View Full Version : Tell me about your outdoor arena!

Jan. 31, 2010, 10:15 AM
I want to build an outdoor at my new property. I am in the PNW so all-weather (read: tons of rain!) is required. I am mostly interested in dressage....will do a little jumping in it but I also have good grass to jump in. With site prep, all weather footing and no rail how much do you think I will spend? What is the layering? Is it dig down several inches then put some rock then put some geo-textile, then put some hit grid then some sand? How deep should the sand be? How much grooming and can I buy an attachment for my riding lawn mower? So many questions!

Jan. 31, 2010, 10:32 AM
The USDF has a very useful handbook called Underfoot which will answer many of your questions. They like to pitch their arenas length-ways(high centerline) with water pitched to the sides. If you raise your center 4 inches higher than the edges you will have decent drainage and you will not see or notice the pitch. You will also want to assist the perimeter runoff if you are at all sidehill so the high side gets drained before re-flooding the arena. Underfoot also does the math for yards of material: I believe that you need to figure that every inch of a standard 20 meter x 60 meter arena means approx. 40 cubic yards of material, or three 14 yard truckloads. They like to see 4-6 inches of stonedust over a decent sublayer of fill, with 1-2 inches of putty sand and all those additives on top of that. Nothing vast quantities of money won't fix...:D

Jan. 31, 2010, 11:35 AM
get the book- I live a few miles to the north of you on Vancouver Island, built my ring 15 years ago with that book and it still drains like nobody's business in the wet weather. It was close to $18,000 back then, but we had some blasting to do, had to correct a 6 foot drop in elevation from end to end, and brought in over 100 trucks of material. The costs depend on how much material you have to truck in, because trucking charges vary hugely depending on location, and whether you have to do any blasting of rock, or major elevation change. But the book is excellent for estimating and rock solid engineering. DO NOT "cheap out" in this climate. You will regret it. I haven't had to do anything to my ring since it was built except drag it. haven't even added more sand footing. Others have completely rebuilt their rings because they omitted expensive but important things like proper curtain drainage.

Jan. 31, 2010, 01:46 PM
In the PNW, understanding the water/drainage patterns on your property, and site prep are absolutely crucial to success. Crowning an area may not be the best approach- if we had done this on our arena site, it would have resulted in an island in the middle of the arena surrounded by a moat where the track was suppposed to be.

I live about 50 miles north of Seattle, and Mr. Molliwog and I did a significant amount of work on our arena ourselves, which saved us a lot of $$. However, we're both reasonably handy, and are experienced operators of construction and farm equipment.

Do not skimp on base, or drainage, and consult with a good excavator who has installed arena bases before to ensure that both of these pieces will work. Otherwise, you'll be sunk no matter how nice your footing material is. Our excavator was wonderful at helping us assess our site, and worked with us to set up a great plan for drainage. You don't want to rely on anything draining through your base, although I understand this technique can be succesfully employed in other climates. Rather, you want a good system of french drains and a proper slope to the base to carry the water away- sort of like a bathtub drain. Road base or asphalt grindings do work well as base material in this climate- our arena base is about 8 inches of compacted 5/8- with a lot of "fines" and it has served us very, very well. This is basically road base. (PM me for more info on this.) There are a couple of local firms here who specialize in arenas and do good work. However, they quoted me more than 3x the cost for the same work as the excavator who ultimately installed my arena base charged, so talk to several folks to make sure you don't get gouged in pricing.

We own a backhoe, so we installed all of the french drain system ourselves, and hired a local trucker to deliver the base material. We put in a pretty robust "intercept" system to catch some rain runoff before it would even hit the arena. Our arena is sloped slightly in two directions rather than crowned. The excavator then came with his equipment, compacted the base, and made sure it was sloped correctly (laser leveled) for our site.

Once this was complete, we footed with a combination of sand and shredded rubber. We used sand that was pretty coarse, and I've found that this combined better with the shredded rubber- I see a lot of sand in outdoors here that is too fine and "beachy" for my taste, and the horses seem to struggle with it. Be careful here, too, and start out with less material than what you think you'll need. It's always easy to add more, and its really painful to remove if you have too much. We ended up with about 2 inches of each material. You may have someone suggest hogsfuel as footing for outdoors. Personally, I've found this to be a pretty unfriendly footing- it's slick in truly wet weather, and has to be hauled out and replaced frequently. It's also high maintenance, because raking by hand is the preferred method to keep things ship-shape. Since it's organic material, it breaks down and has to be replaced frequently. The stone dust material that people use in the midwestern and east isn't typically available here.

There has NEVER been a day here that I couldn't ride due to rain. The only time I don't use my outdoor is when it gets into the 20s for several days in succession- then things are a little frozen, although it's still safe to walk the horses around to get them out of their stalls. Basically, now all I do to maintain is drag the arena, and rake a bit on the track (and if we had a smaller tractor, I wouldn't need to rake.)

I'm not sure how much our cost info will help you, since we did a lot of stuff ourselves, but if you want more detail info, feel free to PM me.

Feb. 9, 2010, 12:55 PM
has anyone been instructed to put topsoil back ontop of clay base, and then add sand? my excavator Co. suggested that? we're in Ontario Canada, and have great soil, and will put in drainage - but won't the weeds find a way up through the sand footing?

Oct. 5, 2013, 04:14 AM
I realize this is old but I hope that someone will see it. Our Arena guy is now telling me that instead of the original "reject rock" that he would put in as the sub base, he is going to put crushed concrete because we are about 3 weeks too late ( read, it's not getting done before winter as it started monsooning early this year. :(
Help!? Is that a normal sub base?