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Dressage arena delimma....

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  • Dressage arena delimma....

    I'm new to the board and I look forward to meeting everyone. I wanted to start my first post with a question to you all that I've been struggling with. I keep my horse on my parent's land (they still live there in the house I grew up in) and I have a round pen and have been riding in the pasture, but I'm getting more serious about dressage and I want to put in an arena. They're fine with whatever I choose to do, but I just can't make up my mind. It would be in an area outside of my horse's paddock. My horse is a 15yr old Appaloosa gelding and he's usually pretty calm but he does throw tantrums every now an then (must be that Appy "spirit"! haha!) He isn't a jumper and hates to jump (probably because it's always my idea), so I don't think I'll have any problems containing him in an arena with short railing, but my first priority is always safety.

    So, I'm torn between doing the railing out of upside down plastic trash cans with holes cut into them for PVC as the rail.... or using PVC "stakes" with the "T" attachment and running plastic chain through them. Honestly, the idea of plastic chain makes me a little squeamish because I'm not sure how easily it would break if my horse did get a leg caught up in it somehow. Does anyone have experience in this? I've heard that it's both good and band... and has been recently outlawed by USDF... But I've also heard good and bad things about PVC. I have used PVC poles for cavaletti and ground poles in the past with no issues, but people seem to be really passionate about their opinions of PVC. I don't have experience building a dressage arena and my trainer's arena is made of the PVC railing (like the fences) so it's a little different than the piping.

    What are your opinions on this? Also, does anyone have a good way to make sure your lines are straight? I'm horrible at making straight lines and I didn't know if it's best to just use long rope, a laser or what? I don't want the sides of my arena to be crooked and end up with something other than a complete rectangle! I do plan on using a sandy loam mixture for the footing in this arena if that makes a difference.

    Thanks in advance for your help!!


  • #2
    I've watched horses break things made out of metal (halter hardware, lead rope snaps...yanking the welded on trailer ties off the side of the trailer...). I can't believe plastic chain would have a particularly high breaking point. Surely a horse would snap it pretty easily.


    • #3
      i do not like the plastic chains, but because they break too easily and walking around fixing the chains with plastic ties is frustrating. and think your idea of upside down trash cans with pvc pipe is a very workable one. I have used concrete bricks, the ones with a divider, standing upright, and pvc or painted wooden rails. having a not too solid fence is better for dressage cause the show fence is always very low and the horse is supposed to stayin cause of the aids, not because of the fence.

      have fun!


      • #4
        I had to set up an arena in a pasture (can't afford to put in a real one) and I just laid landscape timbers as the "walls" and made letters from corrigated plastic sheets that I painted. Those are mounted to posts also made from landscape timbers. I wish I had real walls to work against and mounted mirrors but those will have to wait until I win that lottery.
        Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"


        • #5
          I think I would be worried about trash cans blowing around (?) but I don't know what the weather is like in your area or whether that would be an issue.

          I think I would use concrete blocks set on their sides to hold either regular (jump) rails or set on end to run the plastic chain through. (Those chains are not all that durable and I am quite sure they would break if a horse somehow got into it.)

          Then I'd probably just order the letters that come on the posts that go into the ground (like http://www.doversaddlery.com/dressag...5/#ProductTabs - although I am sure you can find them less expensively elsewhere.)

          I'd also consider not "fencing" the entire court, but maybe just doing the corners, and then "sections" of it with gaps in between (where the letters are,) if you need to save on materials. It will still clearly define the space, and you won't have to get so many rails, etc.
          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


          • #6
            Plastic chains will break....ask me how I know.

            I have a sand/GGT arena and just have RR ties as an edge. https://plus.google.com/photos/10340...54865418220849
            If I wanted a fence I would use landscape timbers and cinder blocks
            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.


            • #7
              I absolutely love RR ties as the "fence" on an arena when you put in footing and can make it so there's drainage under them but they keep you from losing footing, etc.

              Our arena is fenced on two sides by our perimeter fence, but it's 200'x170' (approx.) so what I've done for the non-fenced sides of the dressage area is ground poles, spaced so I can ride between and around them. It means I can both ride a larger area and have the outline of a dressage arena when I want to practice test movements. Both my exuberant TB (for lengthenings or gallop sessions) and my mom's off-balance Friesian cross (for any type of cantering until she's very fit) need more space at times. If you use the ground pole method you can still use the entire pasture you're set up in and go through the dressage arena to get to other areas if you want.

              For ground poles I went to Lowe's and asked if they had any old landscaping poles they were trying to get rid of, since the imperfect ones can get thrown out. I bought 30 or so for $25. Very cost effective!

              To measure out the arena I got long lengths of rope from the hardware store. Because we have fences which meet at a 90 degree angle it was easier, but you can measure out the length of a diagonal, a short side and a long side, and use the ropes pulled taut to give your straight lines. If you do that, you have the ropes to re-do again in the future and can set things back up when they get messed up.
              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


              • #8
                And remember the 3 4 5 triangle. Mark one side at 3 feet from the corner, and the other at 4 feet . If the hypotenuse is 5 feet it's a right triangle, IOW 90 degrees
                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.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by carolprudm View Post
                  Plastic chains will break....ask me how I know.

                  I have a sand/GGT arena and just have RR ties as an edge. https://plus.google.com/photos/10340...54865418220849
                  If I wanted a fence I would use landscape timbers and cinder blocks
                  It's looks really nice too!
                  Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"


                  • #10
                    Plastic chains will break, but they can also be dragged by spooked horses... I once witnessed a third-level horse become entangled in a chain-border arena at a recognised show. It spooked and up-staked one whole third of the arena, which broke off and was dragged by the horse several hundred meters.

                    I would second the suggestions for corner boundaries and interval sections... the less of a border you have, the more you'll really learn how to keep your horse straight!

                    PS - welcome to the board!!!
                    Proud COTH lurker since 2001.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thank you!!

                      THANK YOU!! You guys are awesome! I really appreciate all of the wonderful suggestions (and photos!). I will definitely check out the landscaping timbers at Lowe's and see if I can find any good deals. And I'm glad I asked about the plastic chain - doesn't seem worth it on many levels. I think my dad has a lot of rope in the garage that he's used for moving so I'll see if I can find it and use that for the lines. The triangle reminder is also great (even though I'm horrible at math!). I feel very inspired by all of your ideas!

                      Thanks again!!



                      • #12
                        One way to be sure you are square - measure both diagonals. They will be equal - if not, then your arena isn't square!


                        • #13
                          At my boarding barn, we have two. One is permanent, with railroad ties. In summer, the BO puts up a small railing and the markers.

                          The other is a rectangle of sand in a grass paddock, which gets a rail in show season. I actually really like riding in it when there isn't a rail because the horse can easily go onto the grass so it's good for your accuracy and working on keeping your horse straight.


                          • #14
                            We mark the letters of our dressage arena with empty white kitty litter boxes, with a brick inside. We just used the vinyl adhesive letters. Works well since the containers have a handle and a lid, and the brick keeps them from blowing around.