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Discuss How to build a dressage arena? at the Horse Chat forum - Horse Forums.

Hi guys, We've just bought my dream property: 25 acres of bare land in Central ...
  1. #1
    Full Member AmyZ's Avatar
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    How to build a dressage arena?

    Hi guys,

    We've just bought my dream property: 25 acres of bare land in Central Otago, New Zealand.

    I have a perfect flat, well draining spot to put my dressage arena and have been Googling how to construct them. But it looks so complicated!

    Will it really be a complete disaster if I just remove the rocks, flatten it out and put down some woodchip?

    Any advice or stories of experience much appreciated

  2. #2
    Senior Member Razzle_Dazzle's Avatar
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    I have experience building two dressage rings, one at my trainer's barn where I board my horses and the other at the barn where I work. For the first, we simply found a flat area and placed white ground poles down as the "fencing" or barrier and bought letters that you stick in the ground. It's simple, affordable, easy to maintain, and we can move it around whenever we need to. We just left the grass as is, no dusty footing to worry about. If we ride in it heavily, though, then we wear the grass down and then have to worry about mud and have to move the ring. It's nice to be able to move the ring because, at least for my horse, it gives him the opportunity to be ridden in a different area that he is not use to.

    For the second arena we flattened out a space, put in a small wooden fence and sawdust, and we actually made the letters ourselves by placing them on large sheets of paper, laminating them, and nailing them to the wooden posts.

    Personally, if I were going to build this arena outside and were going to make it permanet and add footing, then I would go with sand footing just because to me they don't require as much work. The arena that we used sawdust in is a covered ring (it is not completely indoors, it just has a roof). We have to hose down the entire ring before we ride otherwise the dust is horrible, and with it being outside the sawdust is easily moved and blown around so that we have to replace it every year. Most of the dressage rings are I ride in for competitions are outdoor rings and all of them have sand footing.

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    You don't have the same problem with sand footing? The barn, where I ride, has sand footing. During the summer the dust becomes unbearable, when it has not rained for a few days.
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    You really need to strip off the organics before you install your footing. Even if it's already well drained, this will mitigate issues with both water and encroaching vegetation. The easiest way to do this is with a small tractor/loader or a Bobcat or similar...at least from a labor standpoint. If you don't have the former (and you will want one for maintaining your property (and arena) over time, you should be able to rent a machine for reasonable cost or subcontract the job. The same will be helpful for moving your footing material into place and spreading it out.
    Horseback Riding...the most fun you can have with your boots still on...

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    Senior Member Razzle_Dazzle's Avatar
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    I have always prefered sand footing; all the barns and show facilities in my area have sand rings. Sure, if it gets really dry you may need to hose it down to control the dust, but in my experince it didn't require nearly as much work as sawdust. That is just my personal opinion on the matter, others may disagree. To each his own.

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    Full Member AmyZ's Avatar
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    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your replies!

    I've just been reading forums on how to construct dressage arenas and they make it sound quite complicated (not to mention expensive!)

    ie,
    (1) Area has to be graded like a dome with slope of 1-2%
    (2) 100 ton of Base has to be put down and compacted
    (3) Middle layer (as above)
    (4) Top layer
    (5) Drainage all around the area installed

    All this seems to cost $10k - $40k! Ouch!

    Anything less seems to be a disaster from reading these forums...

    http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/features/arenabuilding.shtml
    http://www.horseproblems.com.au/cons...sage_arena.htm
    http://www.cyberhorse.com.au/dcforum...ian/50636.html

    I was just wondering if anyone else had had some problems with a badly-constructed arena......i.e. pitfalls to avoid

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    Amy, those resources are likely correct for an arena that's going to be used for competitions and heavy training with a lot of folks. It's not really the case for an arena for personal use or by a limited number of riders for convenience. It is important to insure that you remove the organics as I previously mentioned and their advice about insuring proper drainage is accommodated in the contour is sound, but you don't need to put down multiple layers of compacted base for what you describe. Personally, I'd probably put down some form of compacted base just because that's the kind of person I am, but if what you have after removing the organics is very stable, you'll probably be fine with minimal base for a personal arena.

    And...if you do the work yourself with a compact tractor or Bobcat, your cost will stay largely to materials. And you'll want the tractor for maintaining your property anyway. Good investment. I only have four acres (non-horsie), but I'd not give up my Kubota for anything!
    Horseback Riding...the most fun you can have with your boots still on...

  8. #8
    Full Member AmyZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim_in_PA View Post
    Amy, those resources are likely correct for an arena that's going to be used for competitions and heavy training with a lot of folks. It's not really the case for an arena for personal use or by a limited number of riders for convenience. It is important to insure that you remove the organics as I previously mentioned and their advice about insuring proper drainage is accommodated in the contour is sound, but you don't need to put down multiple layers of compacted base for what you describe. Personally, I'd probably put down some form of compacted base just because that's the kind of person I am, but if what you have after removing the organics is very stable, you'll probably be fine with minimal base for a personal arena.

    And...if you do the work yourself with a compact tractor or Bobcat, your cost will stay largely to materials. And you'll want the tractor for maintaining your property anyway. Good investment. I only have four acres (non-horsie), but I'd not give up my Kubota for anything!
    Thanks very much Jim! This is kinda what I was hoping to hear. We're not expecting the arena to be in high use. It doesn't really have any organics on it (I think the rabbits got to it first!) but I'll get rid of any that is there, level it and put a bit of wood chip on and see how it goes. (Despite one of those forums saying don't use wood chip, this is one of the few materials I've previously ridden on!).

    Thanks again very much for your advice,
    Amy

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    In all honesty amy - avoid the wood chip unless you are prepared to scrape it off and replace it every few years.
    It does break down (up here) and wil lbe worse for wear (down there). It also gets slimmy if not airated enough or gets enough time to dry between rains.

    The best we can get for reasonable rates is marine sand - you will get 10+ years out of that and a really good surface to use, its less dusty than normal sand that you get from the quarries. Is more expensive.

    If your looking at one horse use - just put planks down onthe ground and go like that.
    If you want winter riding and unfrozen ground - you may want to consider a rubber/wax/polyester mix in with sand (doesn't freeze as quick) and you can add salt in - something you can't do with wood.

    3 good friends have built them, one my next door neighbour and I'm looking at building one for the local pony club and myself (indoor). So PM if you want more info.

    If you go the sand route - NZ is pretty much bang on the $15000 mark for a 60x20 - thats big enough to jump schooling in as well - great for teaching stride control in LOL. And with the high rainfull - def get a compacted limestone/pitmetal base with a pitch on it of up to 2 deg. One arena here had no pitch and it is a massive puddle, another didn't have enough sand/wasn't raked/groomed often enough and the base is coming up in the sand (wicked no no).

    The most common route for any arena up here is to build a sand one and add shredded tyres/rubber in once you an afford it (got to make sure its rubber that has had the metal removed)

    Hope that helps to
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    My dressage arena is turf. Regular ol' earth. You don't need to pull out all the stops to be effective. Honestly if you say you don't think it will be in high use even, I would just measure one out and set up a small border. You can buy a nice one, or make one using ground poles, pvc, concrete blocks, etc. I'm not sure how 'professional' you are trying to go, but there is no reason what I just described would be a disaster.

    Easiest way to measure it out would be with a long piece of string, 10m long. Set it up as a compass and as you walk around the outside with the string stretched out, put posts or flags at the North, East, West, and South. Now you have a 20m circle. E and W border represent the long side, N and S posts represent where the outside of the next circle needs to be/the short sides, so connect the string to one (N or S), then put your next center compass post at one string length away. 3 circles = 60x20. Once you are done, connect all the outside dots .

    -Piaffepony0412


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