Tree stumps under an arena base

I live in East-central Florida and I’m finally taking Step One of building my dressage arena: removing the 15 pine and oak trees standing in my way! We have a heavily-wooded property of mature (40+ years old) trees, and this would be a necessary evil anywhere. Trees aside, the plot is relatively flat and drains well.

What should I do with the remaining stumps and root balls? It would be an enormous cost for us to have the stumps actually pulled out, so the tree company is going to grind the stumps down as much as possible and leave us with the holes. The plan is to then create our sub-base by filling in the stump holes with dirt, and compact compact compact. I’m concerned that over the years any residual stumps will decompose and cause sinking in areas.

Has anyone else dealt with a similar situation? I have the book “Underfoot,” but nothing is there about stumps.

Yes, you are probably going to end up with depressions in your arena if you do not remove the stumps.

But… it sounds like that ship has sailed, so do the best you can. I assume this is an arena for casual use at home, not for competition or heavy use by a boarding barn. It’ll be fine.

Have them get as much out as possible and remove all the sawdust. (They like to leave it piled on the area so as it decomposes it flattens out.)


Have you priced having a big trackhoe come snatch the trees whole? They can pop big oak trees like toothpicks taking the root balls and all. I had several big trees done that way around my barn. One of the best decisions ever.

I’m near Pensacola and would expect a dozen mature but not dinosaur sized trees to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 2k if the trackhoe operator can just toss the trees and root balls on a burn pile for you to deal with later.

Based on the stump grinding I’ve seen (after hurricane Sally there were a lot) I would be concerned my idea of a “hole” after the stumps were ground and the tree company’s idea of a “hole” might vary considerably.


Came here to say the same thing.
We have relatively sandy ground around here & it was nothing for the tree guys to take out the entire tree, root & all.
That would be the best/easiest route.

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From the OP I am assuming the trees have already been cut down. If so it will cost more to get the stumps out as it’s much harder.

Yes, if you have it done when clearing they will dig around the base and push the tree over which pops the root ball out of the ground. That’s what I had done.

Agree with taking the tree whole if possible.

If not possible STRONGLY agree with taking all the sawdust. Don’t let them leave a darn thing. I had to dig out TONS of sawdust and chips and replace with dirt for my yard.


Maybe so! I read the whole thing as future tense but after re reading I can see what you mean! Maybe OP will clarifly

A big backhoe can also just take a bite and the whole stump comes out easy, if that is all that is left there.


To clarify - the job doesn’t happen for another week, so they are still in tact. But all the companies I’ve talked to (8 at this point) have said that stump grinding is the way to go. My trees are ginormous, so I figured that’s why….? Some of them are actually pines that grew as a double tree out of a single root. Maybe I’m missing something though.

I have spots in my arena where it’s clear trees were ground down. They’re always soft. If there’s any other way to go, it’ll be worth it.


Check out Horse Barns: Plans, Designs & Ideas, group on Facebook! You might find suggestions for pros in your are who have done similar projects.

I’d also suggest seeing if there’s any logging & forestry companies in your area that do clearing for roads & new development. You may get much better pricing for tree & stump removal from them compared to “regular” tree companies.

I’m in Massachusetts and bought a wooded property- pines and oaks that grew very densely, in garbage soil. Going with a tree company for removal would’ve been prohibitively expensive. I ended up getting a logging person come to take the trees, and found a guy who did new development clearing, to come pull the roots & stumps between bigger. It took more time to have the project done by separate pros, but better results (and less stress on my wallet.)

The previous homeowner of my house had left stumps in the ground around her lawn. 25 years later- I’m now stuck either digging up the yard to fish out the rotting remnants, or throw fill load after fill load on the spots that continue to sink.
I’ve ground a couple stumps in low-traffic areas along the woods where trees have come down since my initial big clearing project, but I wouldn’t want to put ring materials over an area with stumps still in the ground.


The stumps must come out. Don’t use a tree company, you need a crew that does land clearing.


Sure the tree company wants to stump grind. That’s what they do.

You don’t have a ton of time, but it sure would be nice if you could get a big equipment operator to quote you on the removal. I think you’ll be better served in the long run.

I mean if you have hundred year old live oaks that might be a different story.


I agree that you should get the stumps removed one way or another. In my neighbourhood there is a beautiful horse farm with a large indoor arena. Apparently when the indoor arena was built 20+ years ago, large boulders were used as part of the fill. Over the years the boulders shifted and created uneven spots in the footing. Nobody wants the headache of redoing the base in an arena so when the property went up for sale a few years ago, it sat for a couple years before it sold way below asking price. Maybe there was another reason for the poor sale but all the locals in the horse community were advising to stay away from it due to the poor arena base. All that to say you should think about future resale value when deciding how to approach this now.

Landscape/tree companies have big tree spade tools that fit on their skid loaders:

They use those to put new bigger trees in yards, to take out others and to take stumps out.
They charge very much as they are doing only a few here and there.
They can not do that many, or real big ones.

A clearing company has bigger equipment, mostly a big backhoe, and can do the job better and quicker, is who landscapers call when they have a big job.

Whatever you do, to have a good dirt company then grade and prepare the ground, best cut down to the base of the holes and start adding by layers, watering and compacting and adding another layer, is what should work best for your arena base.

Are you talking to clearing and grading contractors? For an arena base, if you don’t have anyone local who does that, find the guys who know how to build roads. Grading and compacting for a road base is the same kind of work.

This job needs a big backhoe and a bulldozer. The “tree people” who are used to removing trees in yards, where it’s fine to grind the stumps and just keep filling in the depression and eventually you have a nice lawn, are not the right people.

BUT also don’t lose a lot of sleep over this. If there are budget or time concerns and this is the best you can do, the world will not end. (That “Under Foot” book makes it sound like if you do not follow their instructions to the letter, your arena will be unusable. It just isn’t true.)


When your horse punches through a rotted stump hole under the footing, at a canter, on a hind leg, you’ll wish you’d spent this money.


Doesn’t sound like a job for landscapers. I agree, the stumps need to go. A backhoe (excavator) can pop them out. Don’t grind.

I also have to say it hurts my heart when big trees are taken down.

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Me too. The dying giant sugar maple I took down when I bought my house drew a tear from my eye, as that’s my favorite type of tree to begin with.

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same here! Of course, it’s not an easy job to do, but it can be handled. It would be easier if you were faced with small thin trees, but…
Don’t trust a tree companies, they are thinking about their profit only

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