Hire a road builder to shape the existing footing to a 2-percent grade so water can run off. Then lay filter cloth, add a layer of rock (2-inches deep or less), level, and pack with a roller. (Water it as you pack.) Allow this foundation to sit for a few days to harden, then add a layer of sand about 2 inches deep. Install railroad ties around the perimeter to keep the footing in place. This process costs about $5,000. --Marilyn Ulicny, Roseburg, Ore.
Remove the top layer of ground, and grade your arena site so it drains properly. You can do this a couple of different ways--either by slanting or crowning the ground. (For details, see Horse & Rider, Horseman's Handbook, April 2003.) Install ground tile for better drainage. Also, build up the footing in proper layers so the bottom layers drain and support the top layers. The top layers need to be made from a material that's kind to your horse's joints, and provides some traction for training maneuvers. --Lynda Sappington, West Alexandria, Ohio
Build your arena on a 2-percent slope. Install gravel footing, putting big rocks toward the bottom and finer rocks toward the top. (The fine-rock layer shouldn't be more than 5 inches deep.) Install kick boards on the side of the rail or the finer rocks will trickle out with the water. Cut out one of the arena corners and put in a layer of big rocks along with a storm sewer. It holds up very well but requires occasional dragging. Always pick up manure, as well. --Name unavailable, via email
Grade your arena so its as level as possible, but still has a slight pitch on one side following the natural slope of the land. Spread limestone screenings to an initial thickness of 4-inches. Allow this to settle for about 6 months. During that time, use a spiked or chain harrow over the surface to keep the outside riding track from grooving. These materials drain quickly after a rainstorm--usually within 10 to 15 minutes. The screening will leave a white powder after it dries. However, after the limestone settles for several months, you can then apply torpedo sand over it for a more favorable surface. --Harry and Lyn Alban, via email
Use hog fuel (small, flexible, strips of bark peeled from logs before they're processed for lumber) as arena footing for wet and muddy ground. Use straw or shavings on ground that tends to freeze. --Diane Jackson, Alberta, Canada
Find a corporate entity that's tearing down a pole building, and offer to dismantle it yourself if you can keep the supplies. Re-erect it as an indoor arena. --Greg Gibson, Portland, Ore.
Refinance your property, and include the cost for an indoor arena. This may free up some capital so you can afford the payments. --Jeanne Dougal, via email
Rent out empty stalls on your property to finance your own indoor arena. To eliminate the extra care involved, have the horse owners care for their horses at your property. Then charge $100 per month for stall rent and use of your facilities. --Rosanne Nagelmakers, Loretto, Ontario, Canada
Board your show horse at a public stable during off-season months (typically, November to April), and keep your other horses at home.
--Sue Ann Peterson, Sherwood, Ore.
Check with a nearby fairgrounds. Local fairgrounds often open their indoor arenas to outside use. Some offer this service for free, while others charge an hourly, weekly, or monthly fee. --Gina Bryson, West Haven, Utah
Build a lean-to on the side of your barn to ward off rain. Check around for the best price on metal roofing, and try to do the labor yourself to save money.
--Kim Crowell, Seale, Ala.
Build a three-sided run-in shelter, and use the space it creates to work on things you don't need much space for. (Mine is about 20-by-40 feet.) For example, you can work on soft lateral flexion to each side, disengaging the hip, sidepass along the wall, turn on haunches and turn on forehand. Also, walk your horse up and down the driveway or around the pasture. Practice showmanship maneuvers, such as stopping on cue, turning on the haunches, etc. Too wet to do these things? Try some relationship training. Spend time just sitting quietly with your horse. Groom him without a schedule or goal. Give him a relaxing massage. (For details, see Horse & Rider, Horse Care, March and April 2003.) Sit beside him while you clean your tack. --Sue (last name unavailable), Northern Wisconsin
Hook up your trailer on high ground, and lead your horses to it when you need to trailer out. Also, inexpensive tin sealed with roofing tar and welded to posts over your arena space will provide a good cover. Tarps work well for sides. --Paul Walea, via email
Invest in The Equine Arena Handbook, by Robert Malmgren (published by Alpine Books; www.alpinepub.com). This book will help you develop what it calls "a user-friendly facility." Also, crumb-rubber footing made of recycled car tires and shoe soles works well for arenas. --Allison Zuger, Graham, Wash.
In the January 2003 issue of Horse & Rider, Editor-at-Large Sue M. Copeland bemoaned the muddy conditions in her home riding arena, and asked H&R readers for help. This article contains some of their responses. For additional tips, see Horse & Rider, This Horse Life, March 2003; and Mail Call and Horseman's Handbook, April 2003.