interior of horse riding arena with perfectly smooth riding surface

How to Light a Horse Arena Safely & Effectively

When designing the ideal equestrian arena, don’t let lighting be an afterthought. While elements like the arena layout and riding surface tend to be top of mind in the early planning phases, leaving lighting discussions until later — when time and budget can be tight — can lead to issues with the safety and comfort of riders and horses alike.

Proper horse arena lighting creates the best environment for high-level riding to take place. Whether you’re building an indoor or outdoor equestrian arena, here are some considerations for lighting it safely and effectively.

Lighting for Indoor Horse Arenas

Precise lighting is required to achieve appropriate safety and comfort levels in indoor riding arenas. In fact, they require more lighting than outdoor horse arenas to maintain safety and competition standards. The requirements for footcandle (light brightness) levels depend on the type of event and level of competition occurring in the arena. Indoor footcandle requirements can range from levels of 18.5 for dressage training to 65 for top-level show jumping competitions. Providing enough brightness ensures a safe, high-level equestrian environment.

Light fixtures in indoor horse arenas tend to be attached to roof supports (as opposed to poles in outdoor arenas). With the most common height for indoor horse arenas being 16′, lights hanging at a height of 15′ 6″ should provide adequate clearance for riders.

The number of lights needed inside a horse arena depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • The type of riding that will take place there
  • Size of the arena
  • Power and cabling access

For an outstanding energy-saving, eco-friendly lighting solution, B&D Builders often relies on Kalwall systems. Not only do these products remove shadows and glare, but they also reduce the amount of electricity needed to illuminate large spaces. Kalwall systems are a game changer for equestrian facilities by providing evenly distributed light waves throughout the entire interior space and improving the visual comfort of horses and riders alike.

Lighting for Outdoor Horse Arenas

To provide the best lighting for an outdoor horse arena, it’s important to consider a variety of factors. Choosing the right type of lights, ensuring proper placement, and determining the best height and symmetrical positioning for the poles are all vital. The number of poles will vary depending on the size of the riding arena, but there should be at least four poles to reduce shadows, which can often spook your horses. In terms of pole height, generally, higher poles provide an advantage with less glare, fewer lights, and less installation cost.

Proper lighting is necessary for both horse and rider to distinguish the finer points of dressage and the details of jumps. Average footcandle levels vary for outdoor arenas depending on the type and level of event. For example, it’s recommended to have a footcandle level of just over 9 for dressage training and 46 for top-level show jumping competitions in an outdoor arena. For better control, choose LED lights so the targeted areas will be lit up, and the light won’t spill into surrounding locations.

Benefits of LED Lighting in Horse Riding Arenas

Speaking of LEDs, one thing indoor and outdoor arenas have in common is that they both benefit from this type of lighting. LED lighting provides several advantages over traditional options:

  • LED lights don’t flicker or buzz, which can spook horses.
  • They don’t use as much power. (In fact, they use 1/3 less electricity than traditional lights.)
  • They require minimal maintenance.
  • LED lights instantly turn on and don’t need to warm up first.
  • They are brighter, reduce glare, and have controllable light spread for uniform lighting.

Horse Arena Lighting

Let’s look at a couple examples. This indoor riding arena in Maryland features oversized “garage doors” that open up to allow natural light and fresh air to fill the space on sunny days. Otherwise, uniform lighting fixtures provide ample light on cloudy days and during nighttime riding.

Four Winds Farm’s open-air horse arena in Wellington, Florida, also makes use of natural light by having access to sunshine on beautiful days. Both venues boast ample lighting to ensure an enjoyable riding experience night and day.

Equestrian Expertise, in Lighting & Beyond

Regardless of the type of equestrian arena, adequate lighting is vital to an exceptional riding experience. To build a world-class horse arena that ensures the safety of horses and riders, minimizes operational and maintenance costs, and provides an unmatched riding environment, it’s essential to have a plan for proper lighting in place before breaking ground.

B&D is a skilled team of builders that understands the value and importance of precision and high-quality custom construction. We ensure your riding arena not only meets the necessary safety and riding standards but also provides you and your horses with an outstanding equestrian experience. To start planning and designing your indoor or outdoor arena, contact us today. We look forward to partnering with you.