Horse Arena Construction

featured image for horse arena construction

Where to build your arena

Some people have more options when it comes to Building arenas due to space, than others, so in order to choose the right location for your horse arena there are various things that you must think about prior to the actual construction. There are some that you will have thought about yourself, and some that you may want to consider.

picture of where to build your horse arena

Ensuring there is a good entrance to the site

A lack of accessibility to the area that you plan on using to build your horse arena can mean several things. Firstly it may mean that the supplier or courier of the goods that you need will not be able to directly make you delivery to the site, this would mean you may have to pay excess haulage fees. Along with this there are often large pieces of machinery such as diggers and lorries that will be needed for the building of your riding arena. This means that the builders responsible for the job will have to pay to have smaller vehicles perform the same job which furthers the time it will take for the job to get done and will incur extra costs. So we highly recommend that if you have enough space, choose somewhere that can be accessible to everyone and large vehicles.

If you have poor access then don’t worry, we have got a solution that may suit you. If there is not enough space for the bigger vehicles carrying materials to get directly to where you need them, there is the option to speak to a local farmer. They may allow for you to have the goods dropped on their land for a price that beats the haulage expenses, from there you can find a way to transport the goods in smaller vehicles to where you need them. Furthermore, farmers are equipped with the right machinery to take the goods where you need them or load them to smaller vehicles. If this is an option to you it may be worth considering purely for the fact it will save you some pennies and get done what needs doing!

picture of having a good entrance to the horse arena

Choosing the correct place for drainage

It is important to note that unless you have the right location, drainage may cause a serious problem for your horse arena. Upon choosing your position for your arena you must know where the water from the drainage system is being discharged to. Popular options include a soakaway system or just a regular ditch. However, be aware that the regulations surrounding discharge are different in each area, so be sure to check with your authorities.

picture of horse arena surface drainage

Getting the correct levels

It is always recommended that a minimum amount of excavation is best. It goes without saying that the more uneven your site is the more excavation will be needed. If you have no other option but to excavate a large amount of land you must be aware that there are often large costs related to this and there will be a lot of excess materials to get rid off once the process is complete. If there is land that is on a slope then you may opt to use the method of cut and fill. Essentially this means soil is taken from the higher side and used to help level out the lower side. Unfortunately if you have to level out there is little you can do to reduce the costs required to do so.

picture of getting the right levels for your arena

What to do about exposing my arena to the elements

Horse arenas can be susceptible to loss of layers. For example the silica sand used as a top layer, can be temperamental and when it dries up may blow away when there are strong winds . There are certain precautions you can try and make if your options for location are limited. These may include choosing somewhere like a large tree or a hedgerow which can almost act as a wind defence to the arena. Nonetheless if there is the option for a good choice of area be sure to have this as the place for your project as it will make your build far more long lasting.

picture of horse arena being exposed to the elements

How to correctly mark out your area and excavate the land for your horse manage construction

Once the correct area has been chosen based on the factors that have already been discussed, the excavation process can begin. Remember like with any project when making the markings always give yourself extra room by making the markings for your arena slightly larger than the finished arena is planned to be. Furthermore the correct thing to do is have a meter of working room around the outside of the land you will be excavating. An example of this would be, if the land that you will be excavating is 100mx80m, then you would look to excavate an area of 102mx82m to make sure there is plenty of room to get the work done to a high standard. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you will need to mark out the four corners of your arena, so the best thing to do this with would be to use wooden posts. When marking out the area that you want to dig you must first start with a string line between each peg which makes using the marking spray a lot easier and more accurate for the digger to follow. A quick tip to check if the square is correct is to check the diagonals, if they are the same you have done it correctly.

After this you are ready to get cracking. The first place to start is by removing the topsoil to reveal the subsoil. The subsoil can be identified through being the first layer of soil below the surface soil. The reason you can’t go straight in and build on the initial soil is due to its low load bearing capacity. The topsoil itself must be removed by professionals and either neatly piled or sensibly gotten rid of. The beauty of topsoil is its ability to be reused, however in some cases you may even be able to sell it and get back some of the money you had to spend on the removal of it. Be sure to keep your soil in a good state because it will make the finishing touches on the landscape job easier.

picture of excavating the land

What drainage method do I use for my project

So once the land is excavated it is time to prepare for the heart and lungs of your equestrian riding arena, the drainage. Remember that if the drainage is not up to scratch then the top layer, regardless of the quality, will not perform well. The best form of drainage would be the ‘Herringbone Drainage System’. This requires a 100-150mm underground pipe that runs central through your arena with 75mm-100mm lengths of perforated pipe running 45 degrees towards the central pipe from the edge of the arena. Each of the lengths running towards the central pipe must be spaced five meters apart. The central pipe itself discharges into whichever form of drainage you are using, for example it may be a soakaway or a ditch. Ensure that the depth of the pipes are installed in correlation with the discharge point, however the trenches should be moderately shallow.

picture of herringbone drainage system

Using woven membrane for equestrian riding arenas

The next stage in your arena construction is to lay your geotextile membrane (woven). The woven membrane should be used to cover your entire area. The geotextile membrane should act as a barrier for the drainage in order to stop silt and dirt from entering your drainage system. We also supply the correct waterproof tape needed to keep the seals of the membrane tight. The membrane should be installed correctly ensuring that all the areas where the perforated pipework will sit are covered in order to maximise the protection and overall performance of the system. Remember to pick the correct gsm with your membrane as this is crucial, you can find information on this on our blog: Horse arena membranes-which one should I be using?

Moving forward the perforated pipes can be put into their channels and then backfilled right the way back to their original excavation level. In short backfilling is the process of refilling a cleared area. When bringing back the excavated area to the correct backfilled level, you would use 20mm gravel. This must be clean to stop any blockages occurring etc.

picture of woven membrane for horse arena

Sub base and fencing for riding arenas

Once the site is levelled out you should now be thinking about getting your sub base installed. The ideal depth for this is six inches. When looking for your sub base material you may be limited in your choice depending on where you live. We would give the advice that if the option is there and the cost is right, you should always go for small rocks like crumbled limestone. This is because they provide a pure sub base which is better than a lot of materials that may have impurities. Impurities are common with recycled sub base material however this is wholly dependent on where you choose to source the material as they may be just as pure as the rocks. Nonetheless we would always advise you to choose the rocks for a sub base if the option is there. It’s worth mentioning that the job of the sub base is to help take away the amount of water pressure being placed on the below drainage system through trapping the water in the event of heavy rainfall. For the sub base to work to the best of its ability, the material should be 75-40mm. Having the sub base rocks or recycled material larger than this will hinder its drainage ability and if they are smaller it will pass right through and pass too much pressure to the drains. This process should be performed using a good standard laser level and an excavator who uses a roller to compact it down. This can also be performed by equestrian arena builders. It’s worth noting that it should also be +/- 5mm for optimal performance.  A high standard of horse arena construction is essential to making the finished equine arena the best it can be.

In terms of the fencing for equestrian arenas you should look to use a three bar post and rail system as it is proven to be the best of its kind. The bars should connect to the inside of the posts being used. The primary reason for this is to prevent both the rider and horse from getting hurt while using the arena. The best way to install these is to to use a post knocker, to ensure that it goes down far enough to reach the subsoil. Don’t forget to attach gravel boards to the bottom of the posts. This will ensure your posts are protected against wet soil and any other waste it may come into contact with.

picture of limestone sub base

Using non-woven membrane for equestrian riding arenas

When fitting the upper membrane section it is important that you get this right, you must ensure your using a non-woven geotextile membrane like Terram T-1000 or Lotrak 100 which is perforated meaning it will let liquid through. If this layer of Terram is not installed correctly it can lead the top layer of the arena to work its way down, meaning the membrane will become exposed. Remember to fix the membrane to the gravel boards making sure that the joins are covered with our waterproof tape. The reason for this is because the sand on the top layer may come through gaps, and cause problems for the layers below. Furthermore as the sand makes its way down through the gaps it will force the membrane to the surface which is not what you want, if you want a good area for your  horses. Once again you must also remember to be using the correct gsm for your type of arena so don’t forget to skim over our other blog that talks about this: Horse arena membranes-which one should I be using?

The primary reasons you would use a non-woven geotextile membrane is because it is good at keeping the sub base layer of stone separate from the top layer while preventing the top layer of sand from migrating downwards. Not to mention it keeps all the sub layers in place while the arena is being used.

picture of non woven membrane for horse arena

What to use for your surface layer

The type of top layer you will use comes down to how much you have left to spend after the main body of the riding arena construction is complete. You may want to go for what most people tend to go for, which is silica sand with rubber chippings. You will need to put down your sand first ensuring it has a depth of 4 inches, while laying this no vehicles should be brought onto the geotextile membrane because it may cause damage which would cause problems as the sand will go through these gaps and destabilise the whole structure. An option to get the sand in would be to create a temporary road using the first layer of silica sand to create an access point to pour out the rest of it, protecting the membrane from damage. To ensure each 2x50mm layer is level, a laser level should be used as well as a roller again similar to when the sub layer was put in place.

Finally you can finish by adding the rubber chippings to the top, two inches the depth you should seek to achieve when putting this over the sand. Once this is done your equestrian arena construction has come to an end, and you can look forward to many hours of riding ahead.

picture of top layer chippings

If there is anything that you are not sure about you can drop us an email or a phone call and we will be more than happy to help!

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