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Equestrian Surfaces Drainage


A Guide to Drainage for Indoor and Outdoor Arenas

Making sure you invest in the correct drainage system for your surface is a key aspect of arena construction that should be considered from the offset. Unfortunately, it’s an area that few riders will bear in mind; but, with over 35 years of experience in the industry, our team is on hand to provide all customers with advice and guidance on every aspect of their new arena construction, from site placement, access, and sub-base drainage through to surface selection, installation and maintenance. 


So, why is it important to invest in a quality sub-base for your indoor or outdoor riding arena? 

Having a sub-standard drainage system in place for your arena, or one which is not appropriate for your site, can lead to an array of problems affecting the safety of your surface, along with its composition and performance. Over time, this can ultimately reduce your surface’s expected lifespan, leading to the substantial costs of having to replace your surface sooner rather than later. 


Drainage solutions for indoor riding arenas 

With the indoor arena surface largely protected from the elements, the key role drainage plays for an indoor surface is to protect against shearing. Shearing occurs when areas of surface move from a dry side to a moist side of the arena, leading to corrugations in the surface which results in an unstable footing for horse and rider. 


Drainage systems in indoor arenas are largely responsible for ensuring moisture levels in the surface can be easily controlled and regulated. This means; 

  1. holding back any moisture or water that will naturally be in the ground, and preventing it from contaminating even the deepest layers of the surface; 
  2. allowing for any water that is added to the surface for irrigation purposes can be stored in order to prevent the surface from drying out too quickly; 
  3. enabling any excess moisture or water to drain away from the surface and into the earth. 


Drainage solutions for outdoor riding arenas

The key thing to remember when it comes to outdoor riding arenas is that they remain exposed to the elements throughout the year, and various weather conditions and fluctuating temperatures can impact the composition of the surface and, by extension, the way the surface performs. 

When considering the groundworks and drainage for your outdoor arena, it is important to invest in an appropriate, high-quality drainage system that will help to maximise the lifespan of your surface. 


A well-constructed drainage system will do two things: 

Firstly, it will help the surface to retain moisture in dry months and warm spells. This will reduce dust and keep the surface performing at its best, and is especially key with non-waxed surfaces, making maintenance a much easier task. 

Secondly, a quality sub-surface drainage system will allow water to drain away from the surface, preventing the arena from becoming waterlogged in the wetter months. By guiding excess moisture away from the surface, it will also prevent it from freezing in the winter, enabling you to ride safely on it year-round.  


Working with an experienced surface provider

Whilst it’s key to ensure you purchase and install a sub-surface that is permeable, it’s equally important to ensure that it’s stable, level and consistent. This is where working with an expert equestrian surface contractor, with decades of experience in the industry, will come in handy!  

Our team can be brought on board at the earliest stages of your project to assist with everything from planning through to construction, installation, and beyond! 


Equestrian Surfaces Top Tip:

When it comes to considering the positioning for your new outdoor arena, research has shown that aligning the long side of your arena with the north-south compass points is preferable in terms of weathering, however we recognise that this isn’t always possible. 

When working with Equestrian Surfaces, your team will be able to assess your site and provide expert guidance on the best placement and positioning for your arena, keeping in mind the access routes not just for you and/or your clients once the arena is complete, but also the access that will be required by HGVs to deliver the materials for the arena construction. Access to water points, and any overhead obstructions at the site, will also be core considerations. 


Our approach to surface sub-structures 

Our approach to the construction of surface sub-structures is three-fold. Once the site has been cleared, levelled and is ready for construction, we: 

  • Firstly install a base layer, which consists of a permeable mixture of stone and gravel. The main task of the base layer is to aid the movement of water away from the surface, whilst also providing a solid foundation which can support the layers above. 

There is no ‘one size suits all’ approach when it comes to constructing the ideal base layer. One of the key things our team has to consider when installing a base layer is the amount of weight the base will need to bear. Your base layer should be no less than 25cm thick once compacted. 

  • Next comes the grid, or membrane layer. This prevents the base layer from mixing with and contaminating the surface which is to be laid on top, whilst also allowing for water to drain away into the base layer. 
  • Finally, your surface is installed! Your surface needs to provide a consistent and stable footing, remaining elastic whilst being stable enough to provide excellent levels of grip, cushioning, shock absorption and energy return. Your surface should also provide optimal support for joints and tendons, thereby minimising the risk of injury. 

The surface layer will absorb water, which helps to maintain the elasticity of it, while grading and harrowing the surface will help to keep it light and open and allow any excess moisture to be drained away through the layer beneath. 


Our tips for keeping on top of things… 

Follow our top tips to ensure you’re getting the best out of your surface: 

  1. Be sure to check your drains on a regular basis to make sure there are no blockages. Blockages will prevent water from draining away from the surface and could lead to the surface becoming waterlogged, making it unsafe to ride on. 
  2. Carry out regular maintenance on your surface in accordance with it’s requirements. You can find out more about how to maintain indoor, outdoor, waxed and non-waxed surfaces here. 

Keeping on top of things will help to ensure the longevity of your surface, and will save you potentially costly reparation costs in the future. 


Ready to make a start on the plans for your new indoor or outdoor arena?

With over 35 years of experience in planning, constructing, installing and maintaining our world-class surfaces, there’s no better team to place your trust in! 

Contact our team today to get the ball rolling! 


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