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Farmette Owners- what is your arena like?

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  • Farmette Owners- what is your arena like?

    I have the hankering for an arena... But I can't justify a super nice arena because a.) it's just me b.) there is an arena that's about a 15 minute hack from me that I could use c.) I have yet to grow a money tree.

    So farmette owners- what did you do to build your arena? Did you go all out? Throw sand on the ground? Something in between? In my perusing, it seems like you all conventional wisdom says that there are no corners that can be cut. Base must be superb, footing, superb, etc. Just curious what you did, what you spent, what has worked, and what didn't.

  • #2
    Thanks for the question, OP. I'm in the same situation wondering the same. But I don't have an arena nearby. Though I have relatively good footing on my property on which to ride. I'm very interested in estimated costs and if I should even start to save for it.


    • #3
      It's grass. I mow it. LOL. It depends on your soils and how well they drain. It is doable here to just start putting sand down to amend drainage and make it a gradual process.

      But this varies even by location in the county -- there are other areas where soil holds water for weeks, clay turns into mudpits and you would have to go and build a base, etc. It's also going to depend on weather in your location, as we have very few unrideable days here.
      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
      We Are Flying Solo


      • #4
        I bought the dressage arena building booklet, gave it to a semi-retired excavator and for $8000 I have I have a decent small dressage arena. I have some drainage issues, but that's due to my site selection and not wanting to lose any pasture, not the excavator. (The price included laying new drainage pipe through the paddock and attaching it to the existing drainage tile going throught the pasture). I have two swales on either side and you can certainly tell the difference between where the base ends just sand begins. I would think I lot depends on where you live and whether you use your pasture for nutrition or recreation. I also ride in my pasture, but only when it's dry and the grass isn't up to the horses eyeballs like it is now.

        I'm a 30 minute trailer drive from an arena. If it had just been a 15 minute hack, I wouldn't have been able to justify it.


        • #5
          Our current arena is a roping arena and is grass on mostly clay ground, but drains very well.
          We don't have to mow it, the horses do that for us, as they go in there as they want and graze around.
          Would not work for much traffic, but with just a handful of us using it and not that often, it has held just fine as it is.

          I am going to fix another arena shortly with some sand mixed in it, so as to have a better ground for reining.
          Reining needs to have a bit more loose, sandy top, so horses don't tend to get stuck in there and may pull something, with the greater torque their faster training requires.


          • #6
            Went all out here. Tiled graded, ~80' X 220' with compacted clay base, a 3" layer of stone dust layer and on top of that I did first 3 " coarse bark mulch to prevent dust. When that did biodegrade after 9 yrs , I had it scraped up and piled and used for mulch around the house(it lasted about 5 yrs). Put down another 3" layer of stone dust and ~2"cedar playground chips. Did a grass border all round, fenced with post and rail fencing and daylilies in the corner for easy mowing.

            I did have the $ though, and, like the L'Oreal commercial, I'm worth it!

            But while I was waiting for the guys to do it, I first worked the horse in the pasture on grass in 2 different locations so I didn't make a track, and, I also had the indoor arena, if I was worried about ruining the grassy area.

            I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.


            • #7
              We went all out. I'm in the wet northwest, so proper drainage and base are key...if you cut corners with that, you will regret it. We had an arena builder work with our "usual" excavator, so excavator did the site prep and drainage, then arena guru did final grading and installation of base and footing. My footing is sand, fiber, and rubber and my trainer friend says it is "just like riding on a temperpedic mattress." Base is rock, but I don't really know exactly what or how much.

              Our property has some challenges, as it is very sloped and while previously logged, there are still a lot of large trees as well as small alder that grow like weeds when the firs are taken out. All that added to the cost, plus the need to build retaining walls on the uphill and downhill sides of the arena. Had to put in a road to it as well (short, but still requires grading and plenty of rock).

              My costs would not be relevant to anyone as I doubt many will build in such a challenging site. The concrete retaining walls alone were more than $10k! My ring is 80'x160'...I really wanted to go bigger, but the topography just wouldn't allow it (along with slope and trees, we had a creek and riparian area to avoid, plus wanted the arena located so if we or the next person decide to cover it, the setbacks with property lines would allow it). Had our place been flat, the total cost to put down base and the nice footing would have been around $20k, but our actual cost was much more.

              It is worth it to me not to have to board in order to ride. When I brought my horses home after the last boarding barn drove me nuts, I decided we had to build an arena, move to a place with arena, or I was quitting! My horses hoped for early retirement but they are having to work again!


              • #8
                I went all out and "did it right" on my little farm. But I live in the PNW where sand on the ground might work for 2 months out of the year at best. So I did 8" of 1 1/4" rock (I've posted in the past that we had 4" of the bigger rock, but I was wrong, it's 8"), 4" of quarter inch minus (compacted), and 2 1/2" of coarse, washed sand. I haven't found a storm yet that has made my arena unrideable, and it's held up beautifully to the last 10 years of jumping horses over big fences regularly. I'm about to add some more sand, but that's not too bad considering it's been a decade!

                I have friends who went the sand-in-the-pasture route, and it's been a train wreck....with how wet it is around here the ground gets unstable and uneven under the sand and they were unable to keep grass out of it. But again, the weather conditions most of the year just aren't optimal around here for an arena with no drainage.
                Flying F Sport Horses
                Horses in the NW


                • #9
                  I don't have an arena. I have a small flat front yard area that I can use when it's dry, and a larger slightly sloped area that I use when it is wetter. My paddocks are too hilly and rocky for me to feel comfortable doing any "real" arena work in them.

                  So...does the front yard count?


                  • #10
                    90" x 180". We had a contractor build it correctly - graded, sub base compacted, class I sand compacted to 6" - washed mortar sand mixed with crumb rubber footing. With 3 board fence the total cost was around $40,000. Then you have to get a nice arena groomer to take care of your huge investment.

                    I had hoped to do it for $25,000 or less.....


                    • #11
                      Just Grass

                      I have 2 separate flat grassy areas that I use at different times:

                      #1 is completely shaded by the trees in the mornings, so I ride there all summer long to beat the heat..... Blissfully 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else on the property.

                      #2 is close to the barn and outbuildings so it is somewhat "lit" for nite-time riding in the winter when it gets dark at 5 pm


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks all!! Seems like the consensus is go big... or go grass!!

                        Seems like I will be on the grass at least for now.

                        Any tips for what I can do now that will make sure I can ride as long into the winter as possible on the grass? Should I roll/ tamp my topsoil?


                        • #13
                          Well, I had an area of field that was JUST arena sized (small arena) but would not grow grass due to clay (white, sticky limestone based Florida clay) near the surface. I had a friend with a bobcat grade it down to as level as I could get, brought in some red clay, packed it with the bobcat, then put a few inches of 50-50 clay/sand mix that is commonly used for arenas around here. Works great. have to keep it watered, though.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by lorilu View Post
                            Well, I had an area of field that was JUST arena sized (small arena) but would not grow grass due to clay (white, sticky limestone based Florida clay) near the surface. I had a friend with a bobcat grade it down to as level as I could get, brought in some red clay, packed it with the bobcat, then put a few inches of 50-50 clay/sand mix that is commonly used for arenas around here. Works great. have to keep it watered, though.
                            This what I did. but I have a very small lot so mine is only 140x60 because I could't make much bigger due to my total lot size.


                            • #15
                              I also had an extremely challenging lot to build an arena on. Had I lived a couple towns over where the soil is sandy and better draining and a little more level, the cost and work would have been seriously considerably less. But I had a huge amount of mature trees (woods so thick you couldn't get a tractor through them) and steep (arena spot is in a ravine, we had to bring in 45 loads of crushed shale just to bring up the level) and add massive excess drainage around it too (the crushed shale drains underneath, but the sides around it are higher and drain down into it) and then grade and bring in the footing...we fenced it with round pen panels because the sub-base is 15+ FEET of packed crushed rock...ain't getting any fence posts in that, Lol! We had initially cleared for a 100x200 arena. But the excess work and costs meant we waited 8 years to finish it and whittled it down to 100x100. Actually it's a 100' round pen. But...gotta say I do like the same width x length as opposed to oblong to work in. I can do a lot in it. Last place I boarded did a square ring...I think it was 175x175 and it was pretty awesome. Arena cost will depend heavily on your location, your topography, drainage needed, footing type, even how close/far you are from where you get your footing from. So many factors to consider. It can be done for not a lot or it can cost a serious fortune!
                              You jump in the saddle,
                              Hold onto the bridle!
                              Jump in the line!


                              • #16
                                I have a 12 acre farmette and 3 horses. I keep one in training at my trainer's facility; the other two I keep at home. I actively compete 2 of the 3 in dressage (training level for the young one, 1st level for the older one, schooling 2nd).

                                I have a 2 acre lawn (my backyard) that I use as an arena when it's not too squishy (aka if it hasn't rained in the past 4ish days.) The lawn has some random things in it--a fire pit, a pergola, a swingset. Is it ideal? No but we get by. I have different areas big enough to do a 20m circle, an extended trot, etc. and when we want to practice in a good arena, we haul in to my trainer.

                                When the lawn is too squishy and i can't ride on it I ride in my sacrifice area. The footing there is more uneven and the whole area has a slight slope but I kind of like it because it teaches my horses to pay attention to their balance and where they're going. I only school walk and some trot in that area but honestly you'd be surprised what you can get done at the walk.


                                • #17
                                  fatappy, it would help if we knew where you were and what type of soils you had.

                                  You do want to avoid riding a "track" over and over, keep your figures varied when you school, so you don't wear down an area that will then erode or hold water and make mud. I also slightly shift the area each time so I don't "override" the turf. And no matter what the temptation, if it is wet, DON'T RIDE ON IT. Tearing it up, making divots and holes in the mud, will destroy it. Practice things at the walk, make it a break day, whatever, but you will regret it when it dries out if you don't give it a chance to drain!

                                  I also have a trainer with an arena one property over, so I can cheat, but I prefer to ride on grass whenever possible and I hate riding in indoors -- but purposefully moved to where I didn't need one, LOL.
                                  Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                  Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                  We Are Flying Solo


                                  • #18
                                    I'm in central AL. On hard pack 'chert' - it's sticky red clay type soil but we don't get freezes/heaving or stuff like that, so we cleared off 130 X 66 (biggest I could do w/o spending a ton hauling dirt in or out). Added some good clay , smoothed and shaped with bobcat driven by talented neighbor. Let it lie about a year. Yes, a year. Bought a huge black tarp and killed off anything that wanted to grow on it in the meanwhile. Added base layer and drove a compactor all over it over a weekend. Let that lie about 6 months or so, no riding on it. Then added quarter by fines and smoothed it, about 3" deep or so? babied it and kept it/keep it dragged. Now it's been in for gosh....7-8 years maybe? It has only one funky spot, literally less than a foot square, where a hoof punched through to the clay. I need to fix that but knowing where it is, I can avoid it (I am usually the only rider and I school dressage in there, and lunge one horse on occasion). We fenced the horses off of it, and electrician husband installed 4, 400 watt metal halide lights on 20' poles we wrestled into place.

                                    Total investment? Well under 5K if you don't count the fencing. taking the time to let the layers season made a huge difference. And it let me save for the next round. It's all I need for just me, I can school a good bit. After all, the training is in the transitions.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Wildlifer - I am in SW Tennessee. We have nice, thick, gloopy clay here. When it gets wet - it stays wet.

                                      In the summer, I will ride all up and down my pasture, front yard, back yard, neighbors, etc. But in the winter, when I only have 15 minutes, I want someplace that I can do my WTC work. We stay pretty wet from November - February. I think there were maybe a dozen days in those months that it was dry enough to do productive work out in the fields.


                                      • #20
                                        I hear that -- it rained ALL winter here and any place that didn't have exceptional drainage was untouchable for 90% of the time. Blargh.
                                        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                        We Are Flying Solo