I decided this is the year I will finish my riding arena. I do not enjoy having to ride on bare dirt and grass when I want to school my horses. Plus, rocks come out of the soil like weeds. How they emerge from the packed dirt, with no noticeable holes left, is a mystery to me. Perhaps they are being flown in and dropped like tiny bombs by the buzzards that like to hang out here.
When I first moved here, I searched the internet for advice on building my own riding arena. I found some, was confused by a lot, and slightly frustrated by a lack of personal accounts. People might have said they did it, but they described how they did it in a single paragraph, which left so many questions. I want to give a full story of what it takes to build an arena, all DIY.
When I first looked into this, the main thing I got from my research was that I needed a bobcat, and I needed to move a lot of dirt. I didn’t know how to operate a skid steer, but I went ahead and rented one anyway. I spent approximately 18 hours digging, and about 24 hours stuck in mud because I slid down a hill. Once I figured out how to (very easily) unstick it, my time with the skid steer was over. After that, I did about 50 hours of moving dirt with my little tractor. Using a skid steer is much more effective.
I got really sick of moving dirt, so eventually I declared the arena finished. We seeded the ground, and hoped for the best. I think this strategy was about 50% effective. I do have a flattish place to ride, but the ground is hard with it’s dry, or muddy when it’s wet, which drastically cuts back on my riding time. There is no fence around it, so I cut off one long side of the arena significantly, because my horses have no fear of trotting off into the oblivion. They think it’s amazingly fun to jump up and down the slope there.
So for all these reasons, it’s time to build a super serious arena.
Materials and Financials
The main reason for DIYing this, is definitely the cost. Last month I had a contractor come out and give me an estimate to finish the arena. He estimated 25k, and that did not include a fence around it. As much as I wanted to announce he’s hired and sign a check, there’s no way I can afford that. But when you break down the costs, it’s not an unreasonable cost for what he’s providing. The money I save will only be from the labor of doing it myself. Here is my breakdown of what I will need.
Stone Dust for the base: 180 tons at $37.99 a ton: $6,838.20
Skid Steer One Month Rental: $1370 + delivery cost +fuel
Railroad ties to keep in footing: Price seems to depend on if I can find free ones.
Geotextile Fabric: 3 rolls at $378.50: $1,135.50
Minimum total for materials: $9,343.70
The Negative Nancy
I think the benefits are obvious – a usable arena and a lower cost. But there’s always a downside. I will have to do the majority of the labor all by myself. Which, with a skid steer, isn’t that bad, but it’s still a consideration. I would only have the skid steer for one month, which puts me on a tight deadline. The majority of these materials must be ordered in advance, which means I have to trust that I can move all the dirt in a certain number of weeks, and be ready to accept the shipment of stone dust on a certain date. If the arena is not ready for stone dust, I’ll end up with a huge pile of stone dust in my yard, which will be time intensive to move. The geotextile fabric will have to be laid out before the stone dust gets here too, and I don’t even know how long it will take me to roll that out. AND I am positive the arena will be of lower quality than something a professional did, simply because I have limited experience with this.
It’s tempting just to tell the contractor to do it.
I want to do this in June. I will be checking into the logistics of making this a possibility and then I will update on when it’s going to happen.
Has anyone else built their own arena? Or perhaps tackled an extensive construction project?