Most horse-owners would love to have their very own riding arena at home. In fact, most horse-owners would love to have an indoor arena, an outdoor arena, and access to miles of trails from home without having to trailer out. Alas, reality rarely manages to provide all of these features at once.
The horse-owner thinking about putting in a home arena often wonders how small can you go and still get some effective riding in. One major consideration about arena size is what sport(s) you practice. If you want to jump a course of jumps, you'll need a much larger space than if you want to engage in pole bending. However, assuming you're just looking to create a space to do basic at-home practice in, and are severely limited by budgetary and size constraints, a standard dressage arena is perhaps the most versatile small riding space.
Standard Dressage Arena
The standard small dressage arena measures 20x40 meters and is large enough to practice most of the basic riding maneuvers used by practically all horse sports- circles, straight lines, transitions. You can even set up a single barrel, or a jump, in a space of this size.
However, keep in mind that the 20x40 meter measurement is the interior measurement of the space. In actual practice, all useable small dressage arenas need to have at least an additional meter, preferable more, added to each measurement around the periphery to allow the horse to freely move right up to the edge of the space without feeling cramped by walls or fences.
In an actual dressage competition, the horse is walked and trotted around the outside of the arena space so there should be sufficient space around the 20x40 arena to freely ride a horse between any exterior walls or fencing. The "fencing" around the actual 20x40 space should consist of at most only token ankle-high markers that any horse can easily step over.
An outdoor small dressage arena placed in an open area can simply be cut into a field or other setting. However, even with such simple construction with plenty of open space around the actual arena area, it's best add a bit of extra space onto the 20x40 measurements. If the arena footing abruptly ends exactly at 20 meters, and the horse is being ridden right up to the edge (as it should be), the horse can easily accidentally trip over the edge of the arena and cause a nasty accident.
Therefore, the absolutely smallest useable size for an outdoor arena set in an open area is 21x41 meters, and for an indoor arena with walls or fences, 23x43 meters. Many home-owners find that the costs of adding a few extra meters onto these measurements is insignificant when considering the overall costs of construction. Bigger is always better, of course.
If you're thinking about building a small home arena, contact us for an evaluation of your setting and an estimate.