Having a great new arena is a dream come true, and being able to use it at night is a bonus. But you need to put as much thought into lighting the arena as you did planning it. Michael Donovan from Equestrian Services LLC has some advice.
“The expensive part of lighting is the installation, so think carefully about your power,” Donovan says. “It’s likely that your house doesn’t have enough electricity to support arena lights, so either you’ll have to shut off all the lights in the house to prevent a blown fuse, or you’ll have to install a sub panel, which can be costly.” The electricity in the barn may not be enough either. A 200-amp panel is generally sufficient to support arena lighting. While you’re in the planning stage, have an electrician come out and look at your power sources. He will also be able to do an analysis of your arena to determine how much lighting is necessary.
“There is a certain amount of light that you’ll need for your arena,” Donovan says. “Different applications require different amounts of light. Much less light is needed for a parking lot than you would need for a tennis court. Riding arenas fall in between those two examples and are generally well lit with 15 foot candles. A foot-candle is the measure of a light’s intensity–the density of light that falls on a surface.”
Place the light poles symmetrically around the arena. The number of poles depends upon the size of the ring, but a minimum of four is a must. This is to avoid shadows, which can spook horses.
Donovan also says to put as many lights on each pole as possible. Choose metal halide lights because they put out the cleanest light, as opposed to the old-fashioned mercury or sodium vapor lights.
And finally, don’t allow your contractor to run conduit or wiring under your arena. If something goes wrong, you might have to dig up the arena to make repairs. This is a sure-fire way to ruin your arena. The base needs to be level throughout, and if one area is disturbed it will act as a sump and collect water. Always have the wiring in conduit and outside the arena.