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All weather outdoor arena

I am starting the planning of my future arena, most likely will only ever have an outdoor, so I want to do it right the first time. Looking for tips and tricks on what has and handy worked for you, and anything especially related to riding in it year round (central Ohio).

I know the basics, good compacted subbase,I’ve got clay, fabric, a layer of larger stone, topped with compacted stone dust, and footing. 1% grade crowned on the middle with drain pipes running along the side.

What else do I need to know???

Research your local contractors. Ask locals who did their arena and how did it turn out. Make sure the contractor has done arenas of the type you want before. If possible look at arenas after a rain and see how the drainage really works. Mine was put in by the husband of a friend of a friend. “He’ll give you a good deal!” Yeah, because he learned all kinds of things not to do on our ring. It was not a good value.

Sizewise, I recommend going as wide as practical. That leaves room for jumps or a dressage ring and still have room to go around the outside. Mine is also fenced. If things go south at least everyone is contained! The gate latch is easy to open/close from horseback. It also gives you the opportunity to turn out or work horses loose.

It’s great having your own ring! Good luck!


My goal is to have a full size 20x60m dressage arena with space around the outside, and yes, fenced! I had one guy come out yesterday, he seems to understand the drainage I want, but he hasn’t actually done an outdoor arena. He’s done indoors, and added footing to outdoors, but not one from scratch, so that makes me nervous. I have someone else coming Tuesday to take a look and give me a quote.

Make sure your sub-base is rolled with a vibrating roller which is as heavy as you can get before putting down the fabric. I didn’t need to use a layer of larger stone, so I don’t know if it needs to be compacted. I would guess no other wise the fabric may get torn. Make sure your base material, the stone dust has moisture in it as it get deposited so it will compact correctly with a very heavy vibrating roller. If you don’t have the device that measures compactness, your truck needs to be able to drive over it without leaving tire tracks. I used 12 inches stone dust which was compacted to 9 inches which allows me to jump without worrying about hurting my base. I think a dressage only ring can be compacted to 6 inches using 9 inches of stone dust. When compacting watch that the crown is not flattened. I also let my compacted base sit over the rainy season to see how it drained before adding my footing. My ring is 10 yrs old and looks brand new. After a torrential down pour it is ready to go 2 hrs. latter. I have french drains with pipes to take the water away.


@Horsecrazy3 so you had the stone dust put down directly on fabric over the subbase? Why this instead of the larger stone first? I’m not opposed to going with a thicker layer of stone, whether I get a boarder that jumps, or for future marketability should I decide I’ve had enough of farm life :laughing:

My arena builder with more business than he can handle but a bit short on years of experience sometimes has drainage problems, so I’d spend time talking to other folks whose arenas were done by whoever you are considering.

And don’t let an irrigation system be an afterthought. Work that into the plans. Being able to schedule, tweak, and turn on and off watering via a phone app is a huge benefit. My app does not allow me to just pause the irrigation while someone needs to ride, and then pick back up to complete the cycle. May be a minor point to you but it is real annoyance for me.

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I wasn’t planning on irrigation. The arena will be far from a water source, so most likely I’ll be looking for a footing that doesn’t need much watering, or watering with a pull behind sprayer

I didn’t need the larger stone layer. The clay subbase was rolled to a specific hardness. My ring builder who builds multiple rings in my area determined that I did not need the larger stone layer. The stone dust was put down directly onto the fabric. My ring was designed to appeal to a jumper or dressage rider for future marketability. LCDR is correct in planning for your ring watering system. Water pressure will be the biggest hurdle if you are on a well, followed by having a well that can provide the amount of water needed. All footings need to be watered, some more than others. Whoa dust helps reduce amount of water needed.

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Do you ever have the fabric get exposed?

The only way you’ll be able to accomplish that (low water footing) is using magnesium chloride flakes, which can get expensive year after year. Worth looking into running some pipe out to the ring, since using a pull-behind water truck means less time to ride, whereas with a simple sprinkler head setup you can turn it on, tack up, and then ride.

Speaking from experience from riding in a ring that was SUPER dusty due to age and spent more time lugging hoses and sprinklers around than actually riding. :confused:


No, my stone dust compacted depth is 9 inches. My ring looks brand new after 10 yrs of use and multiple torrential rain events. Footing is 2.5 inches of triple washed angular sand.

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Ah OK I misinterpreted how you had it set up. Thanks!

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Got my first quote and I am extremely disappointed. He didn’t listen to me very well! First, I warned him I was a construction PM in my day job and would be looking for detail, and then this is the quote he sends me.

I messaged him and told him it was a terrible quote LOL. I am looking for line items.

of loads at $ per load of each material? labor hours per task? I had asked for the quote for pasture drainage to be separate to see if it was worth it to have it done while they were already on site. I don’t think 4" of screens is enough. I asked for the footing to be separate as I still don’t know what I want for footing or what rubber/ fiber/ foam options I may want to add in. He didn’t even do the math right in converting 20 x 60m to feet. :roll_eyes:

Ok rant over LOL. At least I have a starting place. I have someone else coming tomorrow that was recommended on a local FB page, and one more I need to reach out to that was recommended. Later this week I will try and reach out to some local barns to see who did their arenas.

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OK I have no idea why it made that middle paragraph large and bold :rofl:


If it makes you feel better, it’s been 9 years and I have never once watered my arena, although I did have the builder put a hydrant nearby just in case. I actually haven’t turned it on in probably that long and should check it sometime! Anyway, I just can’t justify the drain on the well or the waste of water when I’m the only one riding. The dust blows out behind me and by the time I circle back around (even on a 15-20 m circle), it’s mostly gone. If you have boarders or are teaching lessons that might be different because people would be riding in each other’s dust. I don’t think any of the barns I boarded at before moving my horses home watered their outdoors though. In the fall, winter, and spring it’s generally unnecessary here and in the summer it dries out so quickly that it’s a waste. I do try not to drag when the footing is very dry because of all the dust it kicks up. If I absolutely have to, I go slowly to minimize the disturbance.

I don’t think a pull-behind sprayer would really get the job done? You might need an actual water truck for the quantity of water it takes to make a real difference to the dust or footing.

My contractor also did a 1% crown but no French drains, just well-placed swales around the edges. When he installed it we were in a dry spell so he had to bring in several water trucks in order to properly compact the subbase and base, but that was well worth the extra cost. I have sand with Airfoot rubber and have been very happy with it. No fabric between any of the layers.

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Yes, go see the local barns’ outdoors. Ask what they wished they had done differently? How old is the ring and what repairs have been done or needed? Google outdoor riding ring construction. There are a number of good sources. As for watering, the type of footing will determine how much? Sand that is dry does not allow the horse to correctly move as the sand rolls underfoot which sets the horse up for injury. The type and depth of footing impacts how the horse works.https://www.jecballou.com/trainingtips/how-does-footing-affect-fitness

I received an itemized quote for my ring. I also checked all the amounts of materials to be used with my own calculations. The contractor’s and my numbers were in agreement. Read as much as you can find on construction and the reasons behind why one ring is built differently from another. Site, sub base, drainage and use are the variables. It is a major investment and when done correct the only thing that will need to be refreshed is your footing.

@Horsecrazy3 what area of the country are you in? I’m wondering since I’m on clay if I can do just stone dust as well. If the water is sheeting off to the french drains on the side due to the 1% grade, what would the larger stone accomplish? Definately something I will explore once I get some quotes from people I trust that sound like they know what they are doing!

I just had an arena put in (Georgia) and that is what the contractor did - compacted the natural clay as a base, put stone dust on top, and then the sand on top of that. We’re still working on getting the footing right so final review pending.

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I live in the Vancouver, BC area. Weather is similar to your PNW, rainy. The fabric barrier was used because my clay even though compacted might have become soft because of the high level of water it had to handle for months on end. If it softened it would start to mix,eat, my compacted base. My first ring I built at my now covered in houses acreage was over a sand sub base and the base was put straight on top of it. Swales were installed along one long and short side of the arena with the water collected piped into the city’s ditch. Same weather exposure as my current ring. Used the same base materials and footing materials in both rings.