How To Build A Riding Arena in 10 Easy Steps (Experts Guide)

Are you eager to know how to build a riding arena and unsure where to start? I got you covered!

Building a riding arena at home can seem overwhelming –

The process involves selecting the perfect site, determining the arena’s size, leveling the ground, and setting up the base layers – and that’s just the start!

As an experienced builder (and proud horse parent), I’ve compiled the best tips and many years of research, trial, and error so you can finally build your riding arena in 10 simple steps.

Keep reading to discover how to build your riding arena DIY-style in no time!

Key Takeaways

  • Site selection is crucial: Choose a flat, well-drained location with ample sunlight and wind exposure. Consider dust management solutions during the planning stage.
  • Building a solid base is essential: Establish a stable sub-base with compacted soil and add a layer of compacted aggregates for a firm platform. 
  • Regular maintenance is key: Maintain the arena by raking the surface, checking for uneven spots, and ensuring proper drainage.

Ready to get started? Dive into the next section to learn how to build your riding arena for good!

How to Build a Riding Arena (in 10 Easy Steps)

Just as with racing surfaces, there are criteria for competition arenas that must be met to ensure optimal footing.

Writes Mick Peterson, Ph.D., the present director of the University of Kentucky (UK) Ag Equine Programs [1].

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn! – From selecting the perfect location to setting up the base layers and managing dust, I’ll reveal it all in 10 easy steps! 

equestrian riding a horse in the arena

Step 1: Site Selection

Scout the ideal location for your DIY riding arena, ensuring it’s flat, easily accessible, well-drained, and exposed to sunlight and wind.

Pro tip: If dust is an issue, consider dust management solutions, including suitable materials like wood chips or a water sprinkler system, during your planning stage.

Step 2: Size it Up

Next, decide on the size of your arena. You might want a standard 20m x 60m arena if you’re into dressage. For casual riding, a smaller size might do the trick.

Step 3: Level the Ground

Time to get your hands dirty! Grab your bulldozer or bobcat and level the ground. This step might take time and effort, but a level arena is crucial for a safe riding experience.

Hey there, for a bit of fun-filled learning, don’t forget to check out “Types of Horse Bedding” – you’ll pick up a bunch of cool insights!

Layer it Up: Building the Base of Your Arena

Step 4: Establish the Sub-Base

Heidi Zorn, a footing expert and President of Premier Equestrian, highlights that the base often gets overlooked. “

Riders focus on the footing itself—the sand or a blend of sand and synthetic fibers—and overlook what’s underneath. When a base is improperly installed or omitted altogether, it fails. [2]”

Building a robust sub-base is essential to your DIY riding arena, providing stability and facilitating drainage for subsequent layers.

Start by building the sub-base, the unsung hero of your arena. A layer of compacted soil should do the job. It helps with drainage and provides the necessary stability for the next layers.

Step 5: Lay Down the Base

Now, it’s time for the base, the firm platform for your riding surface. A layer of compacted aggregates, like limestone or gravel, should be your go-to choice.

Step 6: Install the Riding Surface

The riding surface, the show’s star, needs a careful selection. Choose a material that offers grip and cushioning, like sand, wood chips, or rubber.

This is where you and your horse will be dancing the tango!

Step 7: Erect the Fencing

Next, erect a sturdy and safe fence around your arena. It should be high enough to deter your horse from jumping over it. Safety first, always!

Step 8: Light it Up

If you plan to ride after sundown, install outdoor, weatherproof lights that illuminate your arena evenly. Let there be light!

Step 9: Build the Stable

Consider building a comfortable stable adjacent to your arena. After a long day of riding, your horse will surely appreciate it!

Step 10: Regular Maintenance

Congrats on building your arena! But remember, the job isn’t done.

Regular maintenance of your DIY riding arena is key, including raking the surface, checking for uneven spots, and ensuring proper drainage.

As Heidi Zorn suggests,

Planning for and building an arena is only the beginning. Regular maintenance is important for extending the longevity of the footing.

It’s also important to remember that additional footing will likely need to be added over time. [2]”

Here’s a table summarizing the steps to build your riding arena:

1Site Selection: Scout a flat, accessible, well-drained location exposed to sunlight and wind. Consider dust management solutions.
2Size it Up: Determine the size of the arena based on your needs, such as dressage or casual riding.
3Level the Ground: Use the machinery to level the ground for a safe riding experience.
4Establish the Sub-Base: Build a robust sub-base using compacted soil for stability and drainage.
5Lay Down the Base: Create a firm platform using compacted aggregates like limestone or gravel.
6Install the Riding Surface: Choose a material that offers grip and cushioning, such as sand, wood chips, or rubber.
7Erect the Fencing: Install a sturdy and safe fence around the arena, ensuring it is high enough to deter jumping attempts.
8Light it Up: Install outdoor, weatherproof lights for riding during low-light conditions or in the evening.
9Build the Stable: Consider constructing a comfortable stable adjacent to the arena for your horse’s convenience.
10Regular Maintenance: Perform tasks like surface raking, checking for uneven spots, and ensuring proper drainage. Add footing over time.

To boost your knowledge, check out this video about tips, tricks, and routines for building the perfect arena…

Factors to Consider When Building a Riding Arena

Building a riding arena is a significant investment of both time and money, so it’s crucial to get it right.

Before diving into your DIY riding arena project, consider several factors to ensure your arena meets your needs and can endure the elements and regular use over time

1. Material Selection

Choosing the right type of materials is crucial in creating an arena that can withstand various weather conditions and is suitable for your specific riding style.

Understanding the soil type, especially the clay soil or surrounding subsoil, is one of the primary factors when choosing a site for your horse facilities.

Avoid low-lying areas where water supply can become a problem due to potential flooding.

Just as understanding soil types and drainage is critical for creating a perfect horse facility, choosing the right foundation is essential for smaller pets.

For instance, selecting the best cage liners for guinea pigs ensures a comfortable and clean environment for your little companions.

2. Drainage

An effective drainage system in a DIY horse riding arena prevents water accumulation and maintains the integrity of the riding surface.

An often overlooked but critical aspect is drainage. Poor drainage can turn your arena into a mud pit after heavy rain, making it unusable.

The ground should have a firm base before applying a layer of sand to the arena floor.

Coarse sands are often recommended for the sand surface, but this can depend on regional variations and rider preference.

Non-woven geotextiles can separate the solid base from the soft surface. This can prevent the intermingling of the base and footing layers

3. Orientation

The orientation of your DIY riding arena should also be planned to provide the best conditions for riding.

More specifically, this will affect your arena and the amount of sun and wind exposure it gets.

In fact, the long side of the arena should face north-south to minimize sun glare during riding.

4. Budget

While a DIY riding arena is a significant investment, it can be more cost-effective with a strategic eye and impeccable budgeting, considering all possible costs and not just the initial outlay.

Sourcing a metal building kit appears affordable, but remember to account for additional costs like construction process fees, building codes, and potential modifications.

5. Size and Purpose

The size and purpose of your DIY riding arena should be per the type of riding and training activities you’ll be performing.

Doing this will streamline your design process… As a rule, if you plan to use it for dressage, you’ll need a larger arena than riding for pleasure.

6. Local Regulations

Before starting construction, check all the local regulations and determine which permits you need.

Knowing this, check with local authorities or consult a land-use attorney to ensure compliance with local regulations and obtain necessary permits before construction.

As you know, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

7. Maintenance

Researchers Kemper et al., experts in animal hygiene, animal welfare, and farm animal behavior, emphasize the importance of air quality in closed-riding arenas [3].

They suggest that “bacterial loads can increase significantly during riding programs, and their impact on the health of riders and horses should be of special interest in future studies. [3]”

This is just one factor that can contribute to a medley of problems – especially regarding sloppy maintenance!

To avoid this disruption, consider the maintenance your arena will require. Regular upkeep is crucial to keep it in good condition, so ensure you’re prepared for the commitment.

Incorporating these expert insights and research findings into your arena-building project will ensure your arena is built on a solid foundation – one telling of intellect and experience.

Next up: Common questions about DIY riding arena construction and provided answers to help your project run smoothly.

FAQs: Your Burning Questions Answered

1. How much will I need to pay to build an arena?

Size, materials, and geographical location are certainly considered to be the “prime” factors…
Always budget for a bit more than your estimated cost to account for unexpected expenses.

2. Can I build a riding arena on a slope?

equestrian riding a horse in the outdoor arena

While it’s possible, it’s not ideal. Leveling a sloped area could significantly increase your costs and construction time. A flat area is always the best choice.

3. What is the best surface for a riding arena?

The best surface depends on your specific needs and, certainly, on your riding you plan. However, a mix of sand and rubber often provides a good balance of grip and cushioning.

4. Is a permit needed to build a riding arena?

Most likely, yes. Always speak with your local authorities to see if the legal requirements in your area apply to you.

5. How often should a riding arena be maintained?

Regular maintenance is crucial. Ideally, the surface should be raked after every riding session. Monthly checks for uneven spots and drainage issues are also recommended.

6. Does building a riding arena take a long time?

Building a riding arena is a considerable task. It may take weeks (or sometimes months), depending on the size and complexity.

Conclusion: Saddle Up for Success

Building a horse riding arena is not just about choosing the right location or adhering to the budget.

It involves considering numerous factors such as the soil type, drainage system, the construction process, materials, and the overall design.

Remember, a well-planned and constructed horse riding arena ensures not only a safe and enjoyable space for your horses but also a lasting equine facility.

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of riding in an arena you built with two hands.

So embrace the challenge, and take one gallop closer to becoming the equestrian architect you always wanted to be.

horse riding arena


1. Regis M. Surface Testing, Part Two: Evaluating Arena Footing | Equine Programs [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 27]. Available from:

2. Release P. Premier Equestrian Develops Revolutionary New Arena Footing Groomer [Internet]. The Horse. 2017 [cited 2023 May 27]. Available from:

3. Lühe T, Volkmann N, Probst J, Dreyer-Rendelsmann C, Schulz J, Kemper N. Bacterial Burden in the Air of Indoor Riding Arenas. Agriculture [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 May 27];12:2111. Available from:

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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