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Driving Arena Footings

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  • Driving Arena Footings

    Hi all!

    I am currently in escrow of a beautiful 5 acre property with about 3-4 undeveloped flat acres.

    With the remaining acres, I would like to put a full-size driving arena, turn-outs, and a driving track and maybe a round pen. The driving arena is going to double as a riding arena for dressage and jumping.

    The land is very fertile and it could easy be a grass field. However, I'm also thinking about other types of footing that could work. Any ideas?

    Also, how wide should the track be?

  • #2
    Personally, I find grass ideal. Or very very light sand, nothing deep like you would find in a riding arena.

    With my wood wheels, and even with the pneumatic wheels on the mini cart, it gets really hard to move the vehicles in our arena, which is a riding arena, with some deep-ish enough sand, the carts will sink. I love going out on the grass, limestone trail, or the roads. The firmer the better. Grass/compact hard dirt, is ideal, because it is firm enough to make it easier to roll the cart/carriage for the horse's sake, and there is less impact versus something like the pavement.

    However, firm footing is not suitable for jumping. You would need more cushion, so you might want to look into not-so-deep sand, rubberized tire footing, or even a combo of the rubber and woodchip that I have seen work well in a multi-use arena. With synthetics, though, if it gets wet, it's going to be slippery. I've really only seen that stuff used in indoors.

    Your driving track should be wide enough to get your carriage through and leave enough space that you are comfortable with. Say 7 feet if you want a fair bit of playing room.

    My carts are 5 1/2 feet wide, and some of the trails I go through are just that, too. The cart fits, but I scrape the trees some

    It works.

    Good luck and congratulations on your new property!
    eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
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    • #3
      My recomendation for creating a jog path: use your manure spreader. Mow the grass down real short where you want the path to be, making the path about 8' wide. Then spread your manure along that path and routinely drag it with a drag that has tines that stick down. The manure soon dries out and decomposes and the shaving make a very good jog path.


      • #4
        40x100 meters is the correct size for an Advanced Level Driven Dressage Arena.
        If you prepare the arena correctly, layer your footing, get good drainage done first, you can use that same space for a great deal of things besides Dressage. It is big enough to lay out a nice jump course, work a couple animals at a time on the flat without getting each other's way. Should you wish to practice ridden Dressage, you just set up the letter markers within the larger space to use. Big enough to use the perimeter and get in some gallop work if you want. You get a lot MORE time doing straight lines, getting horse going squarely in such a large space, not always making the animal bend to make the corners like small spaces do.

        Depending on how the acreage is laid out, it is going to disappear quite fast because it is small at 5 acres, and already has a house and barn, maybe other structures or limitations. We have 14 acres and there really isn't much room to be flexible about the pastures and paddocks. We can drive around the fields, but they are not large because I have it cut up pretty well for rotational grazing. I expect our horses to keep fat on grazing, saving us cash by not needing purchased hay fed in summer. I do have gates that allow driving thru the line fences into the adjoining field, so we can do a "driving tour" around the place without having to go back to the barn and use those gates. Same gates are real helpful in mowing, working the land, again saving time going back to the barn to change fields.

        My best suggestion is to lay out the land on paper, to scale. Include drainage ditching, buried power, the well, driveways, trees, stuff you need to work with in your final design. Do THINK about how water leaves your place or makes wet places, you will have to fix or work around these seasonal problems. Then make small-to-scale cutouts of house, barn, other structures and place them on the land drawing.

        With this laid out, you can make some more cutouts for the arena, round pen, possible driveways or driving lanes on the land. You can see how fence lines could work or not be usable when put "here". You want an efficient layout, so driveways for motorized vehicles need to be adequately sized. Can you get a Fire Truck out to the barn? Is that driveway surface going to SUPPORT such a large and heavy vehicle? Is driveway a straight run and wide? Fire Trucks, Gooseneck trailers, both are often long with no flex for curves or sharp corners. They are WIDER than most cars and often pickup trucks. Can the dirt for arena be delivered to your final location choice and dumped on it? Lot of extra cost to move the piles from driveway to arena over there with a dozer or other machines, instead of just leveling that dirt.

        We charted how our water ran off the fields, put drainage ditches around 2 sides with OUR BACKHOE, so the water from rain or runoff of neighbors fields would leave arena area faster. Tiling the arena would have cost money we used in layering the arena footing for that good drainage and excellent footing we wanted. Some parts are 3ft deep! We started with a shallow layer of sandy dirt on the top, though it has shifted some over the years. Husband is a Farrier, does NOT WANT a real soft and deep top layer to work horses on. He wants a firmer, solid layer under the top sand, so horse has a bit of cushion to land on, but hooves grab and grip that firm layer to then push off from and take the next stride. Doesn't give when they need firm grip for whatever effort horse is working on.

        He sees the problems with deep footing, soft footing, no firm layer to land on and grip, deals with the horses who develop problems working in those kind of rings or arenas. Horses are not MADE to go in deep footing ALL the time. Causes fatigue quickly, and then moves into interference and soft tissue injuries.

        Our arena is 30x90 meters, just didn't have QUITE enough space for the full size, but it is SO USABLE for a variety of things ridden and driven. It has a width of plain ground beside the prepared fill, which grows grass, letting me use this paddock as my sacrifice area, an extra grazing field for the horse rotations. We have no arena fence, just railroad ties as edges. Makes it very open, horses are not using the fence as a crutch during their work. Rider or Driver has to be steering or they DO LEAVE the arena! We think no fence makes animals more FORWARD, not always slowing as they come to the fence or guessing which way we want them to go. As I said, there are drainage ditches on 2 sides, close to the paddock perimeter fence, but fence is 8ft away from arena edge.

        Over the years, the center areas of the arena have sprouted grass and a variety of weeds. I mow it, but we leave the green things because they keep the sand down and are dust control in ring use. Horses graze it when they are using the paddock as a field. It is really TOUGH grass, all self-seeded and came through the drought last year just fine, green the whole time. You can gallop on it, wet muddy like now, dry in summer, shod horses don't tear it up at all. LOOKS nice to folks going by on the road! Like we "take care" of it even!!

        So in talking to your Arena builder, talk layers of fill. You want coarse fill at the bottom, then firmer layers until the top of a soft layer that is SHALLOW. Not more than a couple inches deep. You want good drainage in an arena, maybe your land has already got a little rise on an end or side to aid water removal, so that location is a better choice than another location you will need to groom more for arena building.

        We have a round pen, built solidly of railroad tie posts, with a higher, wide board fence for our tall horses. They CAN see other things, have to work obediently anyway! We don't use it much, though it is handy when we need it. I have a seasonal paddock, which is where we located the round pen. That area gets real wet in rainy times, still a bit damp ground MOST of the summer, and pretty small. We added quite a bit of fill as round pen footing, so pen is above the surrounding dirt, drains pretty well. I don't think I consider a round pen as "essential" to a horse farm. Not sure if you train for others, do a lot of younger animals, to get plenty of use from such a pen. Perhaps getting one of the better quality, higher panel height, 60ft across, models could work for you. Put pen up when you need it, put it away when not needed. That way round pen is not taking up space ALL the time, which you can then use for other things.