An indoor riding arena is a significant investment and not one to undertake lightly. The project takes a lot of planning, and you must decide on the design you want.
But first, decide if you need access to horse riding 365 days a year in all weathers, which you will if you’re a serious horserider, or run training and teaching courses. Let’s face it, riding in torrential rain, sleet, hail, or the scorching sun isn’t pleasant for riders, not to mention horses. So, the ideal solution is to invest in a “good-sized” covered riding arena with protection from diverse weather conditions.
But, what do we mean when we say a “good-sized arena”? Typically, a minimum standard indoor riding area is about 60ft x 120ft or 7,200sq.ft, with an arena height of at least 16ft. Other sizes are better for dressage and competitions, but we’ll consider those later. By the way, you can get assistance with choosing your arena and its price by contacting the sales team at Rex Metal Buildings, who will be happy to help.
5 Best Indoor Riding Arena Sizes To Consider
When designing a riding arena, it’s essential to incorporate a ClearSpan roof with no beams or poles in the riding arena. Wooden riding barns and similar structures don’t have the strength of metal supports, so they need excessive poles and roof members. Designers must also include specific dimensions for safety. So, consider several options for a successful riding experience when choosing the ideal size for your indoor arena design and its features.
According to horse riding experts, the minimum floor area necessary for different equestrian activities is as follows:
- Small riding arena – 60ft x 120ft or 7,200sq.ft.
- Larger riding arena – 80ft x 200ft or 16,000sq.ft.
- Dressage, small arena – 70ft x 130ft or 9,100sq.ft.
- Dressage, medium arena – 70ft x 200ft or 14,000sq.ft.
- Dressage, large arena – 100ft x 200ft or 20,000sq.ft.
- Driving – 130ft x 260ft or 33,800sq.ft.
- Competitions – 660ft x 660ft or 435,600sq.ft.
Another recommended dimension for an equestrian arena is a width of more than 60ft. Rex Metal Buildings can supply an arena with any width from 60ft to 300ft which is the maximum distance possible using ClearSpan’s TrussFrame technology. However, if you choose ClearSpan’s I-Beams, we can design an arena to any practical size.
Although the width of an arena using ClearSpan TrussFrames is limited to 300ft, the length can be whatever you prefer. And, of course, you can use I-Beams to have an area of any size. In practice, the only limiters are the lot size and your budget.
When a rider has mounted their horse, it’s essential to incorporate a ClearSpan roof with no beams or poles in the riding arena, as you need more headroom than a building with standard-size roof trusses. Rex Metal Buildings always use ClearSpan TrussFrames when designing their equestrian arenas. Generally, all interior heights should be at least 16ft measured from the ground to the apex of the truss. However, clearance for horse jumping needs at least another 2ft onto this measurement.
Every doorway should be a minimum of 15ft high to allow mounted horses to enter the arena comfortably. Usually, the doors must be at least 16ft wide to allow groups of riders to enter the stadium without spooking other horses. Also, this size gives enough room for carrying equipment to and from the arena.
Indoor Riding Arena Features
If you have an equestrian business offering riding or training facilities to your customers, you must look professional without costing more than the company can afford.
Every arena design differs and depends on your preferences, budget, arena dimensions, location, ground conditions, and weather load requirements such as wind, rain, snow, and ice. However, Rex Metal Buildings employ experienced designers that know what they’re doing and will help you design the ideal indoor riding arena for your circumstances.
The following list describes features that will help provide an affordable yet professional service.
Unless you insist on a heated arena, it’s best to use a fabric covering compared to solid metal cladding. Fabric coverings are more lightweight than rigid types providing fewer stress loads on the structure and foundations. Therefore, you can build the structure on temporary foundations like the Helical Anchoring System and traditional foundations such as concrete, piers, posts, blocks, and piles. With the dimensions of the arena needing vast amounts of cover, the fabric is much more affordable than a rigid cover.
The standard fabric is a translucent polyethylene material with a 20-year warranty. The fabric allows natural light to diffuse into the riding area and protects the arena from the ravages of extreme weather. The cover also has a rip-stop weave, protecting it from tearing, thus significantly extending its lifespan. And when the cover has reached the end of its life and needs replacing, it’s 100% recyclable.
For applications that need a more robust and durable fabric cover, ClearSpan recommends Armor Shield. It’s an architectural vinyl cover made from seven laminations to provide decades of life. It also has a 30-year warranty. Furthermore, you can use Armor Shield on temporary foundations just like the standard polyurethane.
The maximum span for a fabric-covered roof depends on the manufacturer. Most suppliers limit themselves to 200ft wide. In contrast, ClearSpan designs structures up to 300ft wide using its TrussFrame technology.
A dome or cupola placed on the roof allows weatherproof ventilation. Many indoor arenas have one or sometimes two of these, depending on the arena’s size.
If you have enclosed ends to the arena structure, you must have doors. Doors should be at least 16ft wide and 15ft high to allow mounted riders to enter and leave the arena quickly. And to enable moving equipment in and out of the structure. Of course, if you choose an open-ended design, you won’t need these.
Rider guards protect the horse’s hooves and rider’s knees and stirrups from touching the steel frame. Furthermore, they also give the arena a more finished and professional appearance.
Skylights are areas of clear plastic fitted in the roof, allowing more natural light into the riding arena.
Although fabric roof covers allow some natural light into the riding space, and even more if you have skylights, sometimes you need more. When this happens, you’ll wish you installed sidelights. They aren’t difficult to fit, and for a typical-sized arena, they aren’t expensive compared to skylights. Many customers decide to install side lights without using skylights, as they can be designed to be twice the size of a typical skylight.
This accessory helps to keep the roof insulated, minimizes condensation, and reduces noise.
Identifying An Ideal Location
Although the lot size might be big enough for your indoor riding arena, not all the ground space might be suitable. So, the first step is to decide on the ideal location for your project.
Before building the structure, you must make the area as level as possible across the lot. The easiest way to do this is to choose a place that’s already level. Therefore, you’ve minimized the amount of groundwork you have to do.
Site preparation and excavation are two tasks that need the skills of a civil engineer. You must provide stable, free-draining ground strong enough to take the pounding of thousands of hours of horse hooves without significant damage. And you can only do this with extensive calculations.
Although the arena must be as level as possible, try to have the land outside the walls slope away, diverting rain and standing water away from the walls. This also prevents flooding from surface water runoff from surrounding raised ground. If your property doesn’t lend itself to this simple groundwork, install land drainage and a channel enclosing the structure.
You will know if the area you’ve chosen has problems by inspecting it for puddles after heavy rain. If the puddles are there before construction begins, they will almost certainly be there afterward.
You can minimize these problems by elevating the proposed area using the correct civil engineering methods, industry-standard drainage materials, and installing land drains.
Another problem area is at the structure’s doorways and other areas of high traffic. Horses are heavy and will turn ground sodden with continual rain into a swamp. Therefore, get advice on how to construct a free-draining durable surface.
Generally, the best way to reduce problems with rainfall is to build a free-draining base to allow water to percolate under the foundations and into the surrounding ground. You can assume that 1 inch of rain will need 24 hours to filter through undisturbed soil before it’s safe to ride on it. So, it’s up to you to improve this drainage.
If you choose a large structure, expect to pay thousands of dollars to ensure the ground is safe. Typically, you should budget for the following costs:
- Land leveling – $1-$2/sq.ft.
- Land clearance – $1.50-$2/sq.ft.
- Tree removal – $400-$1,300/tree.
- Excavation – $50-$250/cu.yd.
So, before you get to the structure design stage, employ a civil engineer to determine the lot’s drainage and how to improve it while maintaining a solid and stable riding area.
To ensure the arena’s floor is safe, you must provide a suitable top surface for horses to run and jump on. Generally, a suitable surface will need a sub base such as gravel costing $0.50-$2/sq.ft. For a small dressage arena of 9,100sq.ft, this costs about $4,550-$18,200.
The best surface depends on the arena’s purpose and the quality of the sub-base. The following materials are the most popular. Once again, we show the price for an arena of 9,100sq.ft.
- Wood mulch – $0.50-$0.75/sq.ft. Total – $4,550-$6,825.
- Sand – $1-$2/sq.ft. Total – $9,100-$18,200.
- Rubber mulch or mats – $1.50-$4/sq.ft. Total – $13,650-$36,400.
- Synthetic mats – $0.50-$2/sq.ft. Total – $4,550-$18,200.
Riding Arena Building Tips
The first things to consider are your local town’s building codes. They’re all different and vary from town-to-town and state-to-state. But your riding arena will usually have to comply with local agricultural codes.
Building codes and restrictions
Some of the restrictions that might apply to your structure are as follows:
- How much land to devote to each horse.
- The minimum distance from the indoor arena to your property boundaries.
- Which offices do you have to notify? For example, conservation, zoning, building, board of health, etc.
Get in touch with someone local who has already built an indoor riding arena and ask for advice on the process and what difficulties they encountered.
We’ve already covered some geographical variables, but there are others.
- Where the sun rises and sets.
- What is the prevailing wind direction?
- Are there any low-lying and swampy areas?
- What direction does the land slope? Therefore, in which direction will surface water run?
- Approximately, what is the slope? Therefore, how much soil must you move to level the site.
Remember to leave enough room around the arena for parking cars, horse trailers, trailer turnaround, and horse turnout.
It’s a good idea to get a map of your property from the town hall so you can draw an approximate location and then transfer the measurements to the ground using flags or marker poles. This will give you an idea of the size of each area.
Choosing a trustworthy contractor who will do a professional job in the shortest possible time for a reasonable price is essential. So, contact a contractor specializing in this type of construction work and ask for a ballpark estimate.
Get advice from neighbors on the quality of contractors’ work and if possible, ask each one to do a small excavation job. You should then get an idea of their professionalism and skillset, how far they are from their estimate and how long the job took. But, perhaps, it’s more important to see the contractor’s character and whether you get along with each other.
Important: Building Permit Requirements
As we’ve already said, every town, city, and state have building codes that might vary. So it’s up to you to research and ask the local council offices what building and agricultural regulations apply to your project. Don’t forget that if you’re building stables, you must also comply with laws about housing animals, so you don’t get accused of cruelty.
Before beginning the project, you must notify your local building permit issuing office. Generally, you need professionally drawn plans with calculations approved by a qualified engineer. Furthermore, you must consider many factors in your application before you have a permit granted. The factors include the following:
- Environmental sensitivity of the property.
- Water management.
- Soil testing and borehole information.
- Access roads.
Where relevant, you also need a report written by a qualified professional.
After you’ve submitted the permit application, the approval might take up to three months before its granted. The most common problems that hold up permit approval include specific project requirements, zoning restrictions, environmental issues, and land drainage requirements.
Sometimes, the local authority might not require a permit if the riding arena is for personal use only and not part of a commercial venture. However, you might find that insurance companies won’t give you cover if the structure doesn’t comply with all legal restrictions and a qualified engineer hasn’t approved the design. Generally, building code approval is the best way to show compliance; usually, any insurance company will be happy with this.
Many private riding arenas don’t bother to comply with the health and safety of the riders and horses because they don’t need to follow the building codes. However, horses are expensive, so it makes sense to prioritize riders and their mounts at all times. So, ensure you hold adequate insurance for injury to people and animals if you don’t want to be the subject of a hefty lawsuit.