East-West Arena Construction Blog

Quickly fix drainage problems in the equestrian arena

Posted by East-West Arena Construction

Sep 5, 2014 1:57:18 PM

Poor water drainage is a major problem with equestrian arenas. Poor drainage leads to inconsistent footing which can cause injuries to horses. Poorly draining areas of the arena can also cause the horses to punch through the footing into the base and damage the base. Once the base is damaged, repairing the footing usually requires a very expensive complete re-do of the arena. 

Don't ride

One "quick fix" for poorly draining arenas is to simply not ride on them after it rains. This approach may work reasonably well in dry climates, but it is unlikely to be a usable approach in wetter areas. Another "quick fix" is to try to roll/compact the surface of the ring down before rainy weather in hopes it will help the water roll off the surface. Others report trying to rake or drag the surface footing in order to produce more of a slope in hopes it will help the water roll off. 


Caption: If drainage is a problem, GGT has a product that can be mixed into footing that absorbs impressive amounts of water. 


Install drains

Sometimes strategically installing French drains around the outside of the arena can help with drainage problems. A French drain at its simplest is a trench filled with gravel. If excess water is flowing down into the arena from surrounding areas installing French drains to re-direct the water away from the arena can be very helpful. Or if water that is draining out of the arena is finding nowhere to go- causing it to pool at one end of the arena- then installing a French drain to give the water an outlet can improve the drainage situation. 


Adding materials to the footing that absorb water might help with the problem. For example, GGT has a product that can be mixed into footing that absorbs impressive amounts of water. This product is intended to used as a dust-control agent, but it might help with drainage problems as well. 

Add to the base

One solution is to scrape off the current footing, lay down Geotextile cloth over the current base, and then put down several inches of crushed rock over that and compact it. The footing can then be re-applied over the top of the "new base." However, if a horse does punch through to the base with this arrangement there is the possibility of the hoof getting caught in the Geotextile cloth leading to a catastrophic tripping event. 

Cement it

Often drainage problems arise from the base not being properly compacted in the first place. When properly compacted the surface of the base should be as hard as concrete. Some people have tried to correct their drainage problems by pouring cement over the base. Others have tried to patch the bad spots in the base with cement patches. If the arena was properly graded and sloped in the first place fixing the base with cement may actually work- the water will flow off over the cement and out of the arena. However, if the grading went awry, you may end up with an even worse drainage problem after a cement fix. Besides, once you get to the point of cementing over your base you might as well admit you're not doing a "quick fix" any more and really need to spend the time and money correcting the real problem. 

The only real cure for poor drainage is to re-do the arena. Poor drainage is almost always caused by improper construction in the first place and can only be fixed by re-doing the construction properly. Most often, the base wasn't properly constructed or compacted in the first place. Sometimes the arena slope/grading wasn't done correctly. If you're struggling with a drainage problem we suggest contacting an expert in arena construction to evaluate the problem. 

If you need help in correcting your arena problems, or would like to build a new arena from scratch that won't have any drainage problems, don't hesitate to contact us.

Topics: Drainage