View Full Version : need advice - arena footing malady

Nov. 4, 2009, 12:03 AM
Okay, let me paint the picture for you. I live in the Finger Lakes area in upstate NY, where the glaciers cut valleys that turned into lakes with enormous ridges on either side. I live on the top of a ridge, and the entire 11.3 acres is graded downwards. I found enough flat land to scrape out a 56' x 150' wide arena, so .. yay! Now, the problems. There are several (well three I think) natural springs that lightly drain right into the arena. Okay, a trench cut on the uphill side just outside the fence, fill with drainage tile, cover with gravel and run it around the end of the arena to drain downhill. Easy enough. However. The entire hill is carved from shale, which loves to splinter and flake. So, it took quite a while to actually scrape away the flat area for the arena considering it's.. cutting into about 6' of shale in some spots. The downhill portion of the arena is made of fill, from the cut away portion. I'm kind of thinking that may be a bad choice. Any topsoil one has out here is pretty much clay. So Clay, on top of shale.. drainage issues. Now, sure, I can run drainage tile through the arena in several spots, but the clay won't allow for any drainage whatsoever. SO. Considering I'm a full-time working, commuting single person basically doing this on my own and not made of tons of money... I'd like some advice as to how to proceed. My choice at this time is to dig a bit more. take out a lot of the fill, put in larger graded sand for drainage (on top of drainage tile) and then seed with grass to prevent the sand from eroding down the hill. This seems to be the most cost efficient method!

I'd love to hear what other people did who built on hills or who have this god-forsaken clay/shale mix that somebody calls topsoil.

Nov. 4, 2009, 08:37 AM
Contact your local agricultural extension office. I've got drainiage issues, but beacause I'm loam soil and watershed.

Black Points
Nov. 7, 2009, 12:21 AM
Hi Crickett,

I'm also in the finger lakes region but not on a ridge but have nothing but yukky clay. When I built my indoor, there were many springs underneath so before we did anything about bringing up the elevation, we put in drainage tiles to catch the water from the springs. Then we put some miscellaneous fill dirt on top because we were also on a slope. We had to bring up one corner/end almost 9 feet. Then in order to have a base that is going to hold up to riding on - and this applies to an outdoor arena as well - you need to have stone dust put down and compacted with a vibrating roller. You should have at least 4" depth of stone dust, then add your riding sand on top of that. You also need to crown the riding surface ; i.e. the stone dust part so any water runs off the surface. That's the function of the hard stone dust surface - it allows the water that runs through the riding sand to run off the hard stone dust and then because you have french drains along the sides of the arena, they carry the water away.

I did my outdoor ring about 18 yrs ago and it is holding up fine. I did the indoor about 20 years ago and it's still great but before I got it right, I tried using just the fill dirt as the base and that didn't work so I tried redoing it using a blue clay but that got slippery when I watered to keep the dust down. I finally redid the base with stone dust as I described and added my riding sand and then some rubber/fiber and it's been near perfect for 13 yrs now.

Mary in western NY