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View Full Version : The PNW outdoor arena: DIY vs contractor



Heinz 57
May. 22, 2012, 01:53 AM
Looking for opinions on building a small, affordable outdoor arena. Most especially interested in the thoughts of those living in the PNW, but all input is good. :)

All of my friends and acquaintances locally have used various contractors and paid what I'd estimate to be an average of $10-15k for arenas in the same approximate size range, and all have had issues with drainage and loss of use in the heavy rain season. One had to have all the sand (that would not drain) removed and replaced (with the right type of sand) at her own cost; another had multiple, random spots that would sink down into the base and cause dangerous holes and hazards for the horses, just to give a few examples of what I've seen.

Anyone out there gone the DIY route? Contractor? Drainage is paramount here, and nobody seems to be getting it right.

Dutch Lovin' Dressage Rider
May. 22, 2012, 02:03 AM
Hi

Mark Tabert of Tabert Construction in Sherwood is who I'd recommend. He did my outdoor in 2001, indoor in 2004/2005, pads for two round pens, mud free paddocks, and carefully removed all of the footing in my indoor (after someone ruined the base) and didn't disturb the base. Oh, and added french drains all around the entire outside wall of the indoor arena and barn - after the building was totally built and errected. Talk about a talented person who knows how to opperate his machinery = we could not have been happier.

Mark is also the excavator who did all of the work at Devonwood, and he continues to be their excavator to this day.

The key to proper drainage is: correct grade to the sub base, french drains, and how the base is prepared. Mark is an expert and a top notch professional. He is the only excavator I will trust with my arenas AND, I can actually leave my farm while he is working and know that the job will be done correctly.

alto
May. 22, 2012, 02:55 AM
Do your research, & then talk to everyone in your area - those who have great outdoors & those who don't: use this to construct a list of preferred contractors, get itemized quotes, then find out pricing if you follow the DIY route.

I'd want to have lived on the property for at least a year before deciding on the arena location.

When I was (boarding) barn shopping recently, I was surprised by the number of arenas (indoor & outdoor) that had been constructed by people apparantly lacking knowledge beyond the basic shape :confused:

Calvincrowe
May. 22, 2012, 12:59 PM
Contractor, and a good one, with arena experience is the best money you'll spend. Here, you want to spend the $$ on the base--French drains done right, geotextile cloth, drain rock, packed gravel base, then your footing. The right sand/gravel/rubber mix is essential for proper drainage. Use washed sand--the fines/silt in unwashed sand will clog your cloth and lead to pooling. Do put a slope to your ring!

My SIL's ring is rideable year round--she used a local contractor and the only issue is that some of her drain rock has migrated up into the footing.

The boarding barn I'm at has an amazing outdoor--even sloppy wet last night I was comfortable jumping around at 2'9" and my horse was happy, too!;) No slipping.

Do not use cedar/wood footing in an outdoor, won't work here for long (and it is slick when wet..and it's always wet:lol:)

The cheapest guy may not be your best bet. Get some quotes, save your $$ and do it right. You'll never regret it. Hey--wedding gifts!! Simply put in there that in lieu of towels, china and other useless crap, you'll take arena money:D

Heinz 57
May. 22, 2012, 01:30 PM
The cheapest guy may not be your best bet. Get some quotes, save your $$ and do it right. You'll never regret it. Hey--wedding gifts!! Simply put in there that in lieu of towels, china and other useless crap, you'll take arena money:D

Somehow, I don't think Mr. Heinz would be really keen on this. Unless we put "arena money and guns/ammo". :lol: I'm already hoarding the checks people have sent (made to HIM ONLY, no less!) that aren't attending. So far, I haven't seen an *outdoor* arena that I was impressed with (with the exception of DevonWood, obviously. Who could NOT be impressed by theirs?!), which is hindering my search.

Dutch, would you mind sharing what Tabert cost you? You can PM me if you'd rather not post it for the world to see. :winkgrin: I'm nearly an hour south of Sherwood, which may be cost-prohibitive considering the cost of transporting heavy machinery these days.

This is going to be a relatively small arena - I have field to ride on in the decent-weather months, so this will primarily just be to get me by during the wetter months. Also need to take lighting strategies into consideration!

Calvincrowe
May. 22, 2012, 02:18 PM
When you came to Quarry Ridge last summer--that ring is the best outdoor I've ridden in (except for Hunter Creek). Honestly, if you have good drainage in the soil of the farm, your arena should do fine--if you spend $$ on base prep. My SIL's ring cost her $7000, and is 80 x 150 and she can ride unless it is frozen.

Go as big as you can afford, no one has ever wished for a smaller ring--minimum size to jump a bit in is ideal when cost is an issue.

Also, think about edging--RR ties are good, and often can be found cheaply on CL.

Heinz 57
May. 22, 2012, 02:33 PM
Yes, those have been considerations. Both friends I mentioned earlier have RR tie borders and are generally happy with them. Width-wise, I'd like to keep it at 20m; it's important for *me*, especially with the big guy, to be comfortable in the short court dressage arena. Damn eventing tests at the LL's are all in the small arena, 20x40m. The length is certainly negotiable, though. ;) It depends on not only the price, but also how much of my pasture and yard (who needs a yard?) I want to eat up. Mr. Heinz made faces when I told him I wanted to move the fencing about 20' back towards the house to make the pasture larger, I can only imagine what he'd do if I told him I wanted to turn it into an arena. :lol:

Quarry Ridge was a very nice arena, yes, and not a bad size at all. I'd be comfortable spending what your SIL did, Calvin, especially if it means I can still ride in it after a record rain season!

Calvincrowe
May. 22, 2012, 02:53 PM
Her contractor is local to our town, but might be willing to travel--god knows the construction trade is not booming! PM me if you want his info

The small ring sucks!:lol: Is that 72 x 144? I've jumped in that size...and it kind of works.

Heinz 57
May. 22, 2012, 04:05 PM
Her contractor is local to our town, but might be willing to travel--god knows the construction trade is not booming! PM me if you want his info

The small ring sucks!:lol: Is that 72 x 144? I've jumped in that size...and it kind of works.

Baahaha. If you wanted to be specific, it's 65'7" (and some change) by 131'2" (and, again, some change). 60m length would be 196'10". :lol:

I'm not opposed to contacting guys out of my general area, my only concern is that I'm going to get charged an arm and a leg for transporting their equipment to/from.

Watermark Farm
May. 22, 2012, 06:40 PM
Do your research, & then talk to everyone in your area - those who have great outdoors & those who don't: use this to construct a list of preferred contractors, get itemized quotes, then find out pricing if you follow the DIY route.

I'd want to have lived on the property for at least a year before deciding on the arena location.

When I was (boarding) barn shopping recently, I was surprised by the number of arenas (indoor & outdoor) that had been constructed by people apparantly lacking knowledge beyond the basic shape :confused:

This!!!!

Go and look at arenas your potential contractor has put in that are OLDER. Ones that have stood the test of time. Talk to the owner, trainer, and users of said arena.

The road to arena building is paved with a ton of expensive, failed arena stories. My neighbor built a $100k outdoor only to find her contractor had not done compaction tests and the arena failed before ever having a single hoof in it. To remedy this, she spent another $50k fixing it, and ultimately another $100k putting a cover over it. Not good.

I used a very reputable contractor in my area who has been building outdoor all weather arenas for 20 years. Yep, it cost a bundle, but 6 years later my arena drains and rides like new.

For the base: compaction, compaction, compaction!!! You should have compaction rates of 95% and up. Don't rely on feel, TEST.

PNWjumper
May. 22, 2012, 10:39 PM
I think that our weather warrants having someone do a lot of (if not all of) the work for you. And I agree with CC that drainage is the biggest thing you have to pay attention to. I don't think you need to go the french drain/geotextile route, but you need to do something to make the arena capable of handling the constant rain we get up here. We basically made our whole arena one big drain by putting down 4"-6" of 1-1/4" rock as the subbase. We then added 4" of quarter inch minus, and then our footing (2-1/2" coarse washed sand) and my arena is rideable 365 days a year and has held up beautifully for the last 8 years.

CatOnLap
May. 23, 2012, 02:08 AM
I live in the PNW. Well, in my country its the PSW, but I am only about 20 km from Washington State.

My arena is 16 years old and still useable all year round. I haven't done anything to it except drag it witha chain link gate in 16 years. No footing added, no digging up and rebuilding. It drains within 3 hours when the heavy rains stop, and remains useable except when there's a deluge. In the heaviest rains, like more than an inch an hour, who'd want to ride anyway?

We spent more money to do it right the first time. Friends and acquaintances who tried to save money have ended up replacing footing, digging up soft spots, installing drainage after the place was completed, etc. Cheaper to do it right.

First: PICK THE DRIEST SPOT ON YOUR PROPERTY. Don't try and convert an old creek bed into your arena. The water will eventually win.

Second: remove all top soil, to the clay, rock or sand (lucky you if you have sand) base.

Third: crown or slope the land . Use a laser site and someone who knows how to site! Blast any existing rock to achieve this if you have to. Clay requires an experienced caterpillar operator- mine specialized in tennis courts and parking lots and had done a few riding rings. Sand-OMG you are lucky and can probably just ride on it...Mine was mostly clay base with one huge rock in the middle. We blasted the rock and used it to level out the low end of the land. It is built on a mild slope that originally dropped about 4 feet along the long side. Now it drops about 18 inches along the long side and about 10 inches along the short side.

Fourth: install good, big perimeter drains in ditches below the clay base, nestled in drain rock and test them to make sure they are properly sloped and working before you cover them up!!!

Fifth: lay down a good layer (6-12 inches) of large drain rock and have your caterpillar driver level it out.

Sixth: put down a good layer of ROAD BASE (4-6 inches deep- 1 inch minus angular gravel) and compact it with a vibrating compacter every 2 inches. You should be able to drive a machine or truck over it without shifting the base once its done.

Optional: If you like, put down geotextile at this point. However, geotextile makes it harder to spread the footing and if horses are allowed loose in the ring, they have been known to dig down to it and pull a whole length of it up, meaning all the footing has to be removed, the geotextile relaid and the footing replaced...Mine does not have geotextile and there is no problem- a few rocks float up after a decade or so, but my horses are barefoot and nothing bugs them.

Seven: put down your footing. Sharp sand or what is called gravel washings from the local granite deposits, is best, 3 inches deep is ample. Do not use river or ocean sand-cheaper by far, butround particles roll under the horse'sfeet and cause injury. If you use bark chips or hog fuel, you will be replacing it in 2-5 years and it will clog your base. If you use rubber mixed with sand or fiber mixed with sand, it will break down and create fine dust in about 5 years that is a hazard to your lungs. Sand is forever. Those other footings are softer and bouncier but sand is associated with fewer tendon injuries and less slippage.


Eight: Pay the bills and enjoy your ring, for decades to come

Dutch Lovin' Dressage Rider
May. 27, 2012, 02:27 AM
Dutch, would you mind sharing what Tabert cost you? You can PM me if you'd rather not post it for the world to see. :winkgrin: I'm nearly an hour south of Sherwood, which may be cost-prohibitive considering the cost of transporting heavy machinery these days.


Hi

I am going to be seeing Mark in the next week. You are welcome to come see my outdoor, indoor and round pens. Mark put in my outdoor and one round pen 10 years ago. We had a pretty big cut and fill. Drain pipe and drain rock drains all around exterior of arena. The riding space is 90x220. I have a special base that the water rolls off of, is super hard, and hooves cannot pit it. Minor slope 2 directions. It drains perfectly and is usable all year around, except I did add some stuff to the footing not too long ago which now makes it hold water longer than it used to. It was pretty darn spendy because of all things considered.

Most excavator's hourly rate is $85-$150 depending upon the equipment used. Rock is extra, and I always do time and materials, and negotiate my own prices both ways. CC Meisel Rock Co is tops with the cleanest material, and there is also Tigard Sand and Gravel. However, what one quarry calls one type of sand or gravel, another will spin a slightly different twist on the product. Best to get samples.