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What Is The Best Way To Heat A Horse Riding Arena?


Across the country there are riding arenas that go unused in the winter. Horse owners may think heating a dusty, wet, cold environment is too difficult to heat. Cost and efficiency of the heating units is a concern, as they imagine the utility bill skyrocketing. Great Lakes Radiant has efficiently and effectively helped riding arena owners achieve a comfortable riding atmosphere during the cold months, even in chilly places like upstate New York!

Hot Air vs Radiant

Hot air is typically not the best way to heat a horse arena. Blowing air into an already dusty space will just make for a dirtier environment. Hot air rises to the ceiling requiring fans to get the heat down to the floor causing more air movement. Many riding arenas are uninsulated or have very little insulation so hot air will easily escape. Radiant heat that shines down from overhead is comfortable, efficient, and there is no additional air movement. 

The Riding Arena

For an insulated building, the first task is to determine how many BTUs are needed to achieve your desired temperature (for example 60 degrees). We can do this by using a heat loss calculator that is specific to radiant heat. Once the BTU calculation is complete, the next step is to size the heaters appropriately for length, BTUs, and quantity of heaters in the space. 

If your building is uninsulated then we bypass the heat loss calculation. Instead, we use a design theory called the “Coverage Method” (also referred to as “spot-heating”). In this case, it’s important to strategically place heaters over the riding areas. During the design process, we can tell you exactly where to expect the feeling of radiant heat, and where the cold spots will be.  Here is a common layout of radiant tube heaters in an uninsulated riding arena:

Design Considerations

There are two major concerns in riding arenas – the watering system and the dusty/dirty nature of the environment. Watering systems can be overhead, come up from the ground (like a sprinkler), or can be along the walls. In all cases we recommend an optional add-on feature to the heaters that will seal the system from allowing water or dust into the burner box. We recommend using fresh air from outside so the heating system isn’t sucking in moisture and dirt. Piping in fresh air using PVC or metal pipe will increase the life of the heater exponentially!

(Another benefit of this heating system is that it can be used to prevent your watering system from freezing!)

Strategic Use for Max Efficiency

Most riding arenas are used for only a fraction of the day. Our customers typically use a “pre-heat” method of turning on the heaters 30 minutes prior to hopping on the horse. Once the session is done, they’ll shut down the heaters. Some clients will keep the space at just above freezing temperature at all times and then utilize a 20 minute pre-heat. For those fortunate enough to have a newer arena with nice insulation, you can keep the space at 50 or 55 and bump it up prior to riding. We can also easily estimate fuel costs for an idea of how much it costs to run the heating system for a half hour or full hour. 


If you have a horse riding arena for business or pleasure, we’ll work alongside you to determine if heating your space is a good idea. Common questions include: dimensions of the space (LxWxH), watering technique, flooring material, insulation values (if any), utilities on site (electric/propane/natural gas), how you are using the space, and what you are trying to achieve. If you have an HVAC/Mechanical contractor you work with, we’ll speak directly with them to get on the same page. If you don’t have a trusted HVAC company, we may be able to help you find one. Most importantly, we consult for free. So give is a call or fill out or Project Details page today.