Create Your Own Wood Chip Riding Arena

If you want to build a riding arena on your land that you can use all year round, why not consider constructing one yourself, using wood chips?  There are plenty of suppliers offering wood chips for sale so it's a surfacing material that is readily available in most areas.  It's also a much cheaper option than waxed sand or specially treated rubber shreds.

Here's how to do it.

What you'll need

  • wood chips
  • membrane (from good gardening or DIY stores)
  • building sand
  • compacted hardcore material (available from building suppliers)
  • tape measure
  • tree stakes (available from DIY or garden stores)
  • string
  • digger (hired from a tool hire shop)

How to do it

  1. Start by deciding how big you want your riding arena to be.  A standard dressage arena measures 40m x 20m and will be adequate for basic schooling and exercising.  When measuring up, allow a metre or so each side to allow room for fencing.  
  2. Choose a site that is reasonably flat and preferably elevated to help with drainage.  
  3. Use tree stakes to mark the corners of your arena and measure out a perfect rectangle.  Put more tree stakes along the short and long sides until the whole thing is marked out.  You can use stringing drawn behind the stakes if you want to to make a clear line.  
  4. Your next job is to dig out all the topsoil over the rectangle that you have marked out, together with half a metre or so underneath it.  If you're not confident in using a digger, it's worth hiring a contractor to carry out this part of the project for you.   
  5. Now lay down a layer of building sand about half a metre thick, taking care to fill in any holes, so that the end result is a level surface; you can use a long range laser level to double check this.  
  6. Take your membrane and lay it over the sand so that it completely overlaps the edges of the arena.  This will prevent weeds from growing through.  
  7. Now cover the membrane with a shallow layer of compacted hardcore to hold it in place.  
  8. When the membrane is in place, lay a further layer of sand over the top of it to a depth of about 10cm.  
  9. Your final task is to cover the whole surface with a layer of wood chips.  This layer should be around half a metre deep to give good cushioning for the horses' joints and to prevent disturbance of the membrane and sand beneath.

In conclusion

You can utilise wood chips to create a hardwearing and attractive riding surface for your new arena.  Just follow the guidelines above and say goodbye to riding on rock-hard summer ground or winter quagmires!