How to Build an Outdoor Horse Arena | Performance Footing

How to Build an Outdoor Horse Arena

Refurbishing an outdoor horse arena can be stressful. Building a brand new arena is a much bigger project with extensive financial commitments. There are many factors to consider, such as budget, size, practice, and materials. Whether you are starting at square one or upgrading your arena, the first step is knowing how to begin the process.

Where to Start

Before you begin the building process, you should plan your project through completion. Having a plan mapped out can prevent your project from stalling.

A lack of materials and money are common reasons why a project may stall. Sometimes, it may be because you’re not sure what steps you should take next. Consider and decide on the following factors before you begin building or refurbishing your horse arena.

Size 

The size of your arena should be one of the first decisions you make. The size will significantly impact the cost, and it may also affect where you choose to build. When deciding how large to make your arena, one of the primary considerations should be the talent level of the riders using your arena.

An arena that is a 60×100 foot arena is the smallest you should build. Smaller riding arenas are only ideal for beginners. If your arena will accommodate advanced riders, you should build as large as 100×200, which is the size of standard competition arenas.

Cost

For many, the cost is a primary consideration. The amount of money you can spend on construction, as well as arena maintenance, will significantly impact your decisions.

Building an outdoor arena can cost as little as $25,000 and as much as $200,000. The exact amount depends on the size, location, availability of materials, and which practices you will be hosting.

Drainage

Installing a proper drainage system is necessary for maintaining the integrity of the base, composition, and texture of your footing. One of the most common types of drainage systems for outdoor arenas is a French drain. This type of drain includes a perforated pipe buried in a trench. Once the water seeps through the soil and gravel, it enters the trench and flows down the gradient.

Inadequate drainage is the second most common mistake that people make when building an outdoor equine arena. Drainage pipes should have a consistent fall and be covered with a geotextile fabric, which allows water in but keeps silt and sand out. Your drainage system should extend outside of the arena surface.

What Are the Different Layers of a Horse Arena?

Every arena has three primary layers that you will need to plan and build. Whether your arena is indoor or outdoor, plan ahead of time to ensure you have everything you need to construct each layer. Each of the different layers is crucial for your horses’ performance and safety.

The Base

This layer is the foundation, often made of clay. A solid base is required to provide the support needed to help your horses avoid injury.  Having a solid base is essential for the functionality and longevity of your arena.

Skimping on materials or the leveling process will cost you in the long run. Consult experts to ensure that your base is solid before moving onto the footing.

The Subsurface

This layer is usually made of sand, or a mixture of sand and additive materials. The subsurface lies between the base and the top layer.

The Top Layer

This layer should be integrated with the subsurface to provide the best combination of grip and stability. The top layer may also be referred to as the footing and requires consistent maintenance. 

How to Choose the Perfect Footing 

Choosing the best footing is not an exact science because it depends on your goals, location, and riding discipline. An arena located in a hot and dry climate may look different than an arena in a cool, damp climate.

Most footings contain a few inches of sand — or a mixture of sand combined with manufactured materials. Not all sand is created equal, however. There are significant variations in grain shape and size. The sand you use should range in size from 0.05 mm to 2.0 mm.

Stone dust is another common footing element. It is cheaper but costs more to maintain. Most owners choose to integrate additive materials into their footing to enhance quality. Regardless of the composition, your footing should have all of these attributes for the best outcome and performance.

Dust-free

Many outdoor and indoor arenas struggle with dust problems. Having dust pollute the air can inhibit the horses’ and riders’ performances and negatively affect their respiratory systems. Consistent watering and additive products such as dust halt can keep your arena dust-free.

Retains Moisture

Arena footing that retains moisture well can help you keep the dust down and prevent the hardening of your footing. The right amount of moisture can provide traction as well. When you choose your footing materials, remember that they should be able to retain water the way our FoamFooting does.

Provides Good Cushioning

Without footing, your horse’s hooves will slam into a very compact, hard surface, risking injury. The footing functions as a buffer that softens the hoof’s impact and prevents horses from injuring themselves.

How We Can Help You Build a Horse Arena

We understand that building an outdoor arena can be a very complicated and stressful process, and we know you want to get it right. From the arena footing to the base, each level can quickly deteriorate or change if not cared for properly. That’s why we have developed four additive products — FoamFooting, BaseCore, Dust Halt, and Geotextile Fabric — which will help maintain your arena.

FoamFooting

This arena footing additive works indoors and outdoors and is designed for you and your horse’s comfort and safety. Our team consists of experienced professionals, including riders, trainers, and product designers. We created this product to improve footing for various disciplines. Use of FoamFooting in your arena provides a variety of benefits: 

  • Softens the impact on hooves
  • Lessens the amount of dust
  • Reduces the amount of watering
  • Improves cushioning
  • Less frequent injuries

BaseCore

BaseCore is an expandable ground stabilization panel that provides soil retention for all terrains. Allowing water to move freely without washing out the material, protecting your topsoil, footing base, and arena footing additive, this product provides many benefits, including:

  • Military-grade strength
  • Ground reinforcement for eliminating erosion
  • Firm base with a reduced amount of fill needed
  • Installed easily without heavy equipment

Geotextile Fabric

We have geotextile fabric available that provides benefits such as ground stabilization, weed control, and more. These non-woven geotextiles have historically been used for filtration and erosion control. The fabric has many other benefits that work in combination with another of our products, BaseCore geocells. This geotextile fabric offers significant benefits for equestrian arenas such as:

  • Prevents the mixing of a subgrade and an aggregate material
  • It helps ensure the longevity of your arena
  • It helps stop the formation of holes or uneven foundations caused by temperature changes

Our team at Performance Footing has years of experience with arena building and would love to work with you to help you build your dream arena. Please schedule a consultation or contact us to learn more about how our products can help you.

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