There are a lot of things I don’t remember. But when it comes to my life with horses, I remember almost everything. My first ‘real horse, my first horse show, the first time I got bucked off, and the first time I rode in an arena that had mirrors.
That was 16 years ago, but I remember what it was like to actually ‘see’ what I looked like while I was riding. And when the riding instructor asked me to do something, not only could I feel what I was doing and how it effected the horse, but I could also see what it looked like to do it. Talk about creating a muscle memory!
And ever since that one ride, I have wanted to have my own mirrors in my own riding arena. But have you ever looked at the cost of getting mirrors for an outdoor riding arena? Let me just say they are super expensive!
And while I have had the idea for a really long time, the logistics of the project have put it on a back burner for a really long time. That is, until now.
Finding Affordable Mirrors For A Riding Arena
So I began my quest by looking at ‘real’ mirrors that are made for riding arenas. But when you are considering buying mirrors for your arena, you also have to consider how you will mount them. You can’t just prop the mirrors in the sand and ride around them.
If you have an indoor, it is a little bit easier to figure out how to hang them, because you already have walls where they can hang. So one part of the project is a little bit easier.
And once you figure out how you are going to mount the mirrors, then you have to find the mirrors themselves. And finding real arena mirrors online can be pricey. For the mirrors, the price range runs around $2500 – $3500, for the mirrors. Then you have to add in the cost of a wall, frame, or whatever it is you are going to build to it yourself or have it done by a professional.
Yeah, that is not even close to being in my price range. Which led me down the DIY path. I am always searching for the more affordable way to do something myself. And my solution came to me while I was making my Pottery Barn knock off wall mirror.
I thought about how I attached dollar store mirrors to a piece of foam board. The foam board is light, and affordable to buy a lot of it.
And while it would be awesome to be able to afford “real” mirrors, that isn’t going to happen. So I decided to look for alternatives.
How To Make Outdoor Arena Mirrors
And in my search, I found these mirror tiles on Amazon:
They are just acrylic mirrors, almost like stickers, giant mirror stickers. So the quality isn’t the best. But hey, what do you expect for less than $20.00? And a lot of the reviews said they ended up looking like fun house mirrors when they were applied to a wall. But most walls have texture, and when you apply a sticker to a textured surface, you will get distortion, right?
And to keep the mirrors lightweight, and portable, and with a smooth back, I opted to use the foam board from the dollar store. The foam board is lightweight, but stands up by itself.
It also has a smooth surface, so it will be easier to attach the mirror stickers and allow for less distortion of the reflection.
And I had bought a lot of the mirror tiles, so I needed to buy enough foam board to accommodate all of my tiles. The foam board measures 20″ x 30″. And 30″ tall is tall enough for my project. I wasn’t sure how long I wanted the mirror to be, but I figured at least 8 feet long, which would be 5 sheets of foam board. But then I thought how cool it would be to have 16 feet of mirrors (two fence panels) so I bought 10 pieces of the foam board.
And then I got to work applying all of the mirror tiles. This was a little time consuming, but it was a fun project.
Once I had the ‘mirrors’ done, then I had to decide where I wanted to put them.
And sure, they aren’t perfect like a real mirror, but they are perfect enough to help me with my riding when I am doing it all by myself, which is all the time.
How To Hang DIY Arena Mirrors
So now that the mirrors are made, I have to figure out how to hang them on the fence. And I also needed to make sure that I could move them easily. They aren’t waterproof, or weatherproof, so they have to be portable, and movable. (This is why the lightweight design was so important for me.)
I decided to mount them on the long side of my arena that faces south. Because most of the time I am riding it is late afternoon. And if I hung them on the east side of the arena, I would get the sun when it starts to set earlier and earlier when fall comes.
But how to attach them to the fence? This was my dilemma, for about a minute. That was until I found these wood shims that we had bought from Home Depot for about $5.00. Then I grabbed some duct tape that I had intended to use for striping jump rails, and some E6000 craft glue, and the last thing I needed was some sticky backed Velcro strips in white.
I attached 2 of the foam boards together using the duct tape. The I put a bead of glue down the black part, where there weren’t any mirrors. And on the back, I glued a shim lengthwise to add strength to the two joined pieces.
Then I added 3 wood shims to the bottom, and secured them in place. I then flipped over the mirrors, and attached some Velcro strip. The Velcro is what will keep the mirrors in place on the top rail of my fence.
And that’s it! Then all I had to do was hang the mirrors on the fence rail. And I repeated the process with the remaining mirrors.
Not Perfect, But Helpful
And while these aren’t perfect, they are helpful. The foam board that I bought was rippled, which I found out once I hung them. I am going to try to find some foam board without ripples in the center and then this would have been perfect.
But even though they aren’t perfect, they really do work, and I can see my position while I am riding.
Ethan was hanging out in the arena with us, and I think he liked it too.
How To Make Outdoor Arena Mirrors
Having a mirror in your arena is so helpful for checking your position right now. You don’t have to wait and see what you are doing once you go back in the house to watch a video.
And these are so affordable to DIY, I am going to make some more, hopefully without the ripples, and have at least 2 or 3 8 foot long sections of mirrors. So I can really “see” what I am doing while on the back of my horse!
And if you are more of a visual learner, I did make a video showing how I did this over on my YouTube channel.