Crazy question - can I pull a small arena drag with a compact SUV?

I’m trying to work something out with my BO. I don’t want to use his tractors because that will complicate the deal greatly. I have a giant diesel pickup that most certainly would be able to do the job, but the turning radius of my 4x4 Jeep Renegade is a big plus factor.

Any reason why I couldn’t pull a drag in 4 low with a compact SUV?

You could also do it with a horse.


Not one of the ones that has a ripper or blade attachment on it. Too heavy for my fine boned small creatures.

I do pull a ball-drag type finishing thing around with them though. The type of drag I’m talking about would be too heavy.

Of course. You can pull an arena drag with anything with sufficient power to move it.


Thank you! Do you think I’d need chains or anything to get and keep traction? The Jeep is pretty light, just at 3,000#, but an ATV/UTV is lighter and can “float” on top of the footing better.

I’m thinking your SUV will leave tire ruts but it’s worth trying once to see how it works. My only concern would be that if you crank the wheel or try to accelerate quickly, you could do some damage to the footing base. For the same reason, I would stay away from tire chains - but I don’t have any actual experience driving in sand. I just know that SUV tires are significantly more narrow than tractor tires, which makes them sink more easily. If you have a powerful ride-on mower, that might be a better option to try.


Yes… I used to drag the ring with my 1996 Honda Civic EX! Lol. How big/heavy are we talking?


What is the footing in the arena? Is it an indoor with riders creating a rut around the perimeter or is it an outdoor with no fence or an ample rounded perimeter?

We York rake our indoor with a JD 955. Part of the reason it works is that the rake can be backed into the corners to get them done. We also use a chain drag pulled behind an old lawn tractor. That can get close to the corners but not fully into them the way the rake does. Our footing is dirt… really. I think it was originally sandy soil mixed with shavings when it was put in 25-30 years ago, but it has changed over time. So having said, I like a firmer footing which this is, and it supports equipment no problem. We park full hay ricks in there if rain is threatened and drive big pickups in with no problem. They leave tracks but no ruts.

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Hrm :thinking: makes me wonder if I could jury-rig something with my Honda Fit… small section of chain link fence?


@Weezer the footing is (DEEP) sand with a very not perfect clay base. The footing is brand new, and we are still adjusting to it. BO only has (and only has ever had) a box blade, which isn’t going to cut it with this type of sand. I’m still working with him to remove some of the excess sand, but I have to tread lightly so as not to turn him off completely.

@beowulf I’m looking at a 4.5-5.5’ arena rascal. No bigger. I think it weighs about 350#. If I can’t find an arena rascal used (new prices are OUTRAGEOUS for those things), then it will be a 4’ chain drag for now.

@frugalannie it’s an indoor. I’d like to drag the outdoor as well, but I’m focused on the indoor for the time being. The outdoor has the same clay base. The indoor does not have corners, it’s rounded due to loft stairs and viewing room windows. I don’t know if the new sand can support equipment “well” but it needs to be compacted anyways so I’m not concerned with smooshing some of it down.

I think I’d drive my vehicle in there without any kind of equipment behind it to see how it handles. The weight of the equipment you’re talking about is negligible compared to the SUV. Just don’t buy anything that needs a PTO to work!

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Good idea! I know my truck can drive in the outdoor as I use it to put up and take down jumps spring/fall. But I’ve not driven on this new sand we have!

There was a thread on the Ratchet Rake recently and they look to have a poor man’s version of the Arena Rascal - see the Pull-behind Ratchet Rake:

The one potential issue with a 4’ chain drag and an SUV is that you won’t be able to get as close to the arena walls/kickboards due to the vehicle width - I encountered this when I used my Explorer and a 4’ drag in my friend’s outdoor. You can sort of off-set the chains of the drag a bit to have it travel more to the outside edge of your vehicle. So if you don’t have to get super close it’s fine, but it can be more challenging if you really need to pull footing away from the wall.

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one trick off-roaders and boondockers use is to let air out of your tires so they are softer… less chance of getting stuck in your deep footing. Google “beach driving” or something similar to get more details.


I’ve been pulling with my 48” Craftsman lawn mower. I am prepared with a tow rope and a little Ranger truck if we stop moving, but so far so good. My drag is a pre-WWII plow. I’m the first to draw it with something other than a horse or mule.

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Heading into arena management territory just briefly… Does this new sand arena get enough water so that it can firm up? Driving on dry sand versus wet sand is similar to the difference at the beach between trying to drive on a sand dune versus the water-packed sand close to ocean. (I’m Florida beach-raised and I’m old enough to have driven cars on Florida beaches as a teenager when cars were still allowed to do that.).

If the arena is watered and compressed driving the SUV on it will go far better than trying to drive on it when it is dry.

The barn owner may not appreciate how much watering is needed to prepare and maintain a sand arena, and that’s another issue to be addressed tactfully.

And also, try to avoid 4 wheel drive. You can get the front wheels sideways trying to turn in the corners of the arena too aggressively and plow straight ahead really tearing up the footing.


This. Let some air out and be gentle with the gas and braking. Water prior to dragging if possible.

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Seconding LCDR s comments about sand. We get to ride on a nearby beach during winter months. Staying above the tide line often results in horses with bows. Smart riders come when the tide is ebbing and ride on the newly exposed wet sand. That footing is heavenly and we can ride in a looooog straight line instead of circling round the indoor.

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The sand holds an unusual amount of moisture, while still not packing down. I’ve watered it twice in a month and it really didn’t need it either time. I could easily make sand castles out of it, but yet it was still “fluffy”.

I’m the only one who waters, so I’m going to start trying to water it 2 or 3 times a week to see if I can get it to lock up more.

Lately I haven’t had the time to water late in the evening, and people gripe when I do it while they’re there (yet never offer to do it themselves of course). Getting up at 330am for work every day puts a damper on nighttime activities though, and I gotta pay my bills.

@leather the ratchet rake looks interesting, but it doesn’t look like it would rip to the base well. It appears to be a wheeled and toothed box blade, which I’m trying to avoid. I want to fluff then level. The arena rascal has that blade attachment (not the scarifier teeth) that would cut under the top layer and fluff. That said, finding a used arena rascal is proving to be difficult, so at some point I’m going to have to take what I can get.

I have a sand arena, built by one of my areas best arena companies, and it is set up to be watered twice a day.

The sprinklers are run at 2 AM and 2PM., using Rain Bird Falcon heads set up in a dual overlapping pattern… Each individual head runs by itself off of a 1 inch line at 70psi. There are 10 heads to cover a standard dressage arena (20x60 meters, or 66x198 feet). The AM cycle for the entire arena lasts 2 hours, the PM cycle 1 hour.

Sometimes that is not enough water to keep the dust down and the footing nice, and I am the only one riding on it. Sand arenas require lots of water, applied frequently.

My trainer leased a barn some years ago from a fellow who had bought a farm but was new to the life… BO agreed to set up an irrigated sand arena. When his first electric bill that included running his well pump to keep the arena properly irrigated came in, he went through the roof. My own electric bill increased over $100 per month after my new arena was finished.

Again, sand needs lots and lots of water to pack down, and it needs to stay moist, like the beach as the tide recedes.

Have you got any info about the specific type of sand that was used for your arena?