Indoor Riding Arenas-Risk or Reward?

Picture this scene. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies,
shirt sleeve riding conditions, clippety clop, clippety
clop, not a problem in the world for horse or rider.
All of us have ridden on perfect weather days and
there is no better scene for enjoying horses.

The problem is that in most parts of the world, there
aren’t enough of those perfect weather days.

Weather and a busy professional horseman are often
in conflict with each other. Scorching sun, bitter
cold, rain, snow, mud and fierce winds can severely
limit the number of days to make money with horses
with training, riding lessons or attracting customers
to your boarding facility.

A day lost due to bad weather is lost money for the
professional horseman. That window of time to
generate income for your professional services is
gone forever. Sure, you can “make it up" another
day, but that means you lose a day off or you have
to work long hours the following days to recover the

The solution for those horsemen who are always
fighting the weather is to build an indoor riding arena
for bad weather and early morning and after dark
work. I can hear some readers thinking, yes but,
GASP, I can’t afford it!

My answer to that comment is a question. Is it
possible that you can’t afford not to have
an indoor arena?

I am the first to admit that every personal financial
situation is different, but for the sake of simplicity
let’s consider the following example:

You have $5000 to put toward construction of an
indoor riding arena with not too many frills
other than a roof, four walls and proper footing and

You borrow conventionally, or creatively, $75,000 at
6.5% interest to be repaid monthly over 15 years.
The monthly payment is $653 per month.

Let’s ignore additional real estate tax, insurance,
utilities and maintenance expenses because they will
vary by location; please don’t forget to include these
expenses in your personal calculations in making your
investment decisions.

Now, calculate how much horse training and riding
lesson income you lose annually due to bad weather
and not being able to work before light or after dark.
How does that loss on a monthly basis compare with
all of the costs of having an indoor arena? You may
be surprised with the results. Could the lost revenue
due to weather pay for the indoor arena?

I talked with Pete Rohring, owner of Parco Building
Systems over coffee last week. (click here for
) He’s been building
barns and arenas for over
25 years and had some tips and considerations for
building indoor arenas.

  • Find out if your builder carries builders risk
    insurance coverage for the structure during the
    construction process. Wind damage to partially
    complete structures is the most common culprit for
    building damages. If the builder doesn’t offer it, look
    into getting your own coverage.
  • Door openings large enough to drive a
    hay wagon through are important for ventilation and
    getting things that need to stay dry out of the
    weather in a hurry.
  • A 36” wide service door is handy for
    to move in and out without disturbing riders and
    horses by opening large doors. A four foot wide
    sliding door for walking horses in and out and saves
    large door
    opening time, too.
  • A ¾” plywood liner built on a taper to
    protect riders legs and steel walls is a nice touch
  • A roof vent on the ridge helps keep air
    moving and minimize condensation. Consider roof
    insulation for condensation control and noise
    reduction during heavy rainfall.
  • Natural light provided through skylight
    roof panels is nice but consider the potential for
    leaks and shadows and sunspots on the arena
    footing from skylights. Eave light panels in sidewalls
    are efficient and lower maintenance.
  • Overhangs (minimum 16”) create shadow
    lines on the exterior for architectural appeal and also
    keep snow and rain away from the building
  • Don’t forget ice guards for northern
  • Good lighting is important. Talk to
    experts in lighting commercial buildings.
  • Base Footing should be well-compacted
    and surface footing selected for dust control.

Put that pencil and calculator to work some
evening and do indoor work on how you might
be able to do more “indoor work.”