Top 10 Tips for Building an Indoor Riding Arena

1) - The very first thing you should do before building an indoor riding arena is to research the permitting process in your area.  Every town is different and not all government administrations are horse savvy. Do as much research as you possibly can to avoid pitfalls at the very beginning of your plans. 

For example, a very iconic farm just outside of Boston wanted to build an indoor on their historic property. Because they were well within city limits, the fire code for the building permit was akin to one for a public meeting hall, not an agricultural use building. They were able to do a build around that saved them both time and money.

If you are in an agricultural friendly county, chances are the permitting process will be fairly straightforward.  Things you will need to know and be prepared to answer are how far the building must be set back from your property boundaries, how many horses on how many acres – does it comply, and which municipal departments need to be involved in order for the building permit to be granted. You will want all your ducks in a row before you start construction.


2) - While you are getting your permits ready, you should be interviewing who is going to be doing the construction. Take a ride to their completed facilities, or job sites, interview others that have used their services. Check references.

One of the best suggestions yet is to hire the favorite contender to do a small job on your farm to see the quality of the work and the timeliness of the job completion.  Work with a professional, it will save you time and money.

indoor riding arena


3) - Budget Concerns.  Will your indoor be just an indoor or part of a barn? Is the barn already built? Or will stalls be added as part of the overall structure?  While you are thinking about footing, price out the cost of a kick wall, gates, latches, and lights, watering system. It all adds up very fast so make that list as detailed as you can so you can get this project up and running.


4) - Who is going to pay for all of this? If you are unable to pay for the entire project out of pocket, start looking for a lender that understands the needs of an equine facility. Many banks are not keen to underwrite loans for a non-residential building. You may have to educate your lender to the importance of an indoor, how it can be income producing and increase the value of the entire property.


5) - Now where are you going to put your horse arena? Ask yourself where does the sun rise and set on your property. This natural progression of light will impact your riding experience in the arena. Which way does the wind usually blow across your farm? If an arena is in a particularly windy spot, it can feel like you are riding in the belly of the Titanic with the building shuddering from every blast.

The horses feel it too, resulting in long miserable winters. While this might seem very mundane, they are the same questions to be answered if we were writing about how to build an outdoor arena. It’s very important to the success of the arena.

Avoid areas that are naturally wet and areas where water pools after a hard rain.  You will be fighting this for the life of the building unless you invest in some seriously good drainage systems or do a workaround with proper excavation and swales.


6) - Size does matter. Depending on your discipline you will want enough room to be able to accomplish the training needed for competing.  If you are a dressage rider, keep your eye on the upper levels. Going from the small to large ring is harder than you think if you do not have the correct space to practice the movements. 


7) - Put your arena in a place where it is easy in and out. Ever pull up to an indoor and there is literally no place to park your rig? Worse yet, nowhere to back out? You will want enough space around your indoor that truck and trailers, tractors and tractors with drags attached can get in and out easily, without blocking entries. The best indoors have large enough parking close by to accommodate all.


8) - Make it light and airy. The more natural light, the smaller your electric bill. One of the most pleasurable experiences of indoor riding is going into a well-lit, dust-free, appropriately sized arena.  You can almost feel like you are riding outside. Whether you have a lot of windows down the arena sides or are able to have a clear span roof installed, the long-term impact is tremendous.


9) - Footing. The most important part of your indoor is the riding surface you choose to install. The better the quality of the ingredients directly impacts the lifespan of the footing, and how consistent the surface will be. How to choose good footing for your indoor depends on the region of the country you live in and your discipline. Work with a professional footing company to make sure your footing fits your needs. Footing is never one size fits all.

indoor riding arena


10) - Take time to plan. There are so many variables to consider when planning your indoor that impact your budget, your time frame, your training schedule - the planning process should not be a hurried one. Never be afraid to ask questions. It is never a simple case of comparing apples to apples when it comes to construction, building materials, or footing.