Ever wondered what is involved in building that dream arena?
Below is a personal recount from the construction of a high quality jumping arena.
“It was a job that every arena builder hopes for – a progressive jumping stable full of international standard riders and horses, who want the best arena possible.
The brief for this job was to build an international standard arena, with a surface as close is as possible in quality to the CSI 5* showjumping surfaces in Europe. It was essential have enough fall to allow rain to run off but to keep the arena as flat as possible. The arena needed to maximise available space without requiring a huge cut and fill and be large enough accomodate a course of 15 jumps.
A number of site meetings were held to discuss size, final levels, drainage, area surrounds, maintenance access, entrance for horses, irrigation and most importantly … surface.
It is essential to fully discuss all these points prior to rolling the wheels on the construction of the arena.
After plans were confirmed, we began the task of pulling the old arena apart. The first job was to push up all the sand into piles, load it up and relocate and re-use around the property.
The existing arena fence was removed along with an old (35yr old) very solid timber round yard at the south end of the arena, which had to be moved as the entrance was coming through that area. We kept all the posts and rails from this round yard as it was local Hawkesbury Ironbark – a very rare timber which we were able to re-use later in the construction.
Due to the size required for this arena, we dug 20 metres into the backyard of the property, transplanting hedging and a 10m ornamental pear tree in the process.
The excavation in the highest point was approximately 2.6m deep and the fill at the other end was approx 1.2m high.
The retaining wall was the next job undertaken, using sandstone blocks from a local quarry only 20 minutes away. These blocks were stacked on top of each other. Not an easy job as they weigh approximately 2.3 tonnes each! The sandstone blocks were 2.1 metres long and 500mm x 500mm wide, they stack very well and were approved by an engineer.
There was a lot of rock to hammer out, but that assured us of a solid base. The area was filled with 350mm of good hard crushed rock which was rolled in with generous amounts of water at 100mm deep layers compacting & watering the whole time. By the end of this process of trucks, excavators, bobcats, water carts and 16 tonne roller going up and down for a number of days chasing the water cart, the base was as hard as you could get it!
The next job was to dig drainage trenches across the arena base. The trenches were dug to the same depth and because they followed exactly the same level as the base, also with the 1.5% fall on them. Drainage trenches were dug every 8 metres across the arena at 45 degrees, the trenches were 450mm x 450mm with a length of Geofabric lining the trench. A length of Megaflo drainage pipe was placed on the Geofabric and the trench back filled with 20mm drainage gravel then the Geofabric folded back over the top of the trench and the trench compacted by a vibrating plate until the trenches were at the same level as the base.
These trenches help the arena surface drain, the arena surface is a very large area so a significant amount of water is on the surface in a large rain event. The stormwater drains down to the base then runs into the trenches that follow the exact same fall as the base. The trenches run across the 45 metre run from the long side to the other long side at 45 degrees picking up all the run off from the base, helping clear the arena of any surface water in a couple of hours.
After the drainage is completed, the sand is delivered and pushed up into equal piles of around 90 tonnes each. The GeoPro is put on top of the piles then mixed in by the excavator. Once the sand and GeoPro is thoroughly mixed it is then pushed out across the arena until all the sand and GeoPro mix is roughly the same level and there is a cover of approximately 125mm over the entire arena.
The surface is then laser levelled so that a very accurate 125mm of sand is spread over the base which is then watered in by a travelling irrigator. After the arena gets a soaking, it is rolled with a 6 tonne smooth drum roller. After the final roll the sand is again levelled and receives a final groom with an arena groomer with spring tynes and crumb roller.
The arena has an automatic irrigation system installed, the irrigating is done in the evening when any wind has calmed down so the irrigating is done evenly. It takes a few weeks to get to know the arena surface so the irrigating run times have to be adjusted to get the surface behaving to suit your requirements. The sprinklers are a pop up variety & made by Hunter. These sprinklers are run by a 12 station controller that is able to be programmed & manually started & stopped from anywhere in the world at any time via an app on your phone. This unit also has a rain sensor installed and is set to a required moisture amount so that if there is a rain event the sensor will automatically override the controller and stop the watering cycle .
The maintenance of your arena surface, the irrigation system, the drains around and across your arena and the surrounding areas have a huge influence on the performance and look of your arena.
Good luck with your arenas and I hope this article helps you with your arena construction decisions.”
To find out what it would take to build your dream arena – call Marty at GeoPro Footing on
0412 209 885 or email [email protected].