Construction of an Equestrian Riding Arena

1. Choosing the site and Getting Permission

By now you will have chosen your site, which should be well drained and as level and as sheltered as possible. Access for machinery and large vehicles is a crucial aspect of this decision. The more level the site, the less excavation will be required, and the less soil will need to be disposed of. If the site is well sheltered, not only will it be more pleasant for you and your equine buddy, but the surface will not blow away! Invariably, you are going to need to bring large machinery and vehicles to the site during construction and afterwards to top up the arena, therefore ease of access is important. If you are only able to access the site with small vehicles, the cost of the project will rise considerably.

The next aspect to consider once you have taken the plunge and decided to build an arena and before you begin construction, is Local Authority Planning Rules. Time researching any local planning restrictions and permissions you will need, will not be wasted. Once you are satisfied that all planning permissions are sought and granted, and all restrictions complied with – you can begin construction.

1. Preparation of the Ground

Find a safe suitable spot in the garden to position your sandpit, an area with some shade would be ideal. Remove and turf and make sure that the ground is level and free of stones. If you are building the sand pit on an already prepared area, such as a patio or decked area, ensure that it will bear the weight of the sleepers, sand and playmates!

2. Beginning the Build

Mark out your site, allowing at least a metre spare around the perimeter. Most arenas are 20 m by 40 m, but you may, if space and budget allows, opt for a 20m by 60m arena. If you intend to set up a course of jumps in the finished arena, a width of at least 25m is advised. Use sturdy wooden pegs in the four corners and attach string to each to act as a guide. The surface should not be constructed directly onto the topsoil as the drainage will be hindered. Remove all turf and topsoil and dispose of correctly.

If you are planning to use the arena all weathers and all year round, the drainage of the site is especially important. If you do not install adequate drainage, the arena will perform badly and remain waterlogged and unusable after heavy rain. Most people opt for a herringbone drainage pattern. A pipe runs down the centre with perforated pipe forming spurs at 45 degrees to the central pipe spaced at 5m apart connect to it. The central pipe directs the water away and into the discharge point. The depth of the channel will depend upon the depth of the discharge point. Once the channels are dug and before the pipes are laid, a woven geotextile membrane (available to buy online at D&J) should be laid over the whole excavated site, including the drainage channels. This prevents the pipes from becoming clogged with silt and clay. The pipework can now be laid and connected, and the drainage channels backfilled with 20mm washed gravel (supplied loose or bagged by D&J).

3. Sub-Base Layer and Fencing

Once the drains are installed, the channels back filed and the site level, you can install the subbase. This should be to a depth of between 100-150mm. This layer provides the stability for the arena and assists the drainage. There is no hard and fast rule on what you should use, however, it should ideally be 75mm in size and be hard and angular. You can use a type one spec primary quarried material, or a recycled product such as track ballast, which can be supplied loose or bagged by D&J. This layer should be levelled using a roller. Once complete, you are now ready to erect the fence.

This is usually a post and rail fence, consisting of three or four rails. A gravel board is then attached
to contain the riding surface once added. Remember to allow space for gate posts and a gate!

4. Geotextile Membrane and Surface Installation

Now you are ready for the next layer of protection which should be a non-woven geotextile membrane. There are different levels quality that are available. The one you choose will depend on how frequently and how many horses will use the surface and the type of work you are planning to do with your horse. It is important that the membrane is overlapped and sealed using glue or tape to ensure that the subbase does not rise up and that the finished surface does not sink, and that the horse cannot trip on membrane that rises to the surface. The membrane should also be attached to the gravel boards t create a sealed layer. Yippee – you are almost there! Silica sand comes next – this should be laid to a depth of 100mm and installed in two layers. The sand should be rolled between each layer, the sand should be damp but not too wet when rolled to achieve good compaction. Once the silica sand is in, you can top it up with your finished layer of choice. D&J supply equestrian rubber, which should be installed to a depth of 50mm on top of the sand. This then completes the construction and you are ready to add the finishing touches, such as dressage markers!

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