Have you ever thought of building your own horse arena? If so, then I’m sure you are well aware of all that goes in to making the perfect arena for your horses. If not, let us show you what you will need to consider when developing an arena.
Building the perfect arena
Building a horse arena is generally an individual’s own taste and feel, as many people prefer different footings and materials compared to others. We’ll get in to the surface layers soon; however we can tell you that there are a few fundamental things that every arena builder/owner can agree on.
- Drainage: without appropriate drainage, pools of water will form in your layers and not only lead to the failure of these surfaces, but will ultimately affect ride quality. It can be one of the most expensive parts of the build, however if done incorrectly, it can cause much more structural and financial damage down the line.
- Base materials: no matter the size of the arena, the base materials will need to be ordered in large quantities – with a price that may seem extravagant. Saving yourself a couple of hundred dollars here and there for one less load may seem like a good choice at the time, however in the long run if you skimp on the base layers of the footing, it can lead to a disaster. By doing this you are reducing its ability to compact to a uniform hard layer that will prevent undesirable material from underneath coming to the surface. These sub layers are crucial as they are the backbone of the arena, even if they are not visible.
- Double check: before putting your top layer on, check that the sub-layers are well compacted and hard as this is imperative to the overall effectiveness of the arena. If a horse breaks through the top layer, you don’t want the sub-layers to be breached as well as this will cause a slow downfall of the footing. If you can easily dig up these layers with your heal, it is probably not hard enough.
- Maintenance: as the more wear and tear happens to your arena, the more maintenance you will ultimately have to keep up. Heavy traffic areas will have to be focused on more as the top layer will be pushed away or to the side and leave the sub-layers exposed. Every once in a while you will need to do a solid rake of the arena to loosen and spread the top layer around evenly.
Perfecting the top layer:
When deciding on what material to use for your top layer, you will need to ask yourself if you want a soft or firm riding surface. Although you want to avoid a hard surface as it can lead to jarring injuries, as well as a surface that is too soft as it can lead to stress on your horse’s tendons and muscles.
To get the ideal surface for you and your horse, you will ultimately need to look at a material that provides good traction and a consistent base. Along with this you don’t want your top layer creating a dust storm or flying debris during winds. The ideal surface is eventually down to you – as cost, availability, and regional variation will be factors that will be different for each individual.
Below are some of the possible options that you can use for your arenas:
Wood products: this is a smarter option in drier climates; however it will eventually break down over time. Try and steer clear of bark as it will break down much faster and turn to dust, only to blow away with a slight wind. Wood chips or post peelings are the best option – hoping for a consistent size throughout.
Rubber: although somewhat hard to get your hands on, rubber is considered one of the best surfaces that can also be mixed with sand. It needs to be free of metal and should be similar size pieces.
Sand: is a very common finishing material as it can be mixed with other materials such as rubber and sawdust. It will need to be cleaned of silt and clay due to the dust hazards and overtime compacting down. As sand can vary greatly between regions, you will need to talk to your provider as they will know whether they have had success with arenas in the past. It will ultimately take a number of years to show any signs of erosion of compaction and therefore is a great material for your top layer.
Soil: unfortunately soil is not a great material for a top layer in your arena. It can become compacted far too easily, is slippery when wet, and can become dangerous between uses as it gets chopped up and dries out. In saying this, with the correct soil type and the right amount of moisture, it can work quite well. However the amount of time you will spend trying to maintain this perfection will be an uphill battle.
In the end, arenas are not meant to be a cheap project. The overall price will depend on many factors including the size, type of material, and how close you are to the raw materials. This is why it is important to do your research properly, ask around, and talk to those that have previously built an arena before starting one of your own.