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Turning a gravel parking lot into arena base?

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  • Turning a gravel parking lot into arena base?

    This may be a silly question but it's worth a shot! My friend bought a beautiful farm this summer and we've just moved the horses over. There is currently no arena but there is a huge gravel parking lot that would make an incredible outdoor ring! She doesn't have a ton of spare money to construct a proper ring right now so we are just riding around in the pasture. Then I got to thinking...aren't arenas made with a deep layer of gravel as the base?! Is it possible that all we need to do is line it with rail ties and fill it with appropriate footing? Again, probably not bit it's the perfect level arena at the top of a hill (no flooding) and a 100x200 area. Just two of us riding on it several times a week. Anyone know?? Is is possible a gravel driveway is similar to a gravel arena base? Thanks!!
    Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

  • #2
    Sounds like a plan to me!
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

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    • #3
      It could work. Have you seen it in a heavy rain? Does it pool in certain areas or have a "stream" running thru it? If not, then I'd think you could simply use ties and add coarse river sand, 3 inches deep. You can always add sand--it is hard to take away excess footing. Footing is not cheap, though, so get bids and definitely don't use "mason's sand"-it packs into a rock hard mess or round sand--it will never pack, and slips under their hoofs.
      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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      • #4
        Can you set up rods in the ground either side of the "arena" and use contractors string and a string level to check how it will drain. It won't be laser sighted by a surveyor, but could give you an idea as to which way the water will want to drain.

        If the slope is too much it will take your footing with the draining water.

        If it truly is level, it won't drain well, and you may have puddles or overly wet footing after rain.

        Also if it dips in the areas the water will want to pond, you will have a worse problem.

        Each problem has a different solution, but it seems that you have one of the biggest issues of an arena already tackled...a solid packed base.

        Make sure that if you do use this area and add sand on top, that you don't set your drag too deep as you will turn up gravel each time you drag. One solution would be to add packed gravel dust on top of the gravel base, then add sand. This adds to the price tag.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks guys! So excited this may work! It's such a great space sitting totally unused! It hasn't seemed to flood yet or pool water that we've seen. We were hoping if we just took a bunch of rail ties and sunk them an inch we could surround the whole thing like a sandbox. Then if the gravel base is already there just add sand! I guess for under $1000 it is worth a try! As long as we aren't doing something that could damage their legs now. We're in Wisconsin...lots of rain, cold, ice, heat and humidity. Any ideas what kind of footing will hold up best here? For dressage and some jumping. 3" of sand is what you recommend? Getting excited this may actually work!! LOL
          Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

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          • #6
            google cow carpet
            "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"
            carolprudm

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            • #7
              Sand would be the best option for year round riding (though it will freeze in the winter in your area). Just do not use round sand (your gravel/sand place can steer you to the right one). You can also mix in granulated rubber later.

              If the lot is really packed gravel, and seems to drain well, then I would simply set RR ties down (you can use a piece of rebar to hold them in place on the outside) and put your footing in. I'd begin with 3 inches, ride on it, and see if you need more. You can calculate how many tons/yards of sand you need quite easily--Mr. CC is a math teacher and does all those nifty calculations for me
              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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              • #8
                Yup, packed "road base" is exactly what was used for the base layer of my arena. Sounds like you have a great start, having BTDT a few years ago, I would (and did) spend the money to do it "right." It's worth every $$$!

                I would top your gravel base with several inches of packed, what in this area is called diamond dust; think it's similar to what others are calling bluestone; the same material that's used for baseball diamonds. Get it laser leveled and crowed 1-2% when they pack. That way it will drain gently to the sides, no pond in the middle. Then add angular (2NS in our area) sand. I only went with 2" for dressage and some low level jumping. After 6 years it's still perfect and horses good & sound. Adding more sand is easy, taking out is a PITA.

                On the recommendation of a friend who had BTDT and had a great arena, I let my base sit for a winter season to be sure we didn't have any winter heaving before adding sand. (We're both across the big lake from you & further north.) Then I actually built my indoor over the top of it when I could afford it later. (Yes, maybe your friend can do this some day, too if she wanted!) It was actually pretty easy to do and I LOOOOOVE it to this day!

                Shop around, it may not be as pricey as you think. I was pleasantly surprised, but then my farm is literally 2 miles down the road from the local gravel pits. Using what is locally available helps save a lot of $$$$. The gravel guys can help you quite a bit, if you get a good one who is willing to listen to what you are trying to do. I got super lucky; one of the guys was raised showing horses and really knew his stuff (both horses & gravel.) The base material actually came right off our own site, so big savings = you already have the "parking lot." The actual materials are not that expensive, it's the hauling them; being so close is what saved me big time. The rest of the job is time for the big equipment & operator, which took less than a day on our place.

                Go for it, even if it's in stages, and enjoy!

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                • #9
                  How can you tell if the sand is round or angular? I am looking at getting some sand in for our arena, from a local supplier who is the ONLY option. But he just digs it out of his sand bank on his farm, and delivers it. He also has gravel areas, that he delivers gravel/rock from. I don't know if HE even knows if the sand is round or angular? If he doesn't know, how can I tell? Microscope? Magnifying glass? I don't think that what he has is even screened, rocks gotta be picked out by hand, after spreading. Which is fine, I am qualified to do that.
                  www.cordovafarm.weebly.com

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                  • #10
                    We put the horse pens on an old parking lot and although my set up wasn't perfect, (we didn't add any additional gravel or sand so the mucky parts of the parking lot were just that, mucky) if you put some thought into it, checked the levels and drainage pattern, you should have an ideal, well packed down base.
                    The only real problem is whether it's the best place on the farm for an arena or the best place for a parking lot, if you get my drift.
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                    Incredible Invisible

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      This is very exciting! We've decided to try it in the spring. We're going to start hunting railroad ties and vet going on the surrounding area. Thanks for all the help!! I'm sure I'll be back to ask more about footing when we get there!
                      Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

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                      • #12
                        Just a hint - if you dig your ties down into the gravel base, then fill with sand, your new sandbox will NOT drain..... Common technique is to set the ties upon bricks or pavers to allow the water to percolate out under them to drain the footing.
                        Homesick Angels Farm
                        breeders of champion Irish Draught Sporthorses
                        standing Manu Forti's Touch Down RID
                        www.IrishHuntersandJumpers.com

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                        • #13
                          I would top your gravel base with several inches of packed, what in this area is called diamond dust; think it's similar to what others are calling bluestone; the same material that's used for baseball diamonds. Get it laser leveled and crowed 1-2% when they pack. That way it will drain gently to the sides, no pond in the middle. Then add angular (2NS in our area) sand. I only went with 2" for dressage and some low level jumping. After 6 years it's still perfect and horses good & sound. Adding more sand is easy, taking out is a PITA.
                          I second adding a layer of bluestone between your gravel and sand. On the recommendation of my then "arena builder" I skipped this step and have been sorry since. I have so much gravel/rock rising up through my lovely sand footing that it's made the arena hardly rideable. Next spring I'm planning on having all the sand bladed off, repacking the gravel and adding bluestone, $$$. My sand will be completely wasted because of all the rocks it contains .

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by *eventer* View Post
                            I second adding a layer of bluestone between your gravel and sand. On the recommendation of my then "arena builder" I skipped this step and have been sorry since. I have so much gravel/rock rising up through my lovely sand footing that it's made the arena hardly rideable. Next spring I'm planning on having all the sand bladed off, repacking the gravel and adding bluestone, $$$. My sand will be completely wasted because of all the rocks it contains .
                            I was thinking the same when I read the first post - figured this would happen! Totally agree to add the crushed limestone or crusher run or whatever it's called in your area (called class i sand here and it's basically finely crushed stone). I just completed my outdoor and we have 6 inches of class i machine compacted and leveled and then 3 inches of sand on top. Perfect! No matter what you do, $1000 will not be enough. My ties alone were like $250 and sand runs anywhere from $10-$25 a ton depending on how far you are from the place it hauls from. I had just about 80 tons of sand, my arena is 120x80

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                            • #15
                              Here's the main issue, what type of stone is the parking area made up of? If the answer is a well packed fine gravel such as stone dust, you are in business.

                              But, if there are any rocks in the base they WILL rise up into your footing. A typical road/parking lot base might be made up in several layers. First, a very large size rock layer, and then DGA (a mix of rock sizes from dust up to about 1").

                              My personal opinion is that covering the DGA with stone dust is not adequate. It may slow down the rise of rocks to the surface, but it will happen eventually, and then you are hosed.

                              I believe that a possible reasonable option would be to utilize a layer of geotextile fabric in between a layer of stone dust prior to adding footing. Many arena installations use geotextile fabric to keep the layers under the footing from migrating.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Jeeez! Good thing I posted! Never occurred to me sinking the ties would turn it into a pond! LOL Good call!

                                It's your standard gravel...about 3/4"?? I'll go out this week and take a better look at the size/type of stone it is. So if it is just your standard gravel then I would need a layer of crushed stone over the top? Or what about that Cow Carpet? Can I lay Cow Carpet over the gravel and then sand over the Cow Carpet? Now I'm getting scared! LOL

                                So ideally we would do geotextile fabric (cow carpet??) over the gravel, then a layer of crushed stone then the sand? And can you explain a little more about how you set the ties up on the bricks? Do you mean make a solid wall layer of bricks or an every other kind of situation? Having a hard time picturing it! You guys have brought up some GREAT points to keep us from spending $$ and time for a whole lot of nothing! And we're fine with spending a few grand on a good arena. We just don't have $10,000+ to start from scratch. Not to mention, like another posters luck....our neighbor is a big stone quarry and they love petting the horses. I'm sure they'll give us a neighborly deal on the goods! (Fingers crossed!)
                                Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

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