega Ferrymead
  • Odering Garden Centre Christchurch - Philpotts
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  • Fulton Hogan Timaru
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We welcome pick-up of product by the public for volumes 1m³ and over. Please check your estimated trailer weight rating below. If your trailer is unable to hold the weight of our minimum pick-up volume, please book a delivery. *We require a minimum order quantity of 3m³ for any bark, compost, soil or shell products and a minimum order quantity of 1.5m3 for any stones or aggregates.

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(750kg limit)
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(1,500kg limit)
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(2,000kg limit)
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Recommended depths

Typically you need a finishing layer of screened soil of 100mm when working with an uneven surface. 100mm of soil will allow to even out any hollows and give enough depth to create a flat surface

A general rule for compost is to allow for the depth of the current root structure of your plants with an additional 30-50% to mix in with the base. If you’re planting into holes or filling up a vege garden  you will need to accommodate for this prior to filling up

We recommend 100mm (10cm) deep for new bark gardens and planting into bare areas. For existing gardens with some cover, we recommend 75mm-100mm (7.5cm-10cm)

Note: Barked areas for playground impact protection need to meet NZS5828:2015 standards and is calculated on the fall areas and the height of the playground. Please contact us to discuss your barked playground areas

For paths and driveways which are often exposed to car and foot traffic, we recommend 100mm-125mm (10cm-12.5cm) on newly prepared areas due to settling of product.

This excludes preparation, compaction or drainage gravel underneath. For existing areas 75mm thickness is recommended for areas needing a small top-up.