Tag Archives: horse arenas

Roping Arenas

For whatever the reason it seems there has been an influx of inquiries recently for arenas to practice roping in.

For those who are less familiar with roping, according to the sum of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, “Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer (typically a Corriente) and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the “header”, the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a “half head”. Once the steer is caught by one of the three legal head catches, the header must dally (wrap the rope around the rubber covered saddle horn) and use his horse to turn the steer to the left. The second is the “heeler”, who ropes the steer by its hind feet after the “header” has turned the steer, with a five-second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught. Team roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in professionally sanctioned competition, in both single-gender or mixed-gender teams.”

Back in the day, I built a roping arena for relatively famous roper Justin Skaar (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/03/pole-building-11/). Justin weighed the options of investment against return and went with an arena 70 feet in width by 160 feet long with an 18 foot eave height.

The recent inquiries I have seen have been in the 120 foot clearspan by 240 foot long range. These are some big buildings and can easily be accompanied by equally large price tags – well over a quarter of a million dollars by the time they are constructed!

Riding Arena InteriorGiven this rather significant investment, I was curious as to if ropers made enough money to be able to justify this sort of investment. Me being me, I did a little research and found –
You have to get there. A new truck and a trailer for your horses could set one back $120-150,000. Going to 75-100 rodeos per year will eat up $50,000 in fuel, repair and maintenance.
Entry fees, usually about $250 per rodeo ($18-25,000 a year). Feed for horse and rider on the road $4000 a month. Vet bills $5-12,000 a year).
If one is going to win, it takes a horse capable of winning – $50-100,000. While the initial cost of tack is around $7500, it will last, other than needing new boots every couple of months .

Other than your practice facility, it appears costs to get in and do it right will be $175-250,000 with annual expenses running somewhere around $80,000.
The costs add up — sometimes more quickly than the earnings.
“People are going to average probably $120,000 to $150,000 (annually) if they’re doing good,” calf roper Blair Burk of Hermiston, Ore., said. “If you’re just getting by, average is going to be somewhere around $40,000.”

That might not even be enough to cover fuel cost.

“A rodeo cowboy really needs a couple good sponsors to help out with their expenses, like the travel expenses, to make it,” Burk said. Corporate sponsors can bring in an additional $25,000 to $50,000 each year in return for things like advertising on the side of the trailer.

Doing the math, unless you plan upon being one of the very best ropers on the planet, it probably does not pay to invest in a 120 foot wide clearspan arena. Scale down expectations and go with a building more on the scale of what we built for Justin.

6 Things to Consider When Building a Covered Riding Arena

Hansen Pole Riding ArenaYou’ve been dreaming of adding a covered riding arena to your property. Maybe you teach riding lessons and need a better space to work with your students. Or maybe you just want somewhere you can ride when the weather’s less than ideal. Whatever the case, you’re itching to start building!

Choosing a horse arena kit from Hansen Pole Buildings is a cost-effective way to get the arena you’ve always dreamed of without a complicated installation process. The kit comes with detailed instructions, so it’s possible to construct the arena on your own and save on construction costs.

Of course, picking out a covered or indoor pole barn isn’t the only decision you’ll need to make before you begin working on your riding arena. Check out six more important factors to consider below.

Covered or Enclosed?

One of the first things you’ll need to figure out is whether you want a true indoor riding arena, or whether you just want a covered space to ride your horses. If you live in a warmer area, like Texas, an open pole building with a metal roof will likely be enough: you’ll have natural air circulation and protection from the sun. If you live somewhere with colder winters, like the Midwest, you’ll need an enclosed arena to be truly protected from the elements. If you go with an indoor riding arena, you’ll also need to install a ventilation system.


In order to keep you and your horses comfortable while you’re riding, you should consider adding insulation to your metal roof. Proper insulation can prevent your covered riding arena from becoming a freezer in the winter and an oven in the summer.


Since Hansen Pole Buildings offers custom pole barn kits, you can choose dimensions based on your planned uses for your indoor riding arena. If it’s just going to be you riding in the arena when the weather’s bad, a smaller space might do. If you teach group riding lessons, you’ll likely want a larger arena that can comfortably accommodate multiple horses and riders at the same time. If you and your horse do dressage, you’ll want to build a standard dressage arena so that you can practice your transitions and cueing.

Base and Footing

It’s not just what’s overhead that matters when it comes to building a covered riding arena. You’ll also need to consider the materials you’ll use for the arena base and footing. Horse Journals recommends an approximately four-inch base of compacted limestone screening over the top of a clay, sand, or aggregate fill. For your footing, you’ll likely want to choose a high-quality sand or sand mix. This will give your horse traction while also providing shock absorption.


You don’t want your brand new arena to be flooded, so you’ll need to choose a location that is higher than the surrounding area. You may also want to consider where the sun will be coming from at the time of day you’re most likely to ride.

Building Codes

Sure, it’s not the most fun part of adding a covered riding arena, but before you get started, you’ll need to check your local building codes to make sure you’re in compliance. For example, some areas will have snow or wind load requirements that you need to make sure you’re meeting. Some regions will also require you to get a building or land use permit.

Take the time to carefully plan for your pole building riding arena and you’ll end up with a comfortable space where you can ride your horses year round for many years to come.

Horse Barn Blues…in the Key of E

When it comes to barns, horse owners know exactly what they want. However what they want, and what will best meet the needs of the horses and the pocketbook, are often not the same.

In over three decades, I had literally thousands of requests for horse barns with living quarters incorporated. These pose a myriad of challenges – the mixed occupancies require fire separation between the living quarters and the barn, adding to both the cost and access points from one to the other. Throw in the mix… if vehicles are to be parked inside, and the challenges multiply. Before even starting down this route, a discussion with an insurance agent usually becomes the game changer.

In the end, in almost every case, having the living quarters and/or garage in another building is the best answer both for practicality and expense.

Many unique features are able to be incorporated into horse barns. Besides the obvious – the stalls, tack rooms, feed rooms, wash rooms, bathrooms, office spaces and much more can become part of the project.

Final designs often involve lots of serious back and forth discussions between clients and building designers with drawings and suggestions.

As horse barn designers, we walk a delicate line when working with horse owners. Horses are often like children to the owners, so there may be some passionate feelings in play. And horse owners, like anyone building a dream project, are going to have very definite ideas about what the final building should look like. However, there needs to be a balance between the horse owner’s passion and some hard realities — like costs and making sure the barn is safe and comfortable for the horses.

The good points and the challenges when working with horse owners are often the same thing. Every client is different. Sometimes the horse trainers become involved in the design. What are the probabilities of two people having the same concept? Slim.

While it is fun to work with the different personalities and the ideas they have, getting multiple people to agree on something can be a challenge.

My recommendation to horse owners is to visit other barns, especially barns which have been around for a few years. It gives the owners a chance to see what ideas work, what ideas probably won’t work, as well as how the barns perform. Also, I encourage the owners to visit existing barns in different kinds of weather. Seeing the need for good ventilation is better than me trying to explain the need for good ventilation to a client, for example.

Most of the horse owners we work with are women. Luckily, most women tend to be more detail oriented, which is a plus when evolving to final designs.

Luckily, one of the positive aspects to working with the horse owners who come to us are they appreciate pole building construction and the building aesthetics. Other options are concrete block or all steel. Concrete doesn’t give the design flexibility and it tends to hold moisture. Steel will start rusting. Wood provides better options.

Horse owners often come with ideas which we had never considered trying before. We’ve had the opportunity to learn what works and doesn’t work from thousands of clients over the past thirty plus years.

We first started to see horse owners asking for overhead doors for the ends of their building, instead of the more traditional sliding doors.  At first, we really balked at this and tried to talk clients out of them.  We voiced our fears of door damage by kicking horses, along with other issues.  However, over the past ten years, we’ve heard many times how easy it is to open an overhead door in the wintertime, and yes, they can open the overhead door partway to allow ventilation, just like opening a sliding door partway.  I certainly can’t argue against the opinion an overhead with an electric opener is much easier to open than trying to shove a heavy sliding door through the snow!

I appreciate the passion horse owners bring to the project. There is a real sense of joy at the end of the project when they know this is where their horses will live. For me, the best part is when I get pictures of their horses in the barn.

Many horse communities are deed restrictive and the subdivisions have rules on what the exteriors must look like. While it is one thing to develop an exterior which fits into the neighborhood, it is a whole other issue coming up with a plan which is right for the horses. This can be the biggest challenge when working with horse owners and a good building designer will always come down on the side of the horses, even if it means walking away from a project.

Ventilation issues appear to be the biggest obstacle between building designer and owner, particularly when the owner doesn’t see the need to provide proper ventilation for the barn. Sometimes the problem is a relatively new horse owner who thinks horses are like house-bound pets and the barn has to be built similarly to a home. As I’ve already pointed out, sometimes it’s easier for me to send these owners to long-standing horse facilities to see and hear from other owners about ventilation.

I’ve had clients who felt their horse barns needed to be insulated and kept at a warm temperature inside. In order to do so, the buildings wouldn’t have had adequate ventilation.

Designing a barn which mixes the owners ideas with what the owner is willing to pay can create its own challenges. It’s not unusual for the costs to be more than anticipated (in fact, almost always) which results in gentle encouragement to the owner to scale back their dreams.

While we appreciate the ideas the owners bring to us and we try to make them work, not all of these ideas will be feasible, either because of building costs or design logistics or (most importantly) for animal safety. My goal is always to design a building to fit all of the clients “needs” and in this case…I am talking about the horses!

The Perfect Indoor Riding Arena

I’ve designed probably a thousand indoor riding arenas in the past three decades. One thing I have never heard from a client is – my riding arena is just too big! As I have heard my lovely bride tell hundreds of people – the cost of building is having four corners, once you have them, you might as well place them as far apart as you can afford and have space.

If uncertain on what size riding arena is needed, do the “test before building” exercise. Mark off the dimensions of the arena – use cones, poles, round pen panels, bales, PVC pipe or even rope or a garden hose. Basically, just something to delineate the perimeter. Ride in the area for a week, which should give you a feel for if it is the right size. Always keep in mind the age and health of the horses that will be using the arena. Small circles are hard work on a horse’s legs and can lead to unsoundness.

I’ve seen people order 40’ x 60’ buildings for  their“riding arena”. In reality a building this size, is hardly enough to cover a hot walker. Keep in mind, a standard riding round pen has a 66 foot diameter.

In most cases, the length of the arena should be at least twice the width. This makes sizes such as 60’ x 120’, 70’ x 140’, 80’ x 160’ and 100’ x 200’ very popular. This ratio allows a horse to “get up to speed” on the straight, and yet still be able to make the turn at the end of the arena.

For formal dressage and practice riding dressage tests, one needs to know exactly where to do  transitions and cueing. For this level of precision, a standard sized dressage arena is needed. A small dressage arena is 66’ x 132’, so this gives an idea of where to start for flatwork riding. If planning on setting up jumps or doing speed events then an expansion of those measures is needed, perhaps to a large dressage riding arena size which is 66’ x 197’.

Arena sizes vary widely between disciplines. Working cows and reining typically requires the most room, an arena of 100’ x 200’ or longer. For calf roping 70’ x 240’ works, with a return chute. Most people who jump want a space at least 80 feet wide and 120 feet long, and prefer more space if possible.

For giving riding lessons or a professional doing a lot of showing, plan on 200 to 250 feet of length. Whatever the discipline, a horse requires about 60’ diameter to do balanced circles, so it really takes a minimum width of 70 to 75 feet to have some wall leeway on either side of a 60 foot circle.

When planning, consider most roof truss manufacturers prefer standard span dimensions, usually in increments of 10 feet. A standard small covered arena truss is 60’ wide. In most cases (other than higher snow loads), sets of trusses are usually and most affordably spaced 12 feet apart, creating standard covered arena lengths in 12 foot increments.

A commercial riding arena is best constructed bigger than you think you need. You may need to accommodate multiple disciplines or riding lessons simultaneously. A large arena also increases the number of potential buyers should you choose to sell sometime in the future. A large arena can always be partitioned off to create smaller spaces inside of it for lunging areas or dressage tests.

Once again, no matter how big you make it, sometime down the line I can pretty much guarantee you will come back to tell me…”I wish I had built it bigger”.