How to Build a Horse Riding Arena On A Budget 2.0

How to Build a Horse Riding Arena On A Budget 2.0

Congratulations. You are about to build your very own riding arena and you want it to be perfect. Perfect but it also has to fit into your budget. Hmmmn. Do not despair. There are lots of proactive steps you can take that will save you money over the lifetime of the ring. Having a well laid out plan in the beginning of the project is the just the first step.


Start with doing the homework. Relax! There won’t be a quiz at the end of the article. The kind of homework we are suggesting can be a lot of fun. What we recommend is two fold.  Visit local arenas that you have ridden in, or admired from a distance. What do you like about them? How were they built? Are they private, tucked in a corner, high on a hill, or right next to the barn? Ride in as many different arenas as possible to get a sense of what you really want. Talk to the owners and ask them if there is any one thing they wished they could do over.


Secondly, partner with an experienced arena footing company like Attwood Equestrian Surfaces, that has years of experience installing arenas around the world. The investment of hiring a professional will be more than covered when your arena has been properly cited, drains perfectly, and lasts for years to come.

If you are sure you want to do some of the work yourself, before you break ground, make sure the site you have chosen for the riding horse arena is not in a low-lying area. It might be right next to the barn for easy access but if it’s in a natural dip you will pay handsomely for drainage or to reshape the area so there is some fall to carry water away.

The last thing you want to have happen in your arena is water pooling into massive puddles. It turns your footing into sludge in a nanosecond depriving you of your riding time. This excess water can eventually ruin your surface and arena base. If drainage is going to be a major issue, then budget for a well planned out series of drains that will carry water away. Any drainage system will add considerably to the final cost of your arena, but it will be far cheaper then endlessly fixing your footing, re-grading the arena and vet bills for horses with soft tissue injuries.

The next step in creating your arena budget is the base. It’s a common enough mistake to try to cut corners with the base materials. If you skimp on the amounts going into your base you are compromising the base’s ability to compact to an even layer. Subsequently whatever is down there will resurface. And now you have aggregates in your footing. Please understand, if the base fails, so will the footing. And while it may pinch your budget to put good money into the great unseen portion of the arena, that base is crucial to the success of the arena.


Now comes the fun part of creating your arena budget, the footing. It’s very easy to get romanced by a low per square foot price. What is not advertised in that offer is the endless maintenance bad footing requires to be reasonable and the possible vet bills from soft tissue injuries. Before you start considering the different types of arena footing available on the market today, ask yourself the following questions. How will my surface mainly be used? Jumping, dressage, a bit both? Will it see a lot of use? Forty rides a day plus truck ins and group lessons or just your three dressage horses five times a week. Do you prefer a softer or firmer surface for your horse to work on? Don’t you wish your horse could tell you what the perfect surface is for them? Sure would make it easier. But in a way horses can tell you what they like.


The very best surface is a consistent one. It provides good traction and concussion that a horse will move confidently. With each step every horse makes a split-second decision. Are my feet underneath me? It sparks the neurons in the brain, which decides in that instance, that the horse is on firm footing, which cause the muscles to move the horse forward. The horse can concentrate on your aides, and not worry about slipping in the corner.


If your arena footing is too soft, or too deep, you are putting increased stress on the horse’s tendons. Too hard and there will be jarring to the horse’s ligaments. While this may seem like the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it’s a common pitfall. Once again, this is why investing in a relationship with a footing professional will save you time and money over the years.


The next suggestion to help your budget is a very common sense notion. Try to plan your construction time for the fairest part of the year. Think warm and dry. If you really want your arena going in during the coldest time of the year because you cannot wait, chances are great that there will be weather delays. And a frozen ground might reveal some unplanned and expensive rethinks once spring arrives.


If you are lucky enough to be a snowbird with your horses, chances are you have ridden in arenas in many different climates. So the ring you most admire is in Ocala and you want the exact ring in Minnesota. It’s important that you allow for variations in the regional materials. The sand that works so beautifully in the endless sunshine will be an epic fail once the colder days comes. Believe it or not this same idea can hold true from one county to the next.  Take into account the climate of where the arena will be built to maximize the resources available locally.