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How to design a horse arena?

With the right horse menage construction you can create a comfortable and safe environment for your horse, while helping them develop their physical fitness. Different footings play such a big part in horse’s conditioning and performance that there is an industry adage that states: “there are no poor surfaces, only bad riders.”

So how do you build the best arena for your horse? The key is to start with an appropriate and well thought out design that meets the needs of your discipline. You must also consider dimensions, drainage and footing. The most important factor though is the surface you choose. There are a wide range of different horse arena surfaces available and each offer their own unique set of benefits and disadvantages.

When selecting an arena surface the first thing to take into account is the discipline you are practising. Some disciplines require larger arenas (e.g. Dressage and show jumping) whilst others can be performed on smaller arenas.

It is also a good idea to assess your local ground conditions and determine if you have an adequate natural slope for your arena. A natural slope will reduce the amount of water that may accumulate on the arena surface. Incorporating drainage systems into your design is a good idea too – this will help prevent the formation of muddy areas that are dangerous to horses and riders alike.

The next step is to prepare the base for the arena surface. This should be 6 inches of compacted crushed stone topped with 2 inches of cleaned and screened sand. The sand must be clean and sharp – a coarse sand will offer greater traction, but a soft or rounded sand can cause shoes to slip. It is also a good idea to add in a little bit of finer sand that will offer better surface grip and cushioning against jarring movements.

Once the base has been installed, the next stage is to lay the non-woven membrane. This should be secured to gravel boards which will contain the upper surface and ensure that when pressure is applied by a horse’s hooves no shear movement occurs. It is then a good idea to secure the membrane to the gravel boards using Cloth Tape and ensure that all joins and overlaps are sealed.

At this point a retainer should be placed at the sides of the arena, usually a brick or concrete retainer. The purpose of this is to prevent the arena surface from flowing out of the arena in high use or in heavy rain. A brick or concrete retainer is also a safety feature as it can stop hay bales, screws, nuts, metal filings and other rubbish from falling and posing a danger to horses or riders.