Exterior and interior of of Craig and Camille Reesor’s Two C Ranch Horses almost-completed arena near Irvine, Alta. Photo courtesy Camille Reesor
Exterior and interior of of Craig and Camille Reesor’s Two C
Ranch Horses almost-completed arena near Irvine, Alta.
Photo courtesy Camille Reesor

Buying the perfect horse can be challenging; there are endless considerations to keep in mind depending on your needs, abilities and budget. But choosing the best possible riding arena for that horse can be an even more daunting task for the average person.

Defining the Purpose
“Building a riding arena is a major expense and something that most people only do once in a lifetime,” Ryan Smith from AFAB Industries, a Canadian construction company specializing in agricultural buildings, explains. “So the first thing I’ll ask people is what they’re planning to use their arena for. Someone who ropes will need a different arena height and length than someone who barrel races or starts colts. And if the arena will be used for the public there are a lot of extra considerations such as seating and parking.”

Studs or Posts?
Smith notes there are two types of arenas; post frame and stud frame. “Most riding arenas are post frame buildings, where the trusses (rafters) are set on heavy poles partially buried in the ground,” Smith says. “But some shops and arenas are stud frame buildings, where a concrete floor or concrete footings are used to support the trusses.”

Talk to A Contractor
Smith has been involved in the equine industry for years, and that experience allows him to offer customers extra advice. “The person that pays for the arena obviously gets to make all the decisions,” he says with a grin. “But your building contractor can be a great source of advice if they really know and understand horses. Plus I recommend people visit as many small arenas as they can, and see what they like and dislike about those setups.”

Size Matters
Arena size is an important consideration. There are endless options, but Smith recommends riding arenas be a minimum of 70 or 80 feet wide. “Many people build 60 foot wide arenas,” he says. “But personally I find it hard to lope a nice circle in an arena that size. And don’t forget; you can add length to your existing arena down the road, but it isn’t very easy to add extra width. So don’t build something too small for your needs, or you may end up disappointed.”

Future Needs
Phil McKay from Prairie Post Frame, another Canadian construction company, also has a few suggestions for potential arena builders. “Think ahead to the future,” he says. “Will your riding arena meet your needs five years down the road? Yes, we can easily add extra length to your arena, but it’s often cheaper to build it right the first time. And make sure you consider the size of walk-through doors, big doors and windows in the building. They keep making larger and larger machinery, and you’ll want to be able to get your tractor and harrows into your arena.”

You can read the whole article in the August/September 2013 issue of Canadian Cowboy Country magazine.

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