Boarding Round Pen Opinion

Hey all… this is my first post so forgive me if it’s in the wrong place.
I board my horse at a farm with around 30 other boarders (it’s not a fancy place, most of the boarders are just rough board). We have one round pen. I rarely see people using it, maybe one or two other people besides myself who frequently use it.
Here’s the thing: the footing in the round pen is just dirt and there is grass in the middle and the sides. My horse is rather green and it seems like every time I blink or don’t pay attention for two seconds my horse is munching on grass. He even grabs mouthfuls when I am roundpenning him.
So my question is, do you all think it is rude to ask the barn owners if I can rough up the ground in the round pen to get rid of the grass, cut down the grass on the sides and bring in some sand to put new footing down? I don’t mind spending money on it, it would just be a weekend project that I would do myself. However I am not sure if that would be considered rude, because it’s not my land or round pen and I’m not sure if the owners would want me to. Any opinions or advice is appreciated!

I don’t see anything wrong with asking! Good luck!

If you leave a horse in there for a couple of days the grass will be gone.


It isn’t rude to ask, but prepared for a “No” and don’t let it offend you. It’s the BO’s property, and you moved in knowing what facilities were available. There are further considerations with having footing material hauled in other than cost - is there room for the dump truck to turn/drive around easily, is the ground dry enough for a heavy truck or is the dump trump going to make a bunch of trenches all over the farm, is there room for the dump truck to be able to dump directly into the round pen or would they have to dump somewhere else on the farm and then who’s going to put the material into the round pen small load by small load?, who’s going to spread the material evenly in the round pen, does the barn have an arena drag to keep the footing maintained, etc.

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and bring in some sand to put new footing down?

a 20 meter round pen has about 3400 square feet of surface area… putting 3 inches of sand over it would require about 32 cubic yards of sand… that would be about three 12 yard dump truck loads (80,000 to 100,000 pounds depending upon moisture content)

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Its never rude to politely ask if you can, by your own wallet and sweat, make improvements to a barn, but be very prepared for a No. Many BO’s don’t want anyone other than themselves/team making improvements for a variety of solid reasons. Maybe the BO enjoys having some greenery in the RP to put a horse waiting for the vet, etc., so they can move and relax and munch in a small area. I know I liked that about my barn’s RP.

I’ll also add this, and try to do it as politely and matter of factly as possible (really, I’m not trying to be snotty here): Maybe you can use the grass distraction to your advantage to learn how to get your horse to really focus on you. If he is able to munch while you’re working him a) he’s not fully listening/respecting what you’re asking, and b) he’s limber and balanced and that’s a good thing : ).

Getting your horse to focus solely on you despite distractions can be HARD with some equines and a very good way to bring your horsemanship to the next level.

Maybe look at the grass as a teaching tool for you.

IMHO, there’s also nothing wrong with a little -authorized- green reward for a short RP lesson. In lieu of a cookie or pat. A little break for “soak time”, so they can “chew” on what they’ve just learned, and make learning a happy fun place. I know that showing my horse when its ok to eat, and when its not makes for a respectful horse when its time to be lead past grass, flower pots, etc. But that’s just me.


That would be the most cost effective route and the horse would enjoy it too.

Once it is down you can just keep it mowed, or bring in some sand/ dirt if you want. Any reasonable BO wouldn’t mind if a boarder wanted to improve something and foot the bill.

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I disagree, for the reasons I mentioned in my post above. It does not make a BO unreasonable if they do mind and say no.


If and when you decide to ask, maybe do so where the answer won’t have to be right then a yes or no.
That will give your request a better chance to be accepted.

Maybe ask BO what they would think if you, since you use that round pen more, would put some work getting the footing improved with some extra sand, at your cost and let you know what they think of that?

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I have a round pen with grass on my private farm. I graze it. And when I work a horse in there, if the horse is naked, I keep him moving while working, and often let them have a bite of grass when we are done. If you have control of your horse, are exerting your influence over him, he can’t stop to eat grass.

But often, I have the horse tacked up, and cross the reins at the wither, and tuck the end loop (English reins) behind the stirrups. NOT “tight”, NOT giving contact with the mouth in an attempt to do a “head set” (I hate that term) NOT like “side reins”, but as “grass reins”. The reins just don’t let him get his head down onto the ground to graze while we are working. Problem solved.

Sure, you can ask the barn owners if you want to invest money into their round pen footing, but the grass will grow through, especially on the center part, unless it is worked regularly with harrows etc.

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I have worked my horse in a roundpen with grass and also with blackberries growing over the fence. She is super food motivated and loves blackberry leaves! But I can certainly work her away from the food. I can even work her away from a bale of hay sitting in the arena. You need to get after them obviously. But it’s good practice. You don’t want them diving for grass on the trail unless you allow it. I would work horse with intention and pressure then give him 10 minutes to grade as reward. Do that for a week and the grass will be gone anyhow.

You have to not blink or lose focus while you are working him. And I wouldn’t worry about grabbing a mouthful when he’s trotting as long as he is obeying you.

If you have a boarding facility I would think there is room for a truck to dump a load or more of sand and I hope they have a tractor or something with a bucket on hand with the need to move manure. Since the OP didn’t give any info I can only guess at what it is like.

It never hurts to ask and you are right they can just say no if they don’t want any improvements made.

Those are really big assumptions, and even if they were accurate to all boarding facilities, it’s really just not that simple.

I’ve boarded at many small (5-10 acres) facilities who did not have a single drop of land to spare to dump dozens of yards of sand. Sure, you could argue they could put it in a pasture, but then you have to go in and out of the gate to get it spread bucket by bucket, which is annoying. And maybe, someone just doesn’t want a bunch of sand dumped on their pasture grass and killing it by sitting there for weeks.
I’ve also boarded at far more barns that did not have a tractor at all, much less one with a FEL or other kind of bucket. ATVs and zero-turn mowers take care of all their regular maintenance needs.

So assuming the barn does have a convenient place to dump a crap ton of sand, and has a tractor that can be used to put it in the round pen and spread it around:
Who says the BO has time to move multiple dump trucks of sand bucket by bucket into the round pen?
And if the boarder is willing to spend their own time on it, who says the BO’s insurance, or the BO themselves, are okay with the boarder using their tractor?

There’s many more considerations most wouldn’t think about unless they own or have owned a facility, and it’s extremely unfair to say something like if a BO is reasonable they’d be okay with someone else wanting to make a facility “improvement.”
And in addition to all that, what if the BO likes the round pen with grass? Perhaps they wouldn’t consider adding sand to be an “improvement.”


It’s also going to be into the hundreds of dollars just to dump the sand.

You need a big wide gate on the round pen and a good firm firm gravel drive with a clear shot all the way back to get a dump truck actually into the round pen. If the round pen is tucked behind other facilities that won’t happen. Walk it out and see.

And then you have to have someone who knows how to drive a tractor and is insured to smooth out that mountain of sand. If they have to dump away from the round pen and take the sand in load by load that is a long days work probably several days work.

If you have to hire someone to do that it’s hundreds and huhdreds of dollars.

So before you even ask, walk the path between the front drive and the roundpen. Can a dump truck get in?

Then observe the barn. Does the owner have a little bobcat front end loader and does he use it often and seem comfortable with it? If not, you will need to pay a lot for someone to do it.

Don’t even consider dumping at a distance and using a wheelbarrow. That is way too heavy work.

In other words there are probably good reasons the round pen never had any footing.

If you want to get rid of the grass just put your horse in there for a day.

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sand weighs 2600 to 3000 pounds per cubic yard

a standard construction wheelbarrow can carry 6 cubic feet…

so it would be about five loads per yard at around 100 pounds per cubic foot… 32 cu/yds is about 160 wheelbarrow loads… that would provide 3 to 4 inches coverage …

could cancel any gym memberships to save money

My current BO would say go ahead. Your money, your time, her capital improvement.I have first hand experience with this.Everyone is different though.

I don’t know why your getting so offended when it isn’t your facility, but what do small boarding barns do to manage the manure if you don’t even have a tractor or bobcat to move/ manage the pile?

I think the OP should just approach the BO about keeping the grass in the round pen down to a manageable level. The BO probably doesn’t care about much since they aren’t even doing that it seems…

Pay someone to come take it away, give it away to local gardeners, or throw it in the dumpster.

Also for what it’s worth, my BO would absolutely not be ok with someone bringing in footing and that doesn’t make them unreasonable. If someone went and brought in sand, that would mean it would they would have to handle the upkeep. And what if the boarder who brought it in leaves? Now I they’re just left with a giant litter box? No way.

I think a lot of times people who do that stuff and just feel entitled to make their own upgrades have no concept of what it’s like managing a barn and have no respect for the barn owners or managers. I knew someone who didn’t like that their horse was in a muddy run so they asked the BM/O if they could bring in stone dust. BM/O said no, they did it anyway, and were SHOCKED when they got kicked out of the barn for it.


I doubt a BO who won’t pay to maintain a simple round pen would pay to have manure hauled out by dumpster, or pay to haul it away. If you can find enough local gardeners who need that much manure than you are lucky.

I have only boarded at 2 places in my horse owning life and both facilities were kept up and well maintained. So maybe my standards are too high.

I had a small arena at one of our personally owned farms and I just kept it mowed.

The simple fact is that you aren’t paying good, hard earned money for your horse to sit in mud when it can be eliminated. Or to have arenas or round pens you can’t use. All the OP can do is ask and hope for the best.

If the BM said no then your friend should have respected that and found a better place that met her horse care standards.

A round pen with appropriate footing is not a litter box.

Uhm my barn owner doesn’t maintain the round pen but has the manure hauled away in a dumpster.

Yea I agree I think you’re really inexperienced about what the boarding world is like.

The “simple fact” is that you pay for what you get. You don’t get to change the barn managers standards it never works. If a round pen with good footing is that important to you go to a barn that offers that. Don’t go to a barn that doesn’t offer that and expect them to upgrade.