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How important is it to compact the base when building a new arena?

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  • How important is it to compact the base when building a new arena?

    I'm excited yet terrified at the prospect of finally getting my arena in at home.

    The excavator I'm talking to has done rings in the past and is a horseperson himself, but I'm a little nervous. We don't really have topsoil, just basically clay with grass on top. The earth itself is very firm where the ring is going because it was used as a log loading platform when they logged the land before we bought it. He's telling me all I need to do is have him level everything, put in french drains and then put pit fines (3-4") on top of that. I said, "that has to be compacted, right?", and he said "nope, not at all." I really, really want to do this ring right the first time. Should I ignore what he says and compact it anyway?

    It is just going to be me riding in the ring, occasionally-- so it'll get very light use. But I don't want to have to wait 5 days to ride after a rain.

    I can always just have him do the grading and hire someone else to compact the base if he doesn't want to do it, I guess.

    My plan is to put the pit fines/manufactured sand in, let that sit for a while and ride on it for a while, then in a year or so add crumb rubber and possibly a little sand.

  • #2
    You don't want him to level the ring because then it won't drain - a 2% slope to your french drains will allow you to ride much sooner after heavy rains. Have him cut the top soil off so you put your base on top of hard clay other wise it will sift up into your base over time and make a mud hole when it rains.

    As far as compaction - there are two ways of thinking. First, grade, compact, sand and ride - this is fastest but mechanical compaction is expensive and you will have to hope he gets it right the first time.

    I am going to go with the Mother Nature/Father Time method of grade and add base material and then use if for a while. This will allow you to check the drainage of your base and adjust without removing the sand. Time and weather will set up your base and then you can add your sand later and a bit at a time until you get the surface you want.

    Comment


    • #3
      Showmom, what base are you putting down that you will ride on? How deep? Will you add it all at once or a couple inches at a time? I'm curious because we are building an arena at the barn I am boarding at and we are trying to do in inexpensive and over time. We have a good sub-base that is getting level in the next week or so (with a 2% grade). It is an area that was mostly an old driveway so it should be fairly compacted. Drainage is fantastic so that is not a worry for us. But we'd like to ride on the base if we can before we top-dress it will sand next spring. Any thoughts?

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Sorry, I just re-read my OP, I meant he's leveling it to get the correct slope, not that it'll be "level" as in flat... 2% to the french drains, yes.

        Knk-- if I go the "mother nature" route, how much of the pit fines should I do at first? Does 3-4" sound about right? I want to be able to ride on it but don't want it to be too deep. I sort of want to err on the "not enough" side and have to add rather than the "too much" side and have a mess.

        Comment


        • #5
          We had to excavate and put in "footing" that will eventually be our sub-base.

          It is a sand clay mix that is fine to ride on. What I plan to do is to slowly fill it with stone dust. Over time, the stone dust will compact and hold down the rocks. Then when I am happy with the drainage, I will add sand. This also functions as my paddock.

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          • #6
            Most people around here use a stone dust base because it will pack down but will still drain. Some people then add more dust on top and keep it groomed for their "footing" others add sand or some other material.

            Comment


            • #7
              The "correct" base is 3-4" but if you are going the mother nature route, I think it would be too deep to ride on so I would go a couple inches and then add as you adjust for drainage. This stuff isn't cheap so adding is much better than having too much.

              If you Google Riding Ring Construction you will find some great "manuals" - one from Univ of Penn is great with diagrams and options - very helpful.

              Too bad my ring guy never looked at it.......

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              • #8
                Clay makes poor base. It will not withstand the pounding of the hooves and get slippery when wet. I recommend the little pamplet "Under Foot" from USDF. It has a lot of good information and is easy read.

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Gloria, the clay is what we're stuck with around here as natural "soil". The gravel dust/pit fines will be my base. What I was wondering is whether or not that absolutely had to be compacted.

                  Knk-- I think I'm going to tell him 2", and see how that settles. If we end up needing to compact it as time goes by, hubby knows someone with a roller so I could always compact it, then add more. Like you said, better not enough than too much. My horse doesn't need any more tendon injuries, he's still recovering from one (not footing related, though, just a random pasture mishap).
                  Last edited by KPF; Jul. 16, 2009, 02:10 PM. Reason: added info

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Gloria View Post
                    Clay makes poor base. It will not withstand the pounding of the hooves and get slippery when wet. I recommend the little pamplet "Under Foot" from USDF. It has a lot of good information and is easy read.
                    Right, my understanding is that the base needs to be impervious so that water can drain through the footing to the base, and then run over the base (on a slope) to the drain. Hence the compacted stone dust to form the base.

                    This is a great Pub from Penn State:

                    http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/ub038.pdf

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by IFG View Post

                      This is a great Pub from Penn State:

                      http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/ub038.pdf
                      That is the one I was talking about.

                      Yes, a mechanically compacted base is always best in a perfect world but I have learned (the hard way) that contractors don't always know what they are doing, that the weather does not always cooperate, rings are expensive to build and more expense to redo and sometimes time and patience can heal all of the above.

                      My plan A was to do it all at once, but after several people and one long time trainer in my area (with several rings) mentioned plan B, it made some sense to me.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by KPF View Post
                        Knk-- I think I'm going to tell him 2", and see how that settles. If we end up needing to compact it as time goes by, hubby knows someone with a roller so I could always compact it, then add more. Like you said, better not enough than too much.
                        Yes, you will also probably want to roll it just before you add your footing - a friend of mine used one of those rollers you put water in (give the ring a good wetting before you use it)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          FYI, a friend around the corner from me had a ring done and had stone dust base with additional stone dust footing. She thought that she was done and did not groom it routinely, and the stone dust turned to concrete, so believe me, it will compact over time if you don't groom it to prevent the compaction.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We used sheep's foot roller for sub base (clay) and base. AWESOME! We've used it since day 1, no subsidence, 100% weatherproof (2% grade, so the footing/sand washes more than I'd like). Now at year 4 and we've never done anything to it except drag occasionally and salt it in the winter to inhibit freezing. In order of importance, (1) grade/drainage, (2) sub base, (3) base, (4) footing.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              why are my local experts telling me to run from stone dust?

                              After doing tons of research (alot on COTH), I thought the best way to do our own arena (on the cheap) would be to put stone dust or fines down on our clay native soil arena.

                              The arena is 100 x 200 and is literally a "dirt arena" ...we have pure red clay. The terrible 'suck the boots of your feet' mud.

                              But in CA, we only have a little bit of rain for a few months in the winter. The rest is DRY.

                              I really wanted to put down Stone Dust or some sort of Fines/Crushed Rock...and was just happy to ride on it and GROOM/DRAG it regularly.

                              But none of my local materials and transportation experts are "allowing me"....they say I'm crazy and absolutely do not recommend going that route!!??? Even though I requested that, they really are saying it is nutty.

                              They said I'm better off with just dumping a bunch of washed concrete sand down.

                              But I liked the stone dust idea, as again, I'm happy to drag it, and it will eventually firm up as a sort of base (then I can add more footing...sand or what not later)

                              Does anyone know why these local guys are telling me I'm crazy to consider putting stone dust down? Should I just forget all the advice they are telling me and order it anyways?
                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                              Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
                              www.elainehickman.com
                              **Morgans Do It All**

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Fancy That View Post
                                After doing tons of research (alot on COTH), I thought the best way to do our own arena (on the cheap) would be to put stone dust or fines down on our clay native soil arena.

                                The arena is 100 x 200 and is literally a "dirt arena" ...we have pure red clay. The terrible 'suck the boots of your feet' mud.

                                But in CA, we only have a little bit of rain for a few months in the winter. The rest is DRY.

                                I really wanted to put down Stone Dust or some sort of Fines/Crushed Rock...and was just happy to ride on it and GROOM/DRAG it regularly.

                                But none of my local materials and transportation experts are "allowing me"....they say I'm crazy and absolutely do not recommend going that route!!??? Even though I requested that, they really are saying it is nutty.

                                They said I'm better off with just dumping a bunch of washed concrete sand down.

                                But I liked the stone dust idea, as again, I'm happy to drag it, and it will eventually firm up as a sort of base (then I can add more footing...sand or what not later)

                                Does anyone know why these local guys are telling me I'm crazy to consider putting stone dust down? Should I just forget all the advice they are telling me and order it anyways?
                                I would make sure that the stonedust available in CA is the kind that compacts and hardens (like concrete). Here in VA, the stonedust is also known as bluestone; it is limestone dust. That compacts. The reason I mention locale is that I recall another poster (here or on UDBB) in CA who had trouble with the stonedust she got - it was not like what we get in my area, and it did not compact.

                                Our sub-base is essentially red clay. We compacted that and topped it with 6 inches of stone dust, which was then compacted to 4 inches with a roller. At that point, it was sufficiently hard that a 16-wheeler could be driven on it without leaving track marks. We then topped that with an additional 2 inches of bluestone - loose, not compacted. This was completed in October 2006. We then let it sit over the winter so that it could go through a freeze / thaw cycle before riding on it. This time/weather step probably was not necessary, but it can be helpful. We had planned to add 1/2 inch to 1 inch of sand to it but the footing has been really nice with regular dragging. I might add a little rubber or fibar to it instead next year.

                                It is best to avoid adding sand until your base has settled and you are sure you are happy with it. Starting with bluestone "footing" allows the possibility of fixing any imperfections in the base by simply compacting the top layer and adding a bit more footing on top. Sand does not compact, so tweaking the base after sand has been added generally requires first stripping the sand.
                                Roseknoll Sporthorses
                                www.roseknoll.net

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Stone dust is not manufactured sand

                                  Stone dust is acually a good thing to add on top of clay... and then roll it, then ride a bit, then add your manufactured sand or sand.

                                  stone dust or blue stone in va packs very hard. Think concrete.
                                  Manufactured sand is a different grit and does not pack hard.

                                  I did the mother nature route of cut ring.... let sit for two years..... add manufactured sand and ride..... about 1-2 inches. Yes, I have some slick spots when it rains.... and it can get sloppy. Mostly if the sand gets too thin. I need to add more sand in several spots, but I noticed that it held up better this winter than last. It's going into year three. I have clay soil with a small bit of sand. Right now it's just about perfect to ride in. Good solid base with light soft footing. A lot of people I know have rock hard rings right now.
                                  Shoulders back, hands down, leg ON!

                                  http://mellvinshouse.blogspot.com/

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by KPF View Post
                                    Gloria, the clay is what we're stuck with around here as natural "soil". The gravel dust/pit fines will be my base. What I was wondering is whether or not that absolutely had to be compacted.
                                    OK. I misunderstood. I thought you were going to use the natural clay to be your base instead of subbase. The subbase needs to reach a 92% density so if your clay layer density reaches that, you don't need to compact it. And if the location was used as a log loading platform evenly, I bet it has the density. The question is whether it is evenly distributed.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Yes, if you want to build right so it will last.

                                      Your subbase must be lazer leveled and compacted. Determine if you want it crowned in the center for drainage, or 2% grade two directions, or what.

                                      Then, your base must be lazer leveled and compacted. Your base needs to be impermiable and like concrete.


                                      Personally, if an excavator had those craze ideas about arena building, I wouldn't hire him; you want to build it once and do it the right way the first time. Don't let some random excavator tell you how he builds arenas (the wrong way). I would be afraid to see the types of arenas he's built! You don't want a flat arena that holds water; you don't want a squishy base; you don't want a base that isn't level; you don't want a base that gets pitted from hooves; you definately don't want to add 3"-4" of footing right off the bat! Start with 2", and if you need more add it eventually, or add rubber or fiber first.

                                      Get the USDF Underfoot Booklet (about $10?), get a good grasp on how to build arenas properly, and then find an excavator that can follow YOUR instructions (and the USDF Underfoot booklet). Have him build it your way.

                                      The only correct thing that the guy said was to do the French Drains.

                                      Also, you might consider throwing down some sprinkler lines when trenches are open, and finish them in the future. Sure wish I'd have don't that instead of putting in sprinklers later!

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