Smart & Safe Solutions for Renovating Your Worn-out Horse Arena

July 11, 2022 7 min read

Smart & Safe Solutions for Renovating Your Worn-out Horse Arena

You’ve gotten started on realizing your dream: you’ve built your very own horse arena, and have a handful of trusty steeds who are more than happy to enjoy it. However, like every endeavor as big as this one, you know that you’re still in the “rough start” stage. The arena isn’t quite what you’ve envisioned yet, but you’re finally ready to take the next steps forward.

Renovating a horse arena, however, isn’t something you can do all willy-nilly. There are tons of considerations you need to make before investing in new materials and equipment. By taking a smart and steady approach to your horse arena renovations, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and energy.

Horse grooming is an essential part of being a passionate equestrian. It is such a mundane routine that it sometimes comes off as a no-brainer part of the whole package, but there are horse owners out there who are merely scratching the surface when it comes to maintaining their four-legged pals. In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about horse grooming⁠—from the basics to the slightly complicated.

In this article, you’ll learn the basics of renovating your horse arena based on the following:

  • Location and condition
  • Foundation and drainage
  • Riding Track
  • Stables
  • Additional features
  • General maintenance

Keep in mind, though, that these tips are meant to be a starting-off point for your arena upgrades. Any changes you make depend heavily on your unique experiences, as well as those of your horses. Use the advice in this article to discover which direction you want to go, and then do some additional research from there.

Remember the golden rule to making any sort of upgrade for your horse arena: whatever you do, make sure it’s got your horses’ best interests at heart. At the end of the day, you’re upgrading the space to keep them safe, healthy, and happy.

Here’s how you can get started on making the right kinds of arena upgrades for you and your horses:

Location and Condition

The very first thing you need to do before renovating your horse arena is a thorough inventory of what’s changed in your location. This is usually understood to mean looking at the physical changes that your arena has gone through since it was built—what’s broken, what needs a touch-up, or what has grown a little deformed over the years.

What some owners tend to overlook, however, are the changes that happen outside the arena’s structure. Did the general temperature change? Has any of the soil eroded? Were there any revisions to building codes in your area? These are conditions that factor into the kind of upgrades you’ll need to make, as well as the kind of upgrades you can make in the first place.

A drop in the overall temperature, for example, might have your horses feeling uncomfortable in their current structure. If this is the case, you may want to look into upgrading your arena to an insulated steel-frame structure. The condition of the soil will determine if the structure you’re planning will stay stable, and any new building codes will let you know if there are any limits imposed to your design.

Sometimes, checking around your location might even render any upgrades unnecessary. If a Google search for “horse boarding near me” or “riding stables near me” leads you to a new state-of-the-art horse arena, you might find that paying them for horse boarding is a more financially sound decision.

Doing this first step might seem a little tedious, but it helps you plan ahead to make the actual upgrading process as smooth as possible.

A stable foundation serves as safe, steady ground for all your horses' maneuvers and drills.

Foundation and Drainage

Your horse’s health and safety depends heavily on the condition of your footing. It needs to be flat, stable, and intact in order to prevent injuries like sprains and cracked hooves. The quality of your arena’s foundation plays a major role in how well your footing protects your horse.

Over time, heavy activity in the horse arena can wear down your flooring and start to damage the foundation underneath. When this happens, no amount of footing repair can provide a long-term solution to the uneven surface a cracked foundation creates.

A proper drainage system can help slow down the wear and tear on your footing and prevent damage to the underlying foundation. Excessive moisture tends to break down the sand and additives that make up your footing, while water damage can erode your foundation. If you notice that your arena tends to flood, or if it takes more than a day for your footing to dry out completely, you might want to consider improving the drainage and irrigation systems. A new submersible pump and soaker hose, for example, could spell all the difference between a safe track and a risky one.

Riding Track

Keeping your riding track in good condition will help prevent horse injuries. A good place to start your renovation is deciding which materials to use for a new layer of footing. Different materials address different needs, and a proper mix will take into consideration how you ride. A dressage arena, for instance, will require a different set of footing ingredients from a racing arena, since the former has more risk of developing weak spots in footing.

Sand usually forms the base of your footing and can be mixed with wood to add some cushioning and moisture-absorbing properties. Rubber can also be mixed in to provide cushioning but shines best during cold winters, helping your footing to thaw by absorbing more sunlight.

Aside from determining the right mix for your footing, you’ll also want to make sure your track is clear of weeds and overgrown plants. These can make the soil less stable, increasing the risk of accidents while riding.

Stables

There are three primary concerns to look at when renovating the horse stables at your horse arena: size, cleanliness, and condition.

Horses need stables that are large enough to give them room to move about, which will prevent both health and behavioral issues. The standard dimensions for average-sized horse stalls are 12x12 feet, while larger breeds will need stables that measure 14x14 feet. If you plan on using these stables for longer-term horse boarding, you might want to consider upgrading to a larger 16x16 stable. Whichever size you get, make sure there’s also enough space to fit a feeding area for your horse hay.

You’ll also want to make sure that the stables are easy to clean, with flooring that prevents manure from mixing in and urine from forming into puddles. Poor stable hygiene can lead to serious health problems for your horse, so you’ll want a structure you can hose down without worry.

The last thing you’ll want to take a look at is whether or not you need to make some upgrades that preserve the condition of your stables. Some horses, for example, are prone to chewing on wooden fixtures, causing them to degrade over time. You can opt to change the material to something hardier, or you can wrap the trouble areas in chicken wire to protect them. Since you’re getting the wire anyway, you might also want to look into installing a chicken wire fence around your riding area.

The more hooves in the arena, the more often you may need to check on its condition.

Additional Features

You’ll also want to see if there are any quality-of-life upgrades you can make to your horse arena. Features like sleeping rooms, rest houses, and showers can be a welcome sight after a long day of horse training, while building a garden for the arena gives you a nice little pocket of peace inside the busy structure. You might also want to consider installing a horse grooming area so you can reward your steed for their hard work with a refreshing bath.

Search online for horse arenas you can use as pegs for your own. Borrow a few design ideas from the ones you really like, and find inspiration in the extra features your favorite equestrians have added to their structures.

General Maintenance

Any renovations and upgrades you make, however, won’t last as long without proper maintenance. Neglect is always more expensive in the long run.

It always helps to have a day-to-day maintenance checklist to keep your arena in top condition. Some of the items in this list should include:

  • Clean out the stables
  • Remove any organic matter (leaves, droppings, etc.) from your footing, as this can degrade the flooring itself
  • Water your footing as needed
  • Close any doors, windows, and roofs you’ve installed to protect it from the rain

Because the materials that make up your footing can separate into different layers, you’ll need to make sure you give the footing a good mix-up. Raking the surface around two to three times a week should do the trick. With average use, you’ll also need to replace the sand every five years, as it can actually get finer over time and create dust that might end up damaging your horse’s lungs.

You’ll also want to check your equipment regularly. Ironically, faulty maintenance tools can damage your surfaces over time; for instance, dirty tractor tires can contaminate your footing by introducing harmful bacteria into the mix.

Finally, make sure that your arena is well-stocked with all the essentials. You’ll want your riding warehouse to contain your equipment, horse treats, and grooming products, just so you can have them handy whenever you need them.

Ensuring that your arena is as risk-free as possible is one of your responsibilities as an equestrian.

Now that you know the basics to renovating and upgrading a horse arena, feel free to let your imagination run wild! As long as you keep in mind that these upgrades are being made to give your horses more fulfilling lives, you’ll discover dozens upon dozens of possibilities that help them avoid injuries while also having a ton of fun.

These upgrades, however, shouldn’t stop at the arena alone. If you really want to give your horse the best you can offer, you’ll also want to look into upgrading your riding equipment. Using the right saddle pads, boots, accessories, and bandages go a long way towards keeping your horse healthy. Check out our collection of products to see how you can get started on upgrading your gear.