I spend a lot of time in my arena. Sometimes it’s on my horse and other times it’s on a tractor. Truth is, the arena is my sanctuary. I take pride in the fact that I have nice ground and a nice setup. But, I assure you, it didn’t start out that way. There was a time when I thought that I would never have a proper arena.
Like most people, I didn’t buy my property with an arena setup already in place. I had to plan it out and build it. The spot where I needed to build had to be cleared of trees and brush and my ground is pretty much solid clay. It wasn’t an easy task, but I learned a lot along the way. Here are some tips to help you build your arena.
- Decide how big you want your arena. This is a key factor when you start construction as you want to make sure that you have plenty of room. Most roping arenas are anywhere from 150×200 to 200×300. Also, keep in mind that you will need room for your catch pen, lead up, and any other holding pens that you would like to incorporate. It is always better to have too much room rather than not enough.
- Find a spot. Pick a spot on your property where you want to place your arena. I recommend finding a spot that is level to begin with. If you have a spot in mind that doesn’t have a lot of trees, brush or rocks, that is also a huge bonus. Clearing and leveling land can be a tedious process…trust me!
- Have a plan. So, you have an idea of how big you want your arena and you have found a good spot to put it. Now you have to decide how you want it. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What time of day do you rope most often? If you typically rope in the evenings, you most likely do not want your boxes facing the setting sun…kinda hard to rope steers when you can’t see them. How hot is it where you live? This ties in to the last question. If you live in South Texas or Arizona, you may be spending a lot of time roping after the sun goes down. If that’s the case, you will want to have lights available. Again, you can’t rope steers that you can’t see! You may also want to plan on having some shade available, whether it is man-made shade or natural. How much rainfall do you typically receive annually? If you live in an area that typically gets a lot of rain, you are going to want to have good drainage on your arena. There is nothing worse than having to wait days or weeks for your arena to dry out after a big rain. If you get a lot of rain, plan on having a slight slope to your arena towards one of the corners away from the boxes.
- Soil. You may be one of those lucky ones that has nice, sandy soil on your property. However, if you are like me, your soil needs a little help. You want to have a higher percentage of sand. If your ground has a lot of clay in it, your footing will hold moisture and could be slippery or sticky. If that is the case, you will need to haul in a good sand and blend it. You also want to make sure that you don’t have rocks or sticks as these could lame a horse and ain’t nobody got time for that!
- Setup. Team roping is something that a lot of us do for fun. So we want our setup to make things easy, not difficult. Make sure you plan your gates, catch pen, boxes, and chute so that everything has a nice, smooth flow and you can focus on your practice rather than the things that you should have done differently.
- Maintenance. Once your arena is built, you may think that your job is done. I am here to tell you that your work is NEVER done. If you have had added sand to your soil, you will need to add more over time as it will wash out and blend. You will also need to work your pen regularly. Watering, dragging, and floating are all important factors in arena maintenance. Watering will keep the dust down, dragging will keep the ground soft and provide the best footing, and floating will help the water wash over the top of your arena rather than soaking in. You will also most likely be picking out rocks for the rest of your life!
Building your dream arena can be so rewarding. There is nothing better than coming home from a long day of work and unwinding by chasing a few steers. Hopefully, these tips will help you to build an arena that will be your sanctuary for years to come!
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