FEI dressage rider, coach and former judge, Roger Fitzhardinge, emphasises the importance of careful planning if you have aspirations of building a covered or indoor arena. He says the first thing to consider is position; take heed of prevailing winds and consider closing in certain sides, and ensure there is adequate drainage. Ventilation, particularly in Australia, is also crucial: “It’s really important that there is ventilation because in summer if you’ve got an indoor that’s fairly closed in, it gets stinking hot!” warns Roger.
With nearly three decades in the shed-building industry, the team at ABC Sheds have built numerous covered arenas for clients. Director Jonny Hornsey explains that while many clients choose to have some sides closed in to protect from prevailing weather, the vast majority of structures they’ve built have at least two open sides, ensuring they are well ventilated.
“With such vast extremes in our climate across Australia, we recommend clients spend a little bit of time thinking about the prevailing winds and how to maximise the breeze when needed,” says Jonny. “Spending the time in the planning stage can make a world of difference when using the arena!”
Soo Woods, of equine therapy provider Eureka Horse Wisdom, built a covered arena with ABC Sheds on her NSW Southern Highlands property. Initially designed as a shelter for her herd, it features two closed in sides for protection and two open sides for easy access and ventilation. Over time, the structure has become increasingly used as an arena, allowing her to run sessions with clients regardless of the weather.
Roger notes that additional details to consider include easy access, both for horse and rider (ideally a gate that can be easily opened on horseback) and also for a tractor and harrow. And then there are the kickboards, which Roger notes are a bit of a personal preference. “I don’t like to have kickboards that go straight up because you run your knee into it. You need them to come up from the ground to give the horses a line to ride, and then from about half a metre upwards they should be set at a sloping angle so your knee doesn’t hit the wall!”
There is another important aspect to consider when it comes to planning the position and structure of a covered or indoor arena, and that’s the vision. And no, that’s not that idealistic image you conjure up in your mind — it’s quite literally the vision you see from the back of your horse while riding!