Creating your own horse riding arena – A basic beginner’s guide

A Guide to Creating Your Own Horse Riding Arena

Building a horse riding arena requires careful planning and execution to ensure a safe and functional space for both horse and rider. A well-built riding arena can provide years of enjoyment for horse and rider alike. Read on to see how we’ve started the foundation work of building our arena at Milo’s Farm.

Building a horse riding arena can be a great investment for horse owners who want to have a safe and controlled environment to ride their horses. There’s a few key elements you need to think of when building any new addition to your homestead and an arena is probably one of the bigger elements you’d build (aside from maybe a barn!)

Adding an arena to your property also lifts the property value. Whether you’ve decided to stay long term at the place or eventually move on, having a ‘horse ready property’ is incredibly appealing for other horse owners, especially riding trainers, horse trainers and all sorts of riders. Whether you’re into English or Western competitions, an arena will give you the space you need to practice.

But an arena isn’t cheap. If you want to invest in an Olympic quality arena, or one that is sound for holding events, then it will cost a lot of money. That’s not to say you need to dish out a high 5 or 6 figure sum, but be prepared for those types of numbers if you ask a dedicated arena building company.

If you do want to do it a bit cheaper, then you will need to make concessions. You should – at a minimum – invest in the groundwork. When it comes to adding light fixtures or fencing around, there’s heaps of budget ways you can DIY these elements, but the groundwork should be done by a professional. It will be your biggest cost, but you will still be able to facilitate adding an arena to your property with significantly less outlay.

So, without further ado, let’s get into all the elements needed and what part of the process we are up to.

What you need to consider when planning an arena

Building a horse riding arena can be a significant investment, but it can provide a safe and controlled environment for horse owners to ride and train their horses. By following these basic steps, you can build a quality arena that will serve you and your horses for years to come.

  1. Choose a suitable location: Look for an area that has good drainage, is relatively flat, and has good access for vehicles and horses.
  2. Prepare the site: Clear the area of rocks, trees, and other debris. Level and grade the site as needed. Install drainage if necessary.
  3. Choose the base material: A good base material will provide a stable and level surface for your arena. Popular options include sand, gravel, and crushed stone.
  4. Install the base material: Spread the chosen base material evenly over the site. Use a compactor to ensure the surface is level and compacted.
  5. Install the arena footing: The arena footing is the top layer of material that provides cushioning and traction for horses. Popular options include sand, rubber, or a combination of the two.
  6. Install fencing: Fencing is important for keeping horses safe and contained while riding. Choose a sturdy and safe fencing material such as wood, PVC, or metal.
  7. Install lighting: Lighting is essential for evening riding and can increase the usability of your arena. Choose appropriate lighting that is safe for both horses and riders.
  8. Maintain the arena: Regular maintenance is key to keeping your arena in good condition. This includes regularly dragging the surface, removing debris, and adding new footing material as needed.

Benefits of having your own arena

Having a horse riding arena provides several benefits for both horses and riders. It offers a controlled environment for training and exercise, which can improve the horse’s fitness and overall health. It also allows riders to work on their skills and develop their confidence in a safe space.

Additionally, a riding arena can be used year-round, regardless of weather conditions, which provides consistent training opportunities. I’ve ridden and used open arenas and ones with roofing. I enjoy both and both have their merits depending on where you live and how you use your arena.

Having an arena on a homestead also helps to protect the surrounding land from damage caused by horse hooves and promotes better horse health by providing a consistent surface for riding. However, it does require maintenance and upfront investment.

Ultimately, having a horse riding arena can lead to better communication and a stronger bond between horse and rider.

How does an arena improve your riding skill?

A horse riding arena improves skill by providing a controlled environment where riders can practice specific skills, such as jumping or dressage, without the distractions or hazards of riding outdoors.

The arena’s footing can be designed to provide ideal conditions for horse and rider, allowing for more precise movements and improved balance.

The use of mirrors in an arena allows riders to see themselves and make adjustments to their position or technique. Consistent practice in an arena can lead to improved muscle memory, increased confidence, and overall skill development.

How our arena started – clearing trees in the bush arena

We’ve lived at this place for about 8 years now and used the ‘arena space’ in a number of ways since. When we first moved here, it was an overgrown, weedy paddock that the former owners used as a throw-all.

In the first clearing, we did multiple burn offs and found broken glass and pieces of metal and as the years went on and the space was used in different ways, we continued to clear it to make it fit for purpose.

With Moosey boy joining our family, we initially and currently, use it as a holding/overnight yard for him that’s safely enclosed with fencing and electrical tape and where he has his feed net and water tray, etc. But in planning the space where his stable is, we realised the extra work we initially wanted to do was just extra work when we could save not only time and money by repurposing this holding yard.

Hence, clearing the arena. This space is actually 20×40, so proper arena sized. Initially we were going to extend this stable area to the same size, and then put a round yard and some walkways and realised the solution to our problem had been staring us in the face! We already have the space, fenced off and it’s good to use. All we need to do is clear the trees currently there and get it leveled and filled.

So that’s what we’re going to do. In the below pics (also shared on our Instagram profile), we started clearing one side thinking we would get it done much quicker than we did. But unfortunately, or fortunately for us, we realised it was better if we mulched and burned off as we went, so we have less mess around the place and clumps of wood and bark we then need to double or triple handle just to clean up.

With husband now offline due to knee surgery and me still working full time and taking on all the chores, I still have some clean up to do in this space to make it useable. While I am less likely to be cutting down the rest of the trees, I can at least move the mulch and current branches/stumps in there so I can use the side of the space I have. It’s still ample for lunging and doing some technical work and circles.

I’m excited to use this new area. It will also be beneficial for us in terms of capital improvement on the property and gives us some good experience in what we can improve on with the next place.

So, if you’re interested to see how we develop this space, make sure to keep reading and link in with our socials. We update regularly on the progress of our projects. You can also subscribe to our blog to make sure you get all the round-ups and updates first!

Have you ever built an arena? What were some of the challenges you faced? Let me know in the comments below.

A Guide to Creating Your Own Horse Riding Arena
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