Building the Poor Woman’s riding arena


Mulched Arena 90 x 90

For years I’ve dealt with the lack of a riding arena by just riding in the pasture. The place where I board now also does not have a riding arena and when I just had Tristan and the pony-girls it wasn’t a problem.

Now with a potential riding horse something has to be done so I’m back to building a poor woman’s riding arena or at least a small squarish area that I can lunge and work Dante on level ground.tinycarrot

When I started boarding here three years+ ago, I had a paddock area built for the ponies, but I’ve recently expanded it to a rough 90 by 90 feet in size.

My optimal plan would be to have a 4 inch depth over the current hard packed ground with a cushioning material so I could lunge, do groundwork and in-hand work, with some basic riding at a walk and trot.

To figure out the amount of material I need:

1.) convert feet to yards (90′ x 90′) = 30 x 30 yards.

2.) Multiply 30 x 30 yards = 900 square yards

3.) With a desired 4 inch depth take 4 / 36 (inches in a yard) x 900 = 100 cubic yards is needed.

If you know how many cubic yards is in a truck load or the back of your pickup etc… you can figure out how many loads you will need.


The City of Tulsa has a free mulch program; they grind up tree waste brought in by residents and give what is produced away for free – which saves on landfill deposits.

We went to check it out and while it does have some cedar (which is an allergy/irritant to horses as is Black Walnut) there isn’t much – most of it is hardwoods, pine and some Bradford Pears. The texture was pretty good too but after filling up five muck buckets (I don’t have a pickup, but an SUV), it was apparent that making the many trips for the amount I would need would take forever.

We bumped into a landscape company while there and they agreed to bring us a dumpload for $150, which was still better than a landscape supply mulch quote of $120 for mulch and $130 for delivery! Realistically, I’ll probably need a total of 2-3 dumploads total to gain the 3-4 inch depth that I really want, but it’s a start and so far is spreading rather well!




Next, using Craigslist, I found a woodworking Carpenter shop within 10 miles of the barn which was giving away free bagged sawdust (again a waste product). By adding this finer material into the coarse mulch, I’ll have an even softer surface, without spending additional money for mulch.

Check out your local sawmills and wood shops via Craiglists or contact your state Forestry office for a list of who is close to you. Legwork and phone calling could save you a wallet of cash! Just be sure to avoid trees that horses would have issues with such as Maples, Cedar, and Black Walnut.


Years ago I bought $400+ worth of mulch (grindings) to put down for a small dressage arena (marked out using cinder blocks I painted white and PVC poles) and while it helped for a short time, it wasn’t near enough to give a deep enough bedding to the hard packed ground surface.

Companies that dispose of wooden pallets as their business, chips them up to produce a mulch-like material called “grindings.” We paid only for the delivery fee as this was considered a waste product.

This might be an option in your area but I did spend a lot of time cleaning it up and picking out chunks of wood that hadn’t been chipped up or garbage; you also run the risk of nails (just being honest here) though we did not have that problem. Depending on the pallet materials you can also run into problems like wood preservatives used on the pallets or the type of wood presents a danger to horses (i.e. Cedar, Maple, Black Walnut).

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