Wood chip arenas?

I am thinking of using wood chips on my arena as I can't afford sand and rubber chips - maybe in 10yrs time!, I have had several quotes from companies and they are all around £14000!:eek: But may have found somewhere that I can get wood chips from that would only cost me a few grand to buy and put down including a membrane - we had the arena dug out and fenced last year so just have to fill it!! I was wondering has anyone got or ridden on wood chips and what they thought of the going andhow easy is it to maintain. I am only wanting to break in youngsters - general scooling, nothing major and turn out during the winter.:)


New Member
Sep 25, 2002
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They do break down - in a school I used that saw hard use (about 8 hours/day) they were pretty trashed after around 2 years. Also worth bearing in mind that woodchip needs watering in the summer or it gets VERY dusty.

Was quite bouncy to fall off onto, though...


Here, there & everywhere
Nov 19, 2003
Cheshire, UK
We have a woodchip arena, had it nearly 3 years now, it was a DIY job from http://www.equestriandirectltd.co.uk/ which worked out sooo much cheaper than a sand paddock, which we had quotes between £12500 - £27000!!!

It hasn't broken down as quickly as we first thought, we will get it topped up this year but its not desperate. It does make a huge difference if there is bark included in the chip, ours is broken up pallets with a the metal removed (the machine that chews up the pallets has a huge magnet which picks up the nails, etc.) the bark breaks the wood down quicker and makes it slippery.

Ours doesn't get dusty at all, its never watered (except when it rains :) ) and its used regularly but not hammered.

Another thing we were told was that the wood chips fly everywhere when you canter or jump and that the chips get stuck in the horses feet / under shoes - we haven't experience either!

Definately worth considering.


New Member
Aug 21, 2005
There is a woodchip arena at the yard, but it odes get really dusty and needs watering which you need to take into account, YO didn't and now there is no water supply anywhere near the arena, so we ride in it as little as possible when it is very dry.
Apart from that it is still ok ish after about 10 years (does have a roof but no walls, just upto about 4ft high round the edge


New Member
Jan 27, 2004
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the local riding school has an indoor arena with a wood chip floor. When it belonged to the local RDA group, everytime they needed a top up I campaigned for them to use a sand/rubber mixture. I find the chipping to be really slippery, especially when new. The surface moves under the horses feet and can make them unstable. It is difficult to run on for the RDA helpers and I've seen quite a lot of horses fall when just schooling. The arenas at college were all sand/rubber mixes and the surface does not move beneath the horses' feet at all. In my three years there, I never saw one horse fall, regardless of how silly they were being.
Nov 2, 2004
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Problem with wood chip and membrane is that, unless it's really good quality stuff without bark(and hence the price) the bark rots and blocks up the membrane. Pretty soon you have a non-draining areana.


Well-Known Member
Jul 16, 2003
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i used to ride in a woodchip school at the last yard we were at. it was alright overall but there were some reoccuring issues ...

it got very deep in the middle

the track ended up quite 'tunnely' as the chips flattened a lot where the horses walked over them the most. this led to problems in the corners where the track was narrow and very trodden in. some horses fell over in these corners :rolleyes:

it got very soggy when it rained and took ages to dry out.

Nov 1, 2005
i found unless they are well looked after and are good quality they get water logged and very uneven and like said before they need watering as they get very dusty
Jan 7, 2005
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Black horse - what area are you in???

I have tonnes of woodchippings - we rented a field to a tree surgeon who used it to store woodchippings then buggered off and left it all there!

The dusty problem and channels you would also have in sand - believe me I know I have to flatten our school after every use * rolleyes!
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Active Member
Dec 6, 2005
North East
We have a smallish (20mx30m) indoor made up of wood chippings and hardly anyone goes because you normally come out black with countless dust on you :D, also sometimes the woodchippings can get wedged in between the frog and the bar but can easily be removed. If it as for an outdoor like others said she does get water logged sometimes, but if it was for an indoor and you could wet the surface you should be alright. :)
Thanks for the replies guys - you've all been really helpfull!:)
Atillathefun I'm in Cumbria near the Solway where are you?
The arena is an outdoor one - indoor I wish!! and is on a slight slope so drainage is pretty good and we have put a field drain down one side, I think I might give the chips a go as I can always use it as compost in a few years. Does anyone know of any other surface which doesn't cost an arm and a leg?!! Or something I could mix with chips that's decomposable, so I don't have a disposal prob. when I come to get rid of it in a few years time, that would help with the dust. Also what do you use to level chips, can you do it the same way you level sand? Sorry to keep asking questions but I don't know anyone with a chip arena!!:D


horse insane!
Jan 6, 2006
Brinkworth, wiltshire
there was a woodchip arena at our old yard and i found it Lurvely to ride on nice and bouncy lol i cant remeber there being a problem with dust but once a week he would go in and harrow over the top of it as the tracks could tunnel quite deep. i am not sure how to level it lol all i know is he harrowed or summin like that then rollered it :p


New Member
Apr 3, 2005
Personally I do not like woodchip. We had one and found that it bacame very slippery. You could look out for a second hand surface. You can sometimes get very good value.

We got our rubber from South Wales Rubber - very good value. About £1200 for 20 X 40


New Member
Jun 16, 2005
we have a nice deep (and I mean deep) sand school, just been redone about 12 months ago, needs levelling once a week or so but its perfect, ok sand a bit of a problem on windy days, but it don't freeze like the old wood chip school used to!


Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
Suffolk, UK
I have ridden on outdoor wood chip and found it slippery in the wet and dusty in the dry, even on a slope it just sucks up all the water and is very squelchy.
I would have thought you could get bog standard builders sand from a aggregate company (direct not through a builders merchant) for very little money, then as you can afford it get the really nice sand (the stuff that doesn't stain everything orange ;)) and top up with rubber too.

J x


& Harry!
Dec 24, 2003
Home Sweet Home! (Bucks)
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If you get woodchip thats designed to be used as an arena surface, apparently its nice to ride on. At the yard where I keep Lady there is a woodchip arena, but i dont think its specially treated for a surface as it can be quite slippy on top sometimes & there were big lumps when it was first put down - a few months down the line & its much better, although Lady does like to eat it when my back is turned :rolleyes: