The Saga Continues – A DIY Riding Arena
I can always tell when I have had a successfully busy weekend at home, because come Monday morning I am happy to go to work, so I can relax. I have not had a weekend like that in a long time, pretty much the entire winter. But as I write this on Monday morning I am gladly looking forward to going to work so I can sit down. The majority of the work took place on Saturday, because yesterday was Easter, so I was able to spend a day with my family, which was awesome.
But we had all of our ducks in a row for finishing off the riding arena build this weekend and the weather was decent, which allowed us to get everything done. For the past month, we have been working up to the point where we could do the work, and get the fence up. That was the major project that needed to be completed in order to say the arena was officially done. And I wanted to share with you the process that we went through just in case you are considering building your own arena. It was not easy, but to me the work was worth it.
Determining Your Arena Size
If you are just getting started with building an arena, a major part of this should be the size. You want to have an area that will accommodate what you will be doing in the arena. If you are planning on setting up some jumps, you need to have enough room to do this. If you participate in gymkhana, you want to make sure you have enough space so you can set up poles, barrels, or whatever it is that you use for your events.
My first attempt at an arena was small. It seemed large enough at first, but the more I started working with my horses, the more I ended up regretting the arena size I had chosen. I was basically making due with what I had, and it wasn’t big enough. The original size was 112 x 56.
This was ok for lunging, barely.
And after I started my riding lessons, and working in a ‘real’ arena I decided I wanted to have something that size at home. That is what started this quest I have created for myself. So the new riding arena measures 168 x 96. This is about the largest I could make the arena, because I was going to incorporate part of the original fencing we have for the arena itself. This was a money saver for me. I already had 3 sides of the arena fenced so all I had to do was build one more fence for a complete arena. But I made the arena as big as I possibly could with the area I had to work with. I would keep that in mind when you start to build your own arena.
Improving Your Ground
This may or may not be an option for you. But I decided to move the sand that was in the original riding area to the new riding arena. This meant a lot of tractor work, which my husband gladly helped me with. I was so thankful. I am not skilled when it comes to driving a tractor, especially when you start moving buckets, scooping dirt and determining where that dirt should go.
But after we did that, there was enough dirt for the new arena so I didn’t have to add anymore sand. The old sand was broken down though. So I did spend some money on a product called Moisture-Lok, well that’s what they called it when I bought it. When it came in the box, it is called Soil Moist, which I found I could be locally at Lowes. I found it at Ramm Fencing online, and with shipping it ended up costing $448.00.
The instructions said to get the area almost saturated with water when you apply the initial application. Thankfully after it got here, the weather cooperated with a dumping of snow. So I came home after work, grabbed a fertilizer spreader and a wheel barrow and got to work spreading the little crystals. It took me about an hour to spread about 1/2 the box, so about 25 lbs. of the product.
After the snow melted, the stuff looked like ice cubes in the dirt, that was crazy! I had also not harrowed the dirt after I applied it, so it just sat on top of the dirt. But after grooming the ground, and the stuff kind of released some of the moisture it held, I think it really will work. The dirt feels softer, and more cushioned. It is supposed to help decrease the dust over time, and even though I haven’t worked with it a lot yet I can tell a difference.
And I still have about 20 lbs of product left, so I can spread the rest of it after I have really started to work in the arena. But the ground part is done, now I just had to wait for the fencing to get here, and the utility people to mark off the underground utilities before we could dig.
Call Before You Dig
I am sure you have this in your area if you live in the U.S. But many utilities are buried underground now. I love that we have underground utilities, but if you are planning on digging, you need to have someone come flag off where there are buried utility lines.
There is an online system, so I did this first, this is what they tell you to do. I placed my utility locate request on March 16th, and waited. They are supposed to come mark everything within 3 days of your request. This didn’t happen for us. I ended up calling on March 27th and was placed on eternal hold with the automated message encouraging me to complete my request online. Yeah, like I was going to do that again. After 20 minutes of hold time, I spoke with a lady who seemed shocked my request had not been done. She helped me by redoing the request, and promised it would be done by the 29th, and if it wasn’t to call back and it would be done by Friday. Thankfully, it was done on the 29th, so all I had to do was wait until March 31 which is when we planned on doing the digging.
But I was a little concerned, because they had marked one line, which I knew was there because we had it done before. But where our electrical meter and gas line were, there were no flags. This made me really nervous. I kept having visions of us hitting the gas line, and something blowing up. I have a very vivid imagination.
Getting The Materials
The fencing we already have is the white vinyl post and rail fencing. It is beautiful, but it can be destroyed easily by horses. If you are considering this type of fencing, I would encourage you to add a line of hot wire to keep the horses off the fence. This will protect your investment.
I found the fencing materials at home depot and decided to have the stuff delivered because the rails are 16 feet long, and I didn’t want to have to figure out how I was going to get those home. I had ordered the materials on March 16th, and waited a week and they still hadn’t delivered them. I called and got to deal with the automated computer which was no help at all. Then my husband told me to call again, but after my last interaction with Home Depot’s automated system, I decided to go online and chat with one of their reps.
I found out they had lost my order, but thankfully the rep worked through it, and I was scheduled for delivery 3 days later.
My husband received the deliver, and gave it a once over, but when we took the bundle apart, we noticed they sent the wrong posts. Instead of sending in line posts, they sent 18 corner posts. And we discovered this after we had already driven to Home Depot once to pick up the post hole digger. So we had our second trip of the day to Home Depot. On a Saturday. Not the ideal time to go to town, or deal with a store. And when we got there, and got to the back of the store where they claimed to have 32 of the posts we needed, they only had 14. We made it work though, because we ended up getting 4 end posts, which is what I should have gotten in the first place. So even though it was a complete pain in the ass, and a time suck, in a way it was a good thing that this happened.
Time To Dig Some Holes
We had planned out our fence line early, and used string to tie off the line with hot pink nylon cordage. Then we took some spray paint I had lying around to remark the entire line, so we would have a guide to hopefully keep the fence line straight. We also made some educated guesses of where we thought there could potentially be some buried utility lines. And we spray painted these areas as well.
After 2 trips to Home Depot, and a later start than we had planned, we were finally ready to dig some holes. This has been the part of this project I have been so nervous about, because of the underground utilities.
We started slow, and when we came to areas we thought there may be utility lines, we dug a little, and then checked. Dug a little more, and then checked again. Thankfully, all of the holes were ok, and we didn’t find any buried utilities.
In the process of digging the holes though we determined the auger bit that Home Depot had given us was a dud. So with just 5 holes left to dig, we had to go to Home Depot yet again, and get a new auger bit for the post hole digger. But to try and stay positive about it, we did get to stop by and grab some fast food for dinner, so we didn’t have to cook!
Completing The Fence
Ok, so we have been digging holes, and putting in one piece of the 16 foot long rails as we went along, to make sure we had the right height of the posts, and to make sure the post holes were where we wanted them to be. And even though it was tempting to fill in the post holes after we set the posts, we refrained, and for good reason. When you put the posts in the ground, you don’t want to fill the holes, because you want the posts to be able to wiggle a little while you are putting the rails through the posts. This will give you a little bit of wiggle room while you are putting the rails through. The top rail was the easiest to get in. The middle, a little bit harder, and the third or bottom rail was the most challenging.
Once all of the rails were in place, I could go back and fill the holes. My husband decided he wanted to return the post hole digger, and would leave me to filling holes, which I thought was a fair deal. So he left for Home Depot for the fourth time that day, and I got to work packing dirt in the holes for the posts.
The horses were stoked, because I had kept them penned up all day while we were working, but I let them out once the holes were mostly filled, and I let them out to explore. You would have thought we moved them to a new place they way the were trotting and cantering around. And while I was picking up the remaining flags from the buried utilities, Ethan was trotting around me like he was being lunged. I think he thought the flags in my hand were a lunge whip, so he thought it was time to work.
The Finished Arena
Sunday morning came, and with a little bit of renewed energy, my husband decided he wanted to drag the new arena, and I decided I would bring out some of the jumps I have been working on all winter long.
He helped me to set the jumps, and then he parked his truck for a better vantage point to snap some photos of the arena, mostly completed. I still have to finish the gate, but to keep the horses out of the arena I placed my cavaletti in front of the opening to act as a barrier to keep them out of the now groomed arena. The gate will be my project for this upcoming week, in between working with the horses.
This was no easy project. It was made easier because of having 3 sides of fencing already completed. And even more so because my husband helped me. There is no way I could have done this by myself. I will be forever grateful that I have a willing partner who doesn’t make fun of my ideas, or poo-poo them off as not important.
If you are thinking about building an arena, please enlist help if you are doing it yourself!
Looking at the big picture, and how much it really cost to build this, lets break down everything to determine the total cost for this arena:
Posts and rails: $1031.00
Post hole digger rental: $126.00
Gas for 4 trips to Home Depot: $26.00
Boards for gate: $40.00
Hardware for gate: $65.00
Total Cost for 168 x 96 foot outdoor arena: $1,736.00
This was less than I had originally projected, even including the extra gas that we had to pay for multiple trips to Home Depot. So overall, not too bad for a DIY project, in my opinion. It was definitely hard work, but worth every minute!