View Full Version : Dressage arena (SMALL) advice

Nov. 9, 2009, 09:16 PM
My BF and I are looking at buying a house on a VERY small piece of land here in California. (For the most part, ALL of the land here is small, not like back in Maryland where a small farm was 5 acres.) If we buy this place, we will do so because I can have my horses there. It is zoned for horses. My plan, if we do buy this place, is to build a small dressage arena that is fenced in and use that as my ring and as my turnout area in addition to having my corrals (partially covered) and they will not be turned out continuoulsy. Have any of you ever managed a VERY small amount of property similar to my situation? What did you used to build the arena? I live int he desert so sand is a plenty here, but, sadly, grass is not. "Pastures", if you will, are sandy areas where horses get to go and stretch their legs, not graze as they would in other areas.

I would love your experiences, suggestions and advice in this matter. On the property we are looking at, I have already mapped out enough from for a small court dressage arena and the corrals.

Nov. 10, 2009, 02:38 AM
When I was a kid my trainer had a 14 stall shedrow, a full sized dressage court, a hay barn and a huge jumping arena and three little turn outs all on about three acres... come to think of it, even though I have 27 acres my horse facility is basically contained on 7, although mostly it's on about 4. 14 stalls with attached 12X32 ft. runs. two turnouts, a small pasture, a 130 x 170 foot arena, and a big hay barn. You have to be ready to accept that you will not be able to turn out in the way that they can back east. The horses adjust. I would suggest that you make the arena as big as possible unless you are going to be riding elsewhere a lot. A small court dressage arena (66X132) will start to feel really tiny and BORING to ride in really quickly.

Nov. 10, 2009, 01:56 PM
I have a very small property...It is almost 3/4 of an acre (100ft wide X 300ft long). My entire horse area is 100 ft wide and about 130 ft long. I have 3 horses (2 regular size and 1 mini). My stalls are 24x24 corrals which open directly into my 'arena'. Similar to cross fencing, so my arena/t.o. is 100x110. I have my tack/feed shed in the extra space by the corrals. Like fourmares said, you may find your arena small and boring. I think getting out as much as possible is best for your sanity and for your horse. In a small (2-3 horses) heard they all get even more dependant on eachother, so its important to keep that in mind. I feel my horses are very content and happy in their lives. They all accept that one of them can come and go with little fuss. They are turned out about 12hrs. a day each. There is no grazing, but psyllium helps with the sand and 'busy' hay keeps them entertained (my boys get alfalfa and 3-way<--busy hay). I think the hardest adjustment was for me, It is SO boring home alone with my horses. After 8 years of not boarding, I still havent adjusted, but my horses are all doing great and I love taking care of them. L

Nov. 11, 2009, 07:33 AM
While I'm not one who has years behind me in this experience, I'm in the same boat as yourself, so to speak...a limited acreage, and had to choose how? to include a dressage arena.
here are some links to the slide show of the 'almost' finished property,and how I approached the layout:


This is basically a 'vacation spot' for now! This is in Williamsburg, VA...and this is my parent's home, which was built by my grandparents. I will eventually inherit this spot.
Its just under 5 acres, but the majority of that is a solid wooded ravine behind the house. The open area was out front, and I'd say has about 2+acres.
the little 'ghetto barn' as we call it was an existing outbuilding...but I had the builder 'add on' a 12x24 run in, that opens into a 'sacrifice area' of about 60x100. That run in has a dutch door into the 'aisleway' of the little 2 stall barn, and I love that design!! That sacrifice area has an attached 'paddock' of about 60 x 150 for additional use/grazing. The long side of that fencing creates the 'dressage arena' on the property. I knew we'd need the space for grazing rotation, so I opted to fence it off, but did go with the full size arena. As I said, not footed, not leveled..but the actual size of a dressage arena sectioned off. I found, on the limited acreage, that placing of that area was first in design, and we sort of then 'built out' from that in designing the rest.
I'll have time to address a lot of finishing touches...barn doors, wireing for electricity, lights, leveling, matting the aisleway, hot water heater (!) for washrack....

I had another thread, as well, in re: being worried (!) about keeping him there 'alone' on visits (eventually, once residing there permanently, of course there will be a companion for him...but for now, I pay full board and cannot afford it for two!) but, the weather was perfect for it, and daughter had a few days 'fall break' from college (which is William & Mary, so, she is very close by!
So! I have now braved it, and hauled him down, and just for fun, here is the photo album of his FIRST and solo (!) visit to our own little barn and run in and arena and turnout!
We enjoyed it sooo much. And I was proud of him, and how much better it went than I thought it would---

I'll enjoy watching/reading this thread, because of the fact one day I WILL be permanently horsekeeping here, and it is indeed 'small acreage' and I know that takes a lot of work to 'do it right'.....

I hope things go well for you in the purchase, and the fun of planning it all!:D

Nov. 12, 2009, 08:21 PM
Ayrabs, for some reason, I can't see your slide shows. :(

Thanks for the advice so far guys! Horse keeping here in SoCal is such a different experience then what I was used to back east. People keep horses on MUCH LESS property here than they do in other areas. I am glad that I can keep them at home because of that, but it makes life challenging too, as I want them to have room to be turned out. The neighborhood that we are trying to get the house is is very horsey, there will be options for people to ride on trails with, I hope, so we can get out of the ring.

Nov. 13, 2009, 08:54 AM
Hey, Bugs...
I just tried to update the links, and it seems? they work now...please take a look and hopefully (!) ( let me know if you could) you can see them!?

Nov. 13, 2009, 01:02 PM
It worked. I like your property, I'd put my two horses there in a hot minute.

Nov. 13, 2009, 05:03 PM
thanks!!! As it shows, I too, will be looking at horsekeeping on a very small acreage, so I'll be learning along as well! Do share your photos of your place, and enjoy the 'planning' stages...I loved that part!

Nov. 14, 2009, 03:13 AM
I will definitely share photos! I'll probably be asking tons of advice! LOL

Nov. 14, 2009, 01:09 PM
How many acres are you looking at?

Go to Norco and see some ranch properties. They use EVERY inch.

Nov. 17, 2009, 09:10 AM
Thanks! :)

Nov. 17, 2009, 10:46 AM
Bugs -
I have a full sized arena but have a friend with a smaller sized arena. She hates it! When it comes to shows (and she shows a LOT) she has become so accustomed to a short arena she gets a bit "off" when she hits the full sized arenas in a show.

So if at all possible I'd go for a full sized arena.

Nov. 17, 2009, 01:12 PM
What's the option for manure disposable?

Always a challenge for people on smaller lots.

Nov. 17, 2009, 03:16 PM
I read Cherry Hill's "Horsekeeping on Small Acreage" and another book called "Backyard Horsekeeping" (I think that's the correct title) when we were farm shopping. We ended up with not quite six acres in the Midwest, which required intensive pasture management and other tricks to keep the land in shape and the horses happy. I think you will find both books extremely helpful if you haven't already had a chance to read them. There are sections that specifically deal with your situation in each book.

Of course, after all that work and reading and preparation, we ended up moving to the Northeast, and we're in the process of listing our Midwestern farm for sale. Sigh. It was a good learning experience though. I can rotate pastures like nobody's business, compost with verve, and slog through soul-sucking mud without wincing; and I'm nearly religious about determining the nutritional value of hay and weighing it for each feeding. :)