Spectacular, safe and year-round equine arena

A huge number of riding styles are practised around the world – anything from campdrafting, to learners’ pony club, elite dressage to Western. For the majority, shows and training are undertaken on an indoor or outdoor arena.
Within the Western style, exists a specific genre, Reining – the art of high-speed turns, spins and sliding stops. Watching a horse and its rider perform a routine as one, completing large fast circles, lead changes on the fly, spins performed on the size of a penny and ending with the final whirr of sand as the horse slides to a stop on command, is a breathtaking sight to behold.

Key points
  • Reining arena sized at 80 x 35m
  • Facility is designed to provide training and clinics for visiting trainers to teach riders the art of Reining.
  • Drainage for the arena has been planned to reclaim that water for storage in tanks
  • Features a kick rail, around the base of the wall for the safety of horses

Entegra Horse Arena

To achieve that level of skill requires a great deal of training and horsemanship, with many hours spent in the saddle. For any rider, the safety and wellbeing of the horse is paramount.
Most competitions for Western Reining, are held during winter, a time when an outdoor arena is likely to be pretty wet in the southern states of Australia. Given the nature of the sliding stops in particular, an arena surface needs to be a specific material and special care taken to protect the horses during training and competition.

With that in mind, Rita, owner of the Melbourne Equine Western Training Centre set out to build an arena that could be utilised year-round, without the influence of wet weather. The facility is designed to provide training and clinics for visiting trainers to teach riders the art of Reining. Other disciplines utilise the facility such as ranch riders and pony clubs. Clinics can range from half day sessions to four-day camps.

Typically, most indoor arenas are 60 x 20m, but with the speed and distances covered during competition, Reining needs more space, and the one built for Rita is 80 x 35m.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted the arena to be,” said Rita. “I’ve been to America a number of times and had a look at what they have built for Reining and incorporated many of those elements in ours.”

The design was provided by Entegra Signature Structures and constructed and fitted-out by Peninsula Equine Constructions based on Rita’s ideas. Entegra also provided a full suite of complementary services to support Rita with obtaining permits and gaining council approval, which can be problematic with an arena of this scale.

“I’m essentially a city girl, so engineering and building is not my area, and my husband is a carpenter, but not a horse person. We were fortunate that Entegra and Peninsula both had experience in the horse world and building arenas, making it easier to translate what I wanted into reality.”

The final design featured rafters for the roof line, stabling areas, an entrance portico, viewing platform, kitchenette and rainwater collection. The final look and feel of the facility will be timber and stonework with extensive gardens.

In most arenas, the roof would be supported by open web trusses, which effectively lower the height of the roof, but in this case, specially engineered rafters were constructed to give the arena a feeling of height – as Rita puts it, more like a stadium.

Greg Armsden, project manager with Entegra, said that the design of the rafter was more akin to a universal beam, giving it a stronger roofline.

“Given that it is a single span roofline, we took extra care to ensure that the materials used for the arena were approved by engineers and cut to Rita’s needs. This is a pretty spectacular build, and worth the extra little bit of attention to achieve the result Rita was looking for,” said Greg.

“Normally, the columns supporting the roofline would be above ground, and set in concrete with a steel footing cage (nut and thread protruding), but in this case, we opted to bury the column to remove the risk of injury that a conventional system would normally use.”

A further consideration for safety of the horses, is the kick rail, around the base of the wall designed by Peninsula Equine Constructions. Typically, it is made from a marine grade plywood, but to achieve the aesthetics, timber has been used to complement the roof lining, stone work and paint finish. The result is stunning.

The biggest challenge for the build, was actually the weather. With hindsight, Rita admits that starting the build just as winter started was probably not a good idea. Significant earthworks were required to prepare the site, which also needed to be hardened before heavy machinery could be brought in to construct the build.

The roofing material was cut to the maximum lengths possible – 16m in some instances, which meant that installation could only take place when there was not a breath of wind, otherwise the sheeting could end up in the next farm.

Winter in Victoria is pretty wet, and consequently a roof span of this size, has the potential to collect substantial amounts of water. Drainage for the arena has been planned to reclaim that water for storage in tanks which Rita plans to utilise for irrigation of the paddocks, and eventually run the whole facility on the stored rainwater.

“Rita was a terrific client and person to work with,” says Greg. “She understood from the beginning what she wanted, but was happy to work with us to express what changes she wanted as the build progressed and she was happy to jump in and help where she could to get things moving.”

“I went with Entegra after looking at a few companies that specialise in arenas, but in the end the quality and standards that Entegra had, and the word of mouth recommendations I received from others who I knew had gone with Entegra made the decision easy,” said Rita.

“We have had a number of trainers take clinics here now from overseas and Australia, and they are really impressed with the results we have achieved. Many have commented that is just like the arenas in America, which is what I was aiming for,

“Working with Greg at Entegra and Peninsula Equine Constructions was a real pleasure, they bent over backwards to help me get through the challenges and to achieve my dream.”

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