Buying and Building Arenas
At Live Water Properties our land and ranch brokers are well acquainted with the top attributes buyers seek in a ranch. Views, river access, wildlife, improvements and proximity to amenities often top the list. When one thinks of improvements, they usually envision beautiful mountain lodges, guest cabins and barns. One ranch improvement that may not come to mind is an arena. Having grown up with an arena in my back yard, I think an arena is a hidden gem waiting to create endless ranch memories.
I grew up in Wilson, Wyoming, ten minutes from the town of Jackson. Jackson Hole was not on the map in the same way it is today. When my parents built our house, my dad got his dream of having an arena. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how fortunate I was to grow up with an arena in my backyard. Not only was I blessed to be able to ride my horse and practice roping almost any time I wanted, but the arena went beyond a simple improvement. I’ve been coached by family and mentors in that arena, shared beers and laughter in that arena. I’ve learned hard work and discipline in that arena, but also to not take myself too seriously. It has allowed me to share an incredible amount of quality time with my dad, Pete Feuz, from my childhood to today, and I might not have had that otherwise.
Building an Arena
When looking at a ranch, an arena might look simply like a 140’ by 280’ box of sand that requires little work to build. It is more than that. An arena takes several weeks to months to build and needs to be well thought out. My dad is the founder and former owner of Feuz Excavation. He has built many arenas in Jackson Hole over the years. According to Feuz there are important considerations when designing and building an arena. One needs to consider how much site work will be needed to grade the site pad. The footing source/sand are also important considerations. Are there nearby sources or will the footing need to be imported? Local contractors will often have various sources.
Drainage is also extremely important in the design of an arena. A water source and groomer are also necessary for the upkeep of the arena once it’s built. There are different options for fencing an arena, and one needs to determine if one wants permanent fencing options such as metal pipe or continuous panel fencing. Wood fencing offers aesthetic appeal but will need to be replaced as it has a shorter lifespan in the Rockies, unless they are treated.
Choosing the Right Excavator/Contractor
When choosing an excavator to build an arena, it is important to work with someone who has experience in building arenas and with horses. If the excavator does not have horse experience, have them consult with someone who does. Different types of riders will have various needs that one should determine up front. As Feuz mentioned, English riders often want less sand and a harder surface than a roper or cutter might. From the levelling to footing to drainage, it is important to have an arena that is built correctly and not to “cut corners.”
More than Just an Arena
Today my parents still have that arena, and I’m fortunate to live a mile down the road. Things have changed quite a bit since I was a kid, but that arena still remains one of my favorite places on earth. In a way it remains a constant for me, roping with many of the same friends that have roped there since I was five years old. Now some of my friends bring their kids each night, making it a place that three generations have enjoyed. There is nothing like leaving work, heading home to saddle and hopping on my horse for an evening of practice with friends and family.
Don’t overlook an arena on a property. They can complement and round out the many other elements of a ranch or horse property. If building one, find the right contractor. Whenever Live Water Properties lists an equine property for sale, I enjoy looking at photos of the arena, especially knowing the work that goes into building an arena, maintaining one and keeping the ground good. While an arena can often be ranch improvement one breezes by, it is amazing how many memories a 140’ x 280’ box of sand creates.
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