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Please help me fix my arena...not sure what to do??

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  • Please help me fix my arena...not sure what to do??

    I am new here and sure hope all you knowledgable horse folks can help me. I purchased a nice little property for my TB and TB/Shire in an area which has generally VERY sandy soil. In fact, it is a bit too sandy and I have a bit of a mess going in the area designated for arena/riding. Originally, it drained so well I just thought I would keep the grass. It looked great, drains well and is easy plus provides a nice alternative turn out space. Upon riding it for the first time, I realize this is not possible. Granted, it had rained a bit a few days prior but other areas were very dry. The arena ground is real strange and seems mushy when horse steps down into the grass. Not everywhere, but in enough areas that it is dangerous and not acceptable. Some areas are very hard and compacted. My first thought was maybe trees had been removed from there? Soil is very sandy and confirmed by the post holes whcih were dug around arena area. The ground just has too much sink to it. In a few places the grass sunk down a good 6" under pressure of horse hoof. Obviously this is a problem. I plan to fix this but not sure how to do it right. I really do not need all the "base" normally required since it is so sandy, but wondering if a good base will give a better support? Others in the immediate area have just tilled up and added sand (disked it in) and have had very good results. The barn I boarded at did this. I am afraid that if I till up the ground, it may be TOO sandy and keep sinking/disturbing? SHould I do the whole 9-yards and construct correct arena with crushed base, ect? Really do not have the budget for this but want to make it right. Would rather spend the money than hurt my horses or me or worse yet, my daughter. I would love to just compact it and bring in some good quality sand about 3" all over and call it a day....nto sure this will solve my problem. If I till up the ground it is going to possibly be way too deep? I am so confused and upset over this I do not know how to fix it. Unfortunatley, there really are not too many "arena" experts in my area unless you want ot spedn huge money and build a $50k plus covered arena. Please help, any suggestions or expericences are greatly appreciated at this point. I hope to get started this week on fixing this issue so I can get back to training.

    BTW...I am from Minnesota originally and very aware of the "correct" way to build an outdoor arena with sub base, base and layers. I just do not see nayone else in this Houston area building them this way so not sure it is nessessary. Thanks so much for hte help!!

  • #2
    Not much help but yes, a good base will give you better support
    Come to the dark side, we have cookies


    • #3
      I think you need to go on some farm visits to at least four established outdoor arenas within a twenty mile radius, and be prepared to get conflicting advise. In our area, the ground from one side of a five acre property to the other cn be COMPLETELY different (like ours). Don't skimp. Do it right or it will cost you more int the end to tear down the original mistake and rebuild. I lost a year of riding on our property because of an incorrectly installed base. The contractor fixed it, but it cost me another ten k.


      • #4
        Hmmm, that is a tough one. I have an arena that I have let go to grass because it is just me riding in it, mostly, and too much work to keep it dragged and weed free. I am now in the process of encouraging the grass and filling in bare/low spots.

        I use a granite sand and compost mix. I bring in about 7 yards at a time and fill where needed. The granite sand packs pretty well, and the compost encourages the grass to grow. However, my arena does have a very flat hard base of clay and fine gravel, and my "low" spots are really just hard places where grass needs to fill in.

        Can you tell where your boggy areas are? Are those boggy spots low where you can fill them with a mix like I use? Sounds like you need something that will pack and not be soft after it rains -- I assume you are in Texas and just had a bunch of this same rain I had????

        Another thought -- did the prior occupants barrel race in it? That leaves some pretty serious holes where they go around the barrels. At least you could figure out where those were.
        Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


        • #5
          It appears that you need 4-6 inches of compacted base composed of some material that will pack and solidify. Then you could put that sand back in top. Great reference book is called Underfoot, sold by the USDF. Search their website for Publications. Costs maybe $15.
          You do not indicate your arena size. For a standard 60x20 meter you will need approximately three 14 yard truckloads per inch of base or about 15-20 truckloads of base material at whatever the local rates are. The existing sand may have lost its packability, so you may want to truck in some decent packing sand depending upon the type of riding surface you want.


          • #6
            Fifteen years ago I put in my arena. I stopped counting the truckloads of base at 65 14 yard loads. Just didn't want to know how many came. We had a 18 inch drop in the topography, determined with a transit. Yes even though Texas is somewhat flat, you cannot guarantee a flat surface to build on. Sandy soil will not help either, unless you plan to add loads of sand every year. The Houston area can deal with a lot of rain very impressively, absorbing into their sandy soil base. You will need a base of road base or caliche to retain your flat surface and maintain your footing. Anything else is just temporary.