Don't let your dream indoor riding arena become a nightmare because of a lack of knowledge or poor planning. There are many pitfalls you need to avoid so here are the Top Ten Tips on how to build an indoor arena that will save you heartache and help make your dream indoor arena a reality.
1.A Place for Everything
The location you choose for your arena will directly affect the price of site preparation. Select an area that is as level as possible to avoid extra costs for soil removal, rock excavation, and drainage issues. If your site needs to be built upon one side to make a level area, be certain the entire site is well compacted and allow time for the material to settle before building.
Now is the time to lay the foundation for the footing. Most contractors will recommend a gravel layer with stone dust compacted on top. This will then be ready for the installation of footing materials later on. I personally don't recommend installing the footing before construction as the heavy equipment may damage it.
Additionally, footing installed before construction is complete also provides a great place for errant nails to hide. Once the arena is complete, I recommend combing the entire arena with a metal detector to pick up any nails or other hazards.
Avoid placing the building next to tree lines as the compaction of the site for the arena may affect their growth and perhaps even result in the trees dying. Unhealthy trees quickly become a hazard during high winds as they may fall onto the building.
The length truly depends on your discipline. Ideally, the indoor riding arena design you build should be large enough to accommodate more than one horse and rider using it at the same time. Every dressage rider should expect they'll transcend the training level and want a full-size space.
For other disciplines, such a show jumping, the arena needs to be wide enough to facilitate turns between fences. If you expect to have auditors and other visitors allow space at the end or side of the arena as a ‘safe zone' for them to stand or sit. Also consider a viewing room, either one level or two.
Allow space for lighting fixtures in your equation for the height needed. The standard height is 18 feet. Height is also important for the use of equipment to both rake the footing and to access the building for repairs, lighting maintenance, and footing installation and (future) replacement.
Tall and wide doors, 16 feet high or better are a boon for bringing loaded hay wagons in out of the weather and providing adequate clearance for tractors and other equipment. Many professionals bring their horse trailers into the indoor to load up equipment or horses in a controlled environment.
3.Light and Airy
The more natural light your indoor riding arena design features the less you'll need to spend on the electric bill. Insider Tip: consult your local power company before you add your artificial lighting because of many offer grants and free advice on energy saving fixtures.
Semi-transparent light panels - sometimes referred to as ‘sidelights' – just under the eaves will maximize the sun's natural light to brighten the interior. The extra cost of this upgrade pays for itself in the long run by reducing your monthly electric bill and extending the life of your light fixtures. We recommend a 2'-3' foot tall section of these panels running along both sides of the building and suggest they be slightly opaque rather than clear as that hides the interior framing and creates a cleaner look from the outside.
4.Quality of Materials
All builders and construction companies are not equal and workmanship and quality of materials used will vary considerably. It is paramount that the steel structure and entire structural plans are professionally certified and designed by a licensed engineer, even if your local building office does not require any permits for agricultural buildings.
Note: as snow will slide off a metal roof and be deposited on the ground alongside the arena, this may require removal if your exterior space is limited.
The addition of an angled knee-wall or rider guard is a good idea to prevent horses from hitting the wall with their hooves. More importantly, it also protects the rider's knees from the impact on a pillar or wall. The material used should be sturdy as the wall will take some abuse over time. A knee-wall is also a useful way to improve the interior appearance of the building as it breaks up the sightline to the roof.
Aside from the huge doors to access the building with large equipment, be sure to include at least one regular-sized door for human access. If you plan to use your indoor for the public, one exit door will be required on each side of the building. Check with your Building Officer for local zoning requirements.
Access to the arena is also very important. Allow for visitor parking and lay in a driveway so that heavy equipment can access the site easily during construction and afterward for repairs, maintenance and deliveries.
Do not forget to include the cost of footing materials in your budget. Good footing is important for the soundness of the horse and for the safe use of the arena for turns in jumping and barrel racing. While sand and rubber-based footings are common, with sand is the cheapest option, there is a myriad of choices for footing with some being very pricey.
It is sometimes possible to save money by repurposing the footing from public venues that are replacing their materials. Expect to replace footing periodically. I don't know where it disappears to but it does!
6. Is it Permitted?
Before you get too far into planning this important project consult your local Building Officer to find out what permits and licenses are required. A good construction company will provide all the specs, plans or engineered drawings that are required and aid you in making any necessary adjustments before construction begins.
Code enforcement is an important part of building safety. Do not consider the expectations of your Town Building Officer an adverse requirement. The Zoning and Building Officers are there to protect you and your neighbors from poor building techniques.
7. Take Time to Plan
A big project such as an indoor arena takes careful consideration. Allow yourself plenty of time to research the details and design what you need. Our experience at YILI Steel Structure shows that an indoor arena project can easily take a year or more from start to finish.
Remember also the larger the structure the more expensive it will be. Not just to build, but to light, to install footing materials and to maintain. If you wish to add extras like stalls along one side, it is more cost-effective to add them now than later.
Most building materials, such as siding and roofing, come with a manufacturer's warranty against defect. A good building company will also offer a warranty on their workmanship in addition to references for previous jobs that are similar in nature.
An indoor arena is a major improvement to your property and a major expense so be prudent and do your due diligence before you designate the contractor, sign on the dotted line and hand over a deposit.
9. Finance Options
YILI Steel Structure can help with partial financing of the build through a 3rd party provider and this may expedite the process of obtaining financing. The application process is simple, safe and secure.
Do not forget to include insurance costs in your budget. The indoor arena will add value to your property and its replacement cost should be insured. Be sure to include appropriate liability coverage for your specific use of the building if outside of personal use.
At the end of the day, there's a lot of ground to cover and more details then you may have anticipated but this arena building guide should make the project feel a little less daunting and get you well on the way to building the horse arena of your dreams!