Making the perfect horse arena takes knowledge, time, and understanding of local resources. Most arenas cannot be built from a plan or formula found on the internet or social media because almost every arena has its own set of challenges including budget constraints, drainage, climate, amount of usage, maintenance regiment, and most importantly, availability of quality arena material in your region.
Building a Horse Arena
Horse arena footing layers vary by equine sport and environment challenges. When you rely solely on a contractor to design your arena and select your horse arena footing materials, there may not be the equine knowledge that is needed to create the best footing for your indoor or outdoor arena.
There are many factors that can make your arena unique with its own set of challenges. Kiser Arena Specialists have been building and consulting on successful arenas for more than 30 years by helping establish reasonable budgets and expectations by talking with customers from every discipline, geographical area, and level of horsemanship every day to help them achieve their goals.
We wouldn’t be able to tell you how to build an arena unless we had built an arena, and we have built a lot of them from Reining, Cutting, Dressage, to Jumping. We specialize in natural materials, geotextile materials, and even Ebb and Flow arenas. We have managed the arena footing for the American Quarter Horse Association World Championships, National Reining Horse Association(NRHA) Futurity and NRHA Derby, National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity, NCHA Summer Spectacular, NCHA Super Stakes, Nationa Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Futurity, and NRCHA World Championships for over 20 years.
At last count, there has been over $100 million dollars in prize money awarded on the footing that we have selected and prepared for these associations. Our experience with managing competition footing has been invaluable in building private arenas.
Let’s start by defining a successful horse-riding arena. An indoor, covered, or outdoor horse arena that is safe, has the proper material for that discipline, is properly maintained, is weather resilient, has proper ventilation, proper drainage, easy access, good lighting, and is in locations that are a good training environment and/or exercise area.
Questions To Ask When Building A Horse Arena
The most successful arenas that we have seen began their story with the customer hiring knowledgeable, reliable people to assist with the project. It can often be challenging to determine who is knowledgeable about building arenas. Most dirt contractors will tell you that they have built arenas. The questions you have to answer are:
- Has this contractor built successful arenas by your standards of quality, or by budget?
- Was the arena successful by your standards, industry standards, or is the owner simply happy because they have a place to ride?
- Was the arena built for the same discipline as yours? Keep in mind, good jumping arena footing is a lot different than good cutting arena footing.
- How long has the arena lasted? It is definitely worth your time to locate, visit, and evaluate the contractors previous arena jobs. Remember, just because the contractor has built roads, parking lots, ponds, and possibly arenas does not mean that they have been successful projects. It is also possible that you have contractors in your area that could build a quality arena if they had the proper guidance from an arena consultant. On occasion we get to work with contractors that specialize in sports fields. Although they do not have the knowledge required to select arena footing, they typically understand how precise the work must be to succeed.
We have worked with contractors in 42 states and 10 countries. We have often been asked by our customers to help them select a contractor in their area to do the work. We select them by
- The type of equipment they have access to. They should use equipment that is set up with laser systems.
- Their attention to detail. Exact slope percentages and extremely tight tolerances are required to build arenas that are not as important when building a road or parking lot.
- Their willingness to follow our direction. In many cases, our experience can help find a more efficient way to accomplish the needed outcome.
We have seen contractors in our area that have built quite a few arenas that were considered by the customers to be unsuccessful. These customers selected the contractors service based on budget alone. These customers believed that they had built their arena and saved a lot of money until their horses started to require more attention from their veterinarians than normal and started to miss competing in events due to poor footing in their training arena. Other people found out that they could only use their arenas during optimal weather. The main reasons many arenas are not successful is the lack of knowledge of how to select footing materials and lack of knowledge of the footing requirements of different disciplines. We have other contractors in our area that claim to be arena builders just because they own horses. Being able to move dirt does not qualify someone to build an arena
Preparing To Build A Horse Arena
A successful arena, indoor or outdoor, begins with choosing the right location and then properly excavating and preparing the area where the arena footing material will be installed. A list of questions should be asked about this step that includes:
- Is the native material suitable for the foundation of the arena?
- Have all of the drainage issues from the arena and surrounding area been addressed?
- Is the arena in a location on the property that is safe?
- Is the arena in a location on the property that makes it a tool that increases the level of efficiency of the facility?
- Is the arena in a location to provide maximum atmosphere?
The Best Footing For A Horse Arena
Maybe the most critical phase of the process is the selection of the material. After searching for arena material in at least 42 states and 10 countries we understand how to identify the correct material and do it cost-efficiently. The important questions at this time are:
- Does this material work for my discipline?
- Is this material the most cost-efficient material to achieve the goals I have for my arena?
- How do I determine this material will be consistent throughout the delivery process?
- What is the life expectancy of this footing?
- For outdoor arenas - What should my expectations be for this material after a large rain?
Horse Arena Installation
The next step is the installation of the material. The questions that need to be answered are:
- Is the proper amount of material being used?
- Is this material being installed properly?
- Is the material being compacted properly?
- Is this material being installed at the proper slope?
- Is the footing containment system effective?
BENEFITS OF KISER ARENA SPECIALISTS ARENA CONSULTATION
Taking advantage of Kiser’s arena knowledge will assure you that the design and construction will be right the first time saving you from costly mistakes or worse, equine injuries caused by poor footing.
Other important information that can be provided by our consultation services is equipment and maintenance recommendations.
Some common questions that come up when building an arena include:
- Does it matter where the arena goes?
- What’s the best way to plan for drainage?
- Will my existing soil work?
- Why is a base so important and what kind of base material should I use?
- What kind of top footing will be best?
- Does footing depth matter?
- How do I know the material I am using is actually what I need?
- Will my general contractor know what to do?
Pictured above: Kiser consultants were contracted to design the fix and finished product after the contractor put this rock in place as a “reining arena base.” This is an example of a base that would not work and would be detrimental to the horses.
This is an unfortunate and all too common reality that is very costly to owners. Kiser Arena Specialists consultants understand that building an arena is an investment. A consultant will protect your investment by providing answers and solutions that fit your arena, so the arena is done right the first time.
Benefits of Working with a Consultant
Hiring a Kiser consultant will ensure the success of your arena and always put the safety of horse and rider first!
When you work with a Kiser Arena Specialists consultant, you can expect to:
- Get the design and execution right the first time
- Save money by getting the right advice
- Reduce injury occurrences caused by poor footing
- Work directly with footing, equipment, and arena experts
Schedule an onsite consultation or inquire about our offsite consulting services by contacting us today.
ALL CONSULTING WORK DONE ON AN HOURLY RATE BASIS, WE CAN EVEN HELP YOU BUILD YOUR ARENA BUDGET
The Gold Standard in Arena Consulting
This hands-on approach consists of a two-day visit to your property or facility to see it ourselves and gather all the important information to make your unique arena a success.
From overcoming land and climate challenges, including undesirable natural soil and heavy rain falls, to locating the best material options even in areas where suitable footing material is said not to exist. Kiser is known for having a tenacious knack for finding solutions to whatever challenge is presented. Kiser consultants draw on years of experience making footing better and creating custom footing to enhance the safety and quality for horses and riders.
Complete Peace of Mind
Whether riding is a livelihood or a hobby, your arena is an investment in your horses’ safety and your quality time in the saddle. Kiser Arena Consultants will custom-design the arena, pick the right materials by exploring options, testing for quality, and working with contractors and architects to ensure success at every level.
Footing Material Selection
Each material sample for footing is tested in the extensive Kiser Footing Lab located in Gainesville, TX. Kiser consultants exhaust every resource to find the best soil options in closest proximity. Finding material as locally as possible reduces the hauling cost substantially!
Kiser Footing Testing analyzes potential base and top footing material for compaction, percolation, shear strength, rebound, and cushion. Most importantly, the tests are conducted in relation to your subsurface material, size, and grade of your arena, as well as your budget.
Kiser Arena consultants provide written plans including arena dimensions, installation instructions, drainage diagrams, arena grade, and soil materials and depths for your local contractor. Having the work done locally saves money and supports the local community. Your consultant is available at any time throughout the project to provide guidance, answer questions, and overcome obstacles that may come up.
Certified “Kiser Arena”
An arena completed to Kiser Arena consultant specifications can be used, advertised, or referred to as a “Kiser Arena.” Some projects may benefit from having a consultant onsite during different stages of installation, in which case, additional visits can be arranged and a more in-depth certification process is available.
**Onsite consultations are limited and are scheduled on a first-come-first-serve basis.**
ALL CONSULTING WORK DONE ON AN HOURLY RATE BASIS, WE CAN EVEN HELP YOU BUILD YOUR ARENA BUDGET
Unfortunately, there is no “cookie cutter” way to build the perfect arena. A huge number of variables play into creating a riding surface that keeps your horses sound and performing at the top of their game. Factors like how many horses, how many hours a day, what disciplines, and what kind of sands, silts, and clays are available will all impact your unique arena.
Whether you are building a new arena or rehabilitating an existing arena, offsite Kiser Arena consulting can fill in the gaps. If onsite arena consultation simply isn’t in the budget, this is an economical option that can be customized to your needs.
Offsite consulting services include:
- Drainage and grading plan
- Base material selection
- Base installation instructions and material volume specifications
- Top footing selection
- Top footing installation instructions and volume specifications
- Current footing testing and recommendation for improvement
- Contractor communication and instruction
- Quarry communication
Material testing is performed as it pertains to material samples and types and results are provided based on your customized consultation services.
**Offsite consultations exclude outdoor reining arenas and availability may be limited.**
Your athletes and horses deserve an arena and footing that can be used in all weather and that suit their needs to a T. With Kiser, all that (and more) is possible. Contact us today to schedule an arena design consultation. We offer arena services throughout the U.S., Canada, South America, and more!
Kiser Arena Specialists (KAS) understands that every arena is unique and every job starts at a different stage in the process. The “Scope of Work” provided for this consulting package is simply an overview guideline of potential services we can provide.
List of Most Commonly Provided Services for Existing Arenas
- Existing Top Surface Analysis – Has your footing lost its cushion or feel?
- Existing Base Material Analysis - Do you have areas in your base material that have been compromised?
- Troubleshooting Arena Inconsistencies – Do you have areas in your arena that feel or ride different than other areas?
- Drainage Issue Analysis – Is it taking to long for your arena to become usable again after it rains or do you have erosion issues?
- Material Location Assistance - After 25 years of building arenas across the country, we have a lot of material resources in our database. If we don’t know where to source the material we can help you make the search a lot easier.
- Additional Material Selection – We understand how materials interact with each other and what the best combinations of materials are.
- Written Recommendations for Client or Contractor Use – Written recommendations are a valuable tool for our clients to make sure that the contractor is following our specific directions.
List of Most Commonly Provided Services for New Arena Construction
- Site Selection Assistance – The right site for your arena can save a lot of money in excavation and often eliminate unnecessary drainage problems.
- Drainage Plan Assistance - The correct drainage plan for your arena will make a big difference in the amount of time it is usable.
- Arena Footing Testing – We do some basic footing tests in our lab and if we need something more complicated we have a lab that we work closely with to understand more complicated issues.
- Quarry Communication – Many times trying to talk to someone at a quarry can be as confusing as calling tech support for your computer. We can help you with this part of the process. We talk with different quarries everyday.
- Material Selection – Material selection is probably the most important part of the arena building process. Our knowledge of materials and how to select the right onesyou’re your project gives you the assurance that your arena will be successful.
- Contractor Selection Assistance - We have built hundreds of successful arenas. We understand the equipment and processes involved. We can help guide you in selecting the right people to build your project.
- Arena Maintenance Instruction – From maintaining the arena footing at major events to our own arena, we can teach you how to get the maximum performance and longevity from you arena.
- Contractor Communication – Sometimes unforeseen issues arise in the construction of arenas. We have the experience to help your contractor work through the toughest of issues.
- Material Location Assistance – Quality arena material can be elusive in some areas. We have the experience to know who to ask and what to ask for.
- Written recommendations for Client or Contractor Use – This recommendations not only help you understand the process but also help you make sure the contractor is following our instructions to save you time and money.
Horse Arena Renovation
Do you have an arena that is washed out, impossible to maintain, or scattered with rocks? What about an arena that you can only use a few months of the year because it doesn't properly drain? Or an arena filled with the wrong footing for your discipline? Or are you looking to build an arena of your own but aren't sure where to begin? If any of these situations fit you or you are having arena problems of your own, Kiser Arena Specialists should be your first call.
A large number of customers come to us after they learned the hard way that there is much more than goes into building an arena than laying down some sand. Many times, they’ve had an arena built by someone who claimed to know the dynamics of building a horse arena – but arenas that are not built correctly at all levels significantly increase injury risk to horse and rider.
At Kiser Arena Specialists, you can trust that we will build an arena right from the moment construction begins and ensure safety to all who step into that arena once it is completed. Whether you start your arena with us from day one, or we renovate your arena after issues arise, we will pay attention to every detail and make sure the arena is built to last. We build every arena as if it were our own and we would trust our own horses to ride in it. Whether you need an entire renovation, a brand-new arena, or just new footing put in, we are here to help.
We will also make sure you are well-informed on the care and maintenance needs of your new or improved arena, and we’ll take every measure to make sure you have all the tools you need to tend to an arena and its footing. Our team of professionals can build or renovate both indoor and outdoor arenas and take everything into account, from size, discipline, and budget to location, weather history, and amount of use. Every aspect is considered, and every detail is cared for. We know that a good arena takes more than just dirt or sand: It takes a proper foundation, footing, and care.
As any horseman knows, rocks are the natural enemy of horses’ feet. Kiser Arena Specialists have equipment to remove all sizes of rock including those as small as 3/8 inch. If rocks are an issue in your arena, have peace of mind knowing that there is something that can be done about it!
Kiser Arena Specialists can customize an ongoing arena maintenance package to keep your arena performing like a top.
Benefits of our maintenance services include:
- Reduced risk of horse injuries
- Lower cost
- Expert advice
- Top-of-the-line equipment and laser technology
Services are scheduled only as needed and before extraordinary damage is done, making our services the perfect fit for high-performing training facilities!
TRUSTED BY INDUSTRY LEADERS
As an equine veterinarian, I know firsthand how vital the ground is to keeping a horse sound and free from injury. In an industry where its success comes largely from the strength behind a horse’s feet and its ability to move them, the surface on which these equestrian athletes perform must be precise and well-groomed. I consider Kiser Arena Development to be the “go-to” experts in arena footing. As equestrians we must be able to feel that we are putting our horses, and our investments, into a safe environment, and the footing in said environment is paramount to the training and showing of the equine athlete. Stepping into a Kiser arena, you can be confident that immaculate detail went into selecting the dirt below you. Not only does Kiser Arena Development know how to design, build, and outfit an arena, but they are the leading creators of the equipment needed to maintain these arenas. They understand that the job is not done when the arena is finished. Keeping an arena in the best condition requires vigilant maintenance and personalized care. With their creations of arena drags, watering systems, and dust control, the average consumer, along with the experienced horseman, can be confident that their arena is kept at Kiser quality. All too often people underestimate the importance of the arena and its footing, but it is far more intricate than just laying down dirt. Thankfully, the Kiser family understands the importance of arena surfaces, and the value of keeping your horse, and its rider, safe and able to perform to the best of its abilities.
— Glenn Blodgett, DVM
6666 Ranch, Horse Division Manager
AQHA Past President