Building A Riding Arena On A Budget
Since I have been taking professional riding lessons for the past two months, I have decided I need to increase the size of my riding arena. So I want to share with you building a riding arena on a budget. The original space I had was too narrow, and not large enough to incorporate some jumps for schooling. And we brought in sand 2 years ago for the original area which was nice, but since originally putting it in, has gotten deep in spots, and dusty.
And every spring it seems I have some vision of grandeur that I want to do with our property, and this year I have decided I will have a ‘real’ riding arena!
I will not be starting from scratch, thankfully. I will be adding a long section of fencing that will match the rest of our vinyl post and rail fencing that we already have on three sides of what will be my official riding arena. So we will have to rent a post hole digger, and have the fencing supplies delivered. But having everything at one time is well worth the $79.00 delivery charge, in my opinion.
Out With The Old
The original riding area I have is about 110 feet x 56 feet. Not very big at all, and the narrow ends make it a challenge for turns. The footing is basically dirt with about 3 inches of sand. Some places have 6 inches of sand. And I do have a nice arena dragger that I got on eBay for about $200.00. It works great, but with the uneven depth of sand, the tires get stuck and I am sitting there with my wheel spinning.
And the footing has gotten really dusty. I really noticed that this year, specifically since I have been working my horses already this spring. And this is bad, especially for Frisby. Frisby already has respiratory issues, and he doesn’t need dust adding to his already sensitive system.
And the last thing I want to change about my riding area is fencing. At first I didn’t think it was a big deal not to have the arena fenced, but I have learned it is. When I have a small set of jumps set up, my horses wander through the jumps, knock them down, and chew on the painted surfaces.
And then there is the poop. They poop everywhere! And the sand must be like a giant litter box, because they love to go to the arena area and poop. And when they aren’t pooping in my freshly groomed arena, they are rolling in the sand.
By adding a barrier and being able to keep them out of the riding area will keep the ground better, and also save my jumps.
Determining The Size
The first thing I needed to decide on was the size of my new arena. I walked off what I had planned to see how it would be for riding. I was very happy with the results. The new riding arena will incorporate a portion of the old. The new size will be 168 feet x 96 feet. This will be much better for setting a small course of jumps, along with flat work and lunging.
I will be moving the sand (with my husband’s help, along with his fancy new tractor- not this one) to be spread across the new area. I haven’t determined if I will have to get more sand, but I think what I have will be sufficient. There was a lot of sand in the original area, and I think by spreading it out, it will be perfect.
Dealing With The Dust
Another huge component of this riding area is the dust. I am sure it is so dusty because the sand has broken down. But I don’t want to keep adding more and more sand, so I have been looking at alternatives.
This is nice, but really expensive. And building the final fence line for the arena is taking a lot of my budget. Even though I would love to have fancy fiber footing, it would cost me over $13,000 for my arena size. And honestly, that is way out of my budget.
This is a more affordable option, but still expensive. It does add some cushion and water retention properties to the pre-existing footing. But from what I have been reading, it would be best to take out all the old sand and replace it. Again, not really an option for me.
I found Whoa Dust completely by accident, and I am so glad that I did. It is an additive that you add to your existing footing, water it, and it’s supposed to reduce the dust by at least 50%. And it is affordable. For my new riding arena, I will need 8 kg, which is around 17 lbs. 17 lbs. of a product will help me to have a better arena? Heck ya! Sign me up!
They have a great website that gives you all of the information about their product. And after I buy it, I will of course share the results with you here, so be sure to come back in about a month or so and I hope to have my arena project done, along with a review of the Whoa Dust. I am hoping this is what I need to make my dirt better, without having to buy another 65 tons of dirt.
Projected Costs For A New Arena
I am a planner, and I like to know what I am in for before I get started, so I plan it out. To build my new official riding arena, the total cost will be around $2500.00 total. Not to bad really when you consider the size of the arena.
And I will be buying the stuff to make the arena a little bit at a time, so I don’t have to come up with $2500.00 at one time. And I will be funding a major part of my arena build from the money I made on eBay selling off things I didn’t really need.
Hopefully by the time it is great riding weather, I will have a beautiful new riding arena. Time will tell, but that is my goal. It won’t be anything super fancy, but it will be making the most of some usable space!
I was reading your blog about adding to your arena. I just built mine (95×126) and got what I and the sandman figured would be 2″ depth for my size ring. It turned out to be too much!
So now I’m scraping off the sand and adding French drains. Even though my drainage is decent I had some places that didn’t drain to my liking hence the French drains. Since mine is new (and barely ridden on) I don’t have dust problems. How long did you ride on yours before dust became an issue? Are you in an arid location? I’m in the Midwest and we generally get decent rain. I’d also like to know how the dust reducing product worked.
Thanks! Any suggestions welcome!
In the original area for riding, we added 60 tons of sand…..way too much for the small area. But it worked! We added the sand 4 years ago. And this year has been incredibly dry, which I am thinking is why I am having the dust issue. I am really excited to try the arena dust control product. It’s been ordered, but still not shipped. I will make sure to give a full review of the moisture-lok, I can’t wait to see if this makes a difference!
I have used MAG inside my indoor small arena and Arenaclear on my 110×220 outdoor.
We are in the midst of building a mini horse arena for agility and cart driving. We were told to add a footing of 5 1/2 inches of stone dust and then sand on top. Please let me know how the Whoa Dust worked for you. I am in the Northeast but we can get really dry weeks during the summers.
I am getting ready to post my thoughts on the Moisture Lok stuff we bought. It works ok, but it is really expensive for what it does. I’m trying to see if I can find some more affordable options to share. But if you are able to water the arena, it does help. It just is a commitment!
I live in Northeastern Ohio, a lot people use stone dust and it seems to work as an “all weather footing. I’ve seen it used especially outside with extreme weather changes and as long as it’s used and dragged properly I prefer that material where we live. Especially on race tracks . It provides traction and works / dries well. Putting sand on top works well. Hope this helps!
What was the total cost on your finished arena? Do you like it?
Would you mind doing a breakdown of the materials you bought and the price? This would be just for the arena repairs that you did (not the fencing)?
I would love to know the materials you needed and final pricing.
Hiya really interested in the follow up of this, we are in New Zealand and have just built a river sand arena, and keen to know about whoa dust, ours isnt likely to be too dusty as the river sand is like fine grit but if we do have issues will be interested in whoa dust. also interested in how you extended as that is our plan for the coming year or so, currently we have 27 x 40 arena we cant change the 40 but could do 40 x 40 as we have now removed a building. also the harrows as we have stayed away from those type thinking they would dig in too much but often see that type for sale. please keep us posted on progress. We have also built a tyre wall on the paddock side as wood here is so expensive…go figure…lol. 🙂
Consider using salt for controlling your dust in your arena. A lot cheaper and actually sold for this and for controlling dust for other projects.
We use mag flakes in our arena (therapeutic barn) to take care of dust. Works great. One application per year.
I have a dirt arena and want better improvement. Would you recomend just dumping sand on top or do I have to pull out some of the dirt first? Also trying to do this on a budget.
I just put the sand on top of the ‘dirt’ that was already there. Our dirt is mostly clay, which means it’s super hard when it’s dry, and a sticky mess when it gets wet. So to make the most of what we have, I use an arena drag hooked up to a more aggressive digger that’s attached to our tractor. I find the 2 pieces of equipment used at the same time help to rip up the ground a little bit, and then smooth and combine it all at the same time.
I am hoping in the next couple of weeks to add a little more arena mix (aka sand) since my arena size more than doubled. Thankfully we have a dirt store very close by.
The last time I added the sand on top of the existing dirt it worked fine, and I got a lot of use out of that arena. I can’t wait to add the extra sand to this one! It makes such a difference when you’re riding, and is well worth the investment in my opinion. I am so happy for you to get your own arena and good footing! 🙂
Just wanting to ask what you are ripping up? The clay ‘dirt’ and mixing the sand into that or are you just racking the surface of sand that you have already put down because it’s compacted?
We have a clay base that we ride on but looking to put sand straight down on top without a base because it drains really well. Just gets too hard to ride on when it dries out.
Right now I am ‘ripping up’ the dirt and remaining sand in the arena. The ground we have is clay as well, so it gets compacted and hard. But when I can, I am going to have some more sand brought in and just have it on top of the existing ground. And like you said, the clay base drains but gets really hard. The last time we brought sand in, we just spread it over the ground and it worked great. The clay layer with the sand on top was perfect for riding. It didn’t matter if it had rained, or even froze because the sand made the arena PERFECT! I’m hoping to get a couple of truckloads of sand very soon!
Thanks for your reply Lisa!
Can I ask what sort of sand you use and how deep you lay it?
Also do you allow a day or so after it has rained before you ride on it? (to prevent the clay mixing up into the sand or it hasn’t worried you)
Sorry one more question, how long has it lasted between top ups of sand?
Appreciate your response, I wasn’t sure if you would see my comment!
Hi Brett 🙂
When I bought sand (more than a couple of years ago) I bought arena sand from a place here in Colorado. I think they have a website called Sand For Sale.com. On their website it says its basically just arena sane that is a washed non-spec sand, meaning it cannot be used to make concrete or masonry grout, but is good for all other uses. And now it costs $18.95 a ton. I think when I bought it it was $14.95 a ton. I bought 30 tons of sand, it was three truck loads and made a base of about 3 inches deep over the area that I had at the time. But now we have doubled the size of our arena, so I need more 🙂 I would say it was 6 years ago when I bought the sand, and other than moving it I haven’t added any more, mainly because of time, and lack of want too.
As far as waiting to ride after it rained, nope. I just rode in it! It lasted a long time, but I noticed about two years ago the sand was breaking down, and it would get really dusty when I would ride. So now its time to add more sand. Maybe if I get that stimulus money, maybe I can get a truckload or two of new sand!
I just installed a new arena. I would recommend adding 2 -3 inches of quarter down and getting the drainage angle ( 3 degree slope) correct before you add sand. There are different sand depth recommendations based on what kind of riding you do. The depth recommendations can be found on the USEF website or on the footingsolutionsUSA.com website. I’ll probably add Mag flakes to mine next summer, but for now the winter rains have started. I’m in central TN.
Megan, I am in central TN and am just looking at the beginnings of building an arena. I would love to chat with you about what you’ve done. Can we email? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org (yes, email not gmail)
Diana – I just saw your post and sent you an email.
Hi, I’m getting ready to do a small arena but where I live there are tons of squirrels, so lots of holes in the area I’ll be using. Does anybody have experience with how to prepare an arena that can reduce the chance for squirrel holes? I’m terrified of my horse going into a hole and breaking a leg.
Buy or borrow 2 Manchester Terriers and turn them loose on your property. The squirrel problem will abate very quickly along with any other rodents. You will also need a 5 gallon pail and a spear for the carcasses as the dogs don’t tend to actually eat them.
I’m wanting to put in an arena on sandy soil. My property is an old lake bed that has several feet of sand on top of bed rock. It currently has grass growing on top of the sand, but the horses leave deep holes and the grass covers them so I can’t see the holes when I ride.
I’m wondering if I can just take up the grass and level an area for an arena? Since the natural sand is so deep will that make the footing too deep? I’m concerned if I just put stone dust on top that it may shift due to the sand underneath. I can’t afford to do big rock sub base, landscape fabric, stone dust, and then footing on top like the arena building companies suggest. Any advice is appreciated.
Jessica- I would suggest you measure the depth of the sand in the area before investing any money into your project. Measure it in several different spots as it may be unevenly distributed. If the sand is more than 4” deep, you are going to need to scrape some of it off until it’s no more than 4”. If you don’t jump or do high level dressage, 3” may be sufficient. You can probably recoup some or all of your scraping costs by selling the excess sand. I’m jealous, if this is all you need to do. I had to dig into a hillside for mine.
Hi Jessica, I’m in the same position as you, looking at a sandy rise for the position of my arena on our property and wondering if I can avoid the expense of a rock base. I have built a round yard in the same position and simply put sand down which eventually mixed with existing sand and provides excellent footing and great drainage. Have you proceeded with your arena on sand base? How’s it going?
Thank you for sharing building an arena on a budget.
Im hoping to build an arena on a budget too but i am starting from scratch. I have no idea where to start when it comes to what goes in first and how thick and what next and do i need cusioned fabric ect..
Can you share how far to dig out and what goes in first and how deep and whats next please?
I am in Ireland and we have alot of water here so im not if it would need to different with regards drainage. But if you could share how you built yours it would be good. Thank you.
The sand you choose will need to be cleaned that is, all the silt and clay washed from it. Using a sand with silt and clay will not only create a dust problem, but will lead over time to your arena surfacing compacting down. Do not underestimate the dust issue. Breathing dust of any kind is a health hazard. The dust from silica sand, for example, is known to cause a nasty lung condition called silicosis. Aside from the health concerns, it will cover surrounding buildings and features, and could easily get you in trouble with a neighbour.
DustHalt works by charging the dust in your arena to a negative pole. This results in the dust getting drawn toward your existing footing, meaning less of it gets kicked up into the air.
Best type of sand ?
I find an arena blend has worked well for me. Did you know there are over 10,000 different types of sand?!?!?!? Crazy right? I found this article really helpful to help with choosing a footing material for your arena: https://extension.psu.edu/riding-arena-footing-material-selection-and-management
GGT is an abbreviation for German Geo Textile. As the name suggests, this is a shredded textile that is made from synthetic polyester, allowing it to have resistance to high heat and bright sun. To use, the textile is mixed into arena sand, ultimately helping increase stabilization, shock absorption, and moisture retention.
Thank you so much for sharing this information! 🙂
Hi! I, too, am trying to make a super budget friendly riding “area”. Unfortunately, I have extremely hilly property, covered by un-imaginable amount of rock of all sizes mixed in with a deep clay base. So I’m currently trying to level out the area the best I can, remove the rocks/boulders/stones. But as I level it out and remove clay from the high side to the low side, the low side gets deep and the high side is a hard packed, stone-embedded nightmare. So I guess I have two questions: (A) what can I mix with the heavy clay soil to get it to create a good riding soil, and (B), what is the best way to get equal depth footing all the way around? It will double as a turn out – the other side of the “riding area” will be a paddock/turn out when not in use. I’m concerned about using sand given the fact that the horses can develop “sand colic”.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
Hi! I have been asking my parents for a riding arena for soooo long but they say its too expensive. But I just told them how much you spent for yours and they said its doable. May I ask what company did yours?
horse arena sand
Just as you must consider the disciplines in choosing the materials, you also must consider the disciplines that will use your arena when deciding on the proper sand depth.
Thank you for sharing! I found this article very helpful. I’m looking forward to starting my outdoor arena project this Spring!