Equestrian Arena Guidelines for Riding Disciplines

    Equestrian Riding Arenas by Legacy Building Solutions
    November 22, 2023 | Equestrian Arenas

    Equestrians love riding for the sport and skill involved. An arena that offers pleasant, comfortable surroundings adds to the experience, but horse health and safety is paramount when it comes to arena design. Because each riding discipline has its own requirements, planning equestrian arenas takes careful consideration.

    What’s your vision?

    Your arena may be specific to one discipline, or you may need to accommodate multiple disciplines. Either way, the discipline(s) should determine how you approach arena design.

    How Big Should It Be?

    Well, that depends. You need room to train and compete, to accommodate the discipline’s riding patterns or variable course configurations. So size is about dimensions, not just total square footage. For example, an Olympic show jumping arena must be 262 feet by 388 feet, while an indoor polo field can be just 50 feet by 100 feet.

    This downloadable guide illustrates recommended arena sizes for common Western and English riding disciplines. However, other factors also affect desirable size:

    • How many horses and riders will use the arena at the same time?
    • Do you need a warm-up track around the arena’s exterior?
    • Will you host spectators?

    Size matters, but it is the arena’s surface that is most important. Surface qualities affect performance, and the right surface helps prevent leg injuries. For example, barrel racers and reining horses need a surface that allows safe sliding. For dressage, horses need a stable surface with good grip. Jumpers need a balanced surface that supports push-off but provides a soft landing. 

    Preparing the Proper Footing 

    Consider each of these factors as you design your arena.


    The arena surface must be flat, so choosing a site that is as naturally flat as possible can save significant excavation cost. Your arena should have convenient access to water, power, and ancillary facilities such as horse stalls and tack rooms. And perhaps parking, if you will host spectators.


    While flat is the ultimate goal, you can’t have muddy areas or water puddling on the arena surface. If natural drainage isn’t sufficient, site preparation will have to address this issue. The type of base you choose can also help improve drainage.


    This is the foundation that supports whatever footing material you choose, so it is crucial. A compacted base is most affordable, made from screenings or road base that have been wetted down and mechanically compacted. A free-draining base is made from crushed rock mixed with synthetic material that facilitates better drainage.

    Some owners add rubberized mats or install subsurface systems that can improve both drainage and dust control.


    This is where riding discipline comes into play. Arena sand, rubber, and geotextiles vary in their physical characteristics, cost, and availability. Sand differs geographically, but amendments can soften its texture as well as improve surface stability and increase moisture retention to reduce dust.

    Benefits of Cover

    You could ride in the open air, and for some disciplines this is common. However, covered equestrian arenas offer obvious benefits. Protecting horses, riders, and the arena surface from hot sun, rain, and snow makes your arena usable year-round and can increase the facility’s longevity and return on investment (ROI). With open sides, you can enjoy the outdoor view or enjoy a gentle breeze.

    However, partial walls or full enclosure can offer even greater protection from the elements. Consistently protecting against heat, rain, and snow keeps the all-important surface in the best possible condition. You can also consider adding seating for spectators and adjacent horse stalls, tack rooms, supply storage, restrooms, or even an office.

    Modern Fabric Buildings Pull It All Together Beautifully

    Today’s high-tech architectural fabric and structural improvements make tension fabric buildings an ideal choice for equestrian arenas. Clear-span design ensures all square footage is usable and easily accommodates high ceilings for jumping events. Fully enclosed arenas can include any number and size of windows and doors.

    Legacy Building Solutions’ ExxoTec™ tension fabric is strong and versatile enough to meet functional requirements for horse arenas, plus it offers comfort and ROI benefits, including:

    • Natural light with white ExxoTec™ fabric
    • Nonconductive thermal properties that help keep out heat and cold to maintain consistently comfortable indoor temperatures for horses and riders.
    • Passive ventilation that helps maintain indoor air quality.
    • Fabric that is tough, resilient, and quiet.

    Every Legacy fabric building is custom-designed yet fast to install, with little ongoing maintenance required.

    From Vision to Riding 

    Building an equestrian arena is a major financial investment. We can help transform your vision into a facility that will provide protection and enjoyment for humans and horses for years to come, helping you to achieve a strong ROI.


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