For this article about team roping arenas, we decided that you should hear from those who build the roping arenas themselves. First, Gary Neie, a custom barn and roping arena builder for many of the elite of the team roping industry, takes us through some of his client’s barns and shows us how the details make all the difference. We also got tips from commercial roping arena manufacturers, Amos Arena Supply, Southwest Equine and Priefert. The folks at Safe-T-Lighting also pitched in to shed some light on a topic too often overlooked: correct arena lighting. These comments are intended to give you inspiration, ideas and a plan of attack when you build your arena.
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Tips from Gary Neie Custom Welding
Gary Neie started his roping arena expertise working with the USTRC. For about three years in the early days of the organization, Neie traveled to ropings year-round as the foreman of the set-up crew and a general catch-all person for the facilities and set-up process. “I really got an understanding of what worked and what didn’t work as far as arenas, cattle and roping in general from that experience,” said Neie.
From the USTRC, Neie began building smaller horse barns and pipe fencing. His contacts in the team roping industry helped break him into the business. Over the years it evolved into bigger and better things, ultimately working for 18 months to develop Denny Gentry’s new place. Through Gentry, Neie met many others in the roping business and has begun barns and arenas for them.
“Every time that I build one, I keep all these little experiences in the back of my head,” said Neie. “The ones that were no good I get rid of, but the ones that work I keep at the front and use them over and over again.”
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Neie is a stickler for quality and has developed the reputation of a worker who will tear things down if it’s not just right.
“The thing that has kept me working for upper-end type people is the quality and the finish of the work. If it won’t work for me it won’t work for them.”
Neie states that covering the boxes this way is very unique. People are beginning to use this feature not only for the shade, but to control the moisture in the boxes. In a moderate rain, the rest of the arena might be perfect for roping, but the moisture has puddled in the dug-out boxes. The covered boxes prevent that and give a horse and rider a nice place to sit and reflect between runs.
This unique feature, located just behind the roping box, is a way to keep horses nearby that you aren’t using without tying them up to a fence. You simply load the horses into the ‘stall’ as if it was a trailer. There’s no need to tie them, they face the action, are out of the way, yet nearby, and ready to go when you are.”These are absolutely wonderful,” says Neie. “I will never build another arena without putting an elevated stripping chute in it.” Steer butt bars work easy, not too heavy, yet strong enough to last.
If a roper uses dogs to help load cattle, it’s important to give them an opportunity to nip at the steer’s heels. A solid lead up alley prevents dogs from having the chance to help. Horses are social animals, so Neie builds their stalls tall enough that they won’t lean on the wall, but short enough that they can see what’s going on outside their stall-which he says gives them comfort. Neie also custom builds the feeders in the stalls and ensures that every edge is smooth.
He also ensures that horses can’t get their heads through rails and makes the stalls sometimes twice as large as a normal stall all in order to prevent injuries.
Over the years, customers have requested things that Neie has incorporated into all the barns he builds. The pictured hose reel is a perfect example. Neie goes the extra mile to hide things like hose reels, hydrants or electrical boxes to create an over all clean look.
Gary Neie can be reached at
Tips From Jeff Rash of Priefert Mfg
Since 1964, Priefert equipment has been the choice of the pros. The experts who raise livestock for their livelihood know that nothing outworks, out-handles, or outlasts Priefert. Equipment bearing the Priefert name is crafted to make chores faster, safer, and easier for the cow and the cowboy. Speed Williams, among others, endorses Priefert products.
Points to Consider When Building the Ultimate Arena
1. Safety-The most important point to remember when building an arena is safety. Safety should be considered from selecting the site to adding the finishing touches. You want to make sure the building sight is level and already has the right type of soil if possible (this will prevent you from having to bring in your own soil). Make sure there is no foreign debris in or around the arena such as rocks or broken glass.
It is especially important to make sure the arena itself is “horse safe.” This means there are no foot traps or sharp edges and the arena is the right length, width and height for its main purpose.
2. Arena Floor-Probably the most important element to a good arena. The type of dirt, grade and deepness of loose dirt are key elements to having a nice arena floor. A good arena drag will be a necessity.
3. Go Portable Panels-They are safe (if you buy the right panels), tough, attractive, affordable and extremely versatile. Priefert panels, for example, are engineered for safety and durability. Using a chain connector (preferred by most horse enthusiasts) eliminates foot traps and guarantees a tight connection without slack. T-Posts (or any steel or wood post) can be used for straight runs and fit snuggly between the panels to ensure extra stability. The drilled stays, unique to Priefert panels, provide extra strength needed to prevent damage. Most quality panel companies now powder coat their panels, providing great protection for the product as well as making the panel esthetically pleasing. Priefert uses an architectural grade of powder with UV protection so the finish holds up for many years. Portable panels are also very affordable when you compare what you get with the cost of buying material, hiring a welder and constantly painting your arena year after year. You can even take your arena with you if you move, as opposed to a permanent facility, which will remain on the property and might limit your potential buyers who have no interest in an arena. Most importantly, portable panels are very versatile. You can build an arena any size you wish within a couple of days and change the size or layout of the arena in a matter of hours or even minutes. Some professionals actually convert their arena size to the same size arena they will be competing in during big events like the Wrangler NFR. Portable panels are also convenient when constructing holding pens for livestock.
4. Size Matters-The length, width and height of an arena should be determined by the type of events planned for the arena. For example, a roping arena should be longer and wider than an arena used strictly for cutting. The height of the arena should also be determined by the type of events planned for the arena. We recommend a standard height of at least 62 inches for normal applications but encourage taller arenas where young horses may be getting started or where rough stock will be ridden. Of course, most arenas are used for many different events so it is a good idea to cover all the bases with one solution whenever possible. A good standard size for a “one size fits all” solution is 150 feet by 250 feet.
5. Gates-Make sure all gates are located in the appropriate places and can be opened on horseback. By using portable panels instead of a permanent solution, gates can be added or taken out in minutes as the user deems necessary.
6. Utilities-Make sure you have convenient access to water and electricity. Occasionally, it may be necessary to water the arena or water livestock in holding pens. Power will be necessary for lights or a speaker system and possibly a remote control roping chute from Priefert.
7. For roping arenas, there are several specific elements that should be considered. A good return alley (approximately 10 feet wide) makes returning cattle faster and more efficient without wearing out the horse or the steers. A good stripping chute is necessary to safely remove ropes and holding pens at both ends of the arena are a good idea. The alley leading to the roping chute should be shorter in height than the rest of the arena so steer wraps can be put on and taken off safely and easily (we recommend using Priefert 10 foot Premier gates, which match our panels and are 53 inches tall). A Priefert add on section (or sections) can be used behind the chute which speeds up the process-especially during a production roping with a lot of teams. Finally, the length of the alley leading to the chute should be at least 20 feet long with a minimum of two “no back” alley stops to prevent cattle from backing out of the alley into the sweep or holding pen.
8. Get help from professionals-If you need help designing an arena that fits your family or community needs, contact Priefert Manufacturing and allow our CAD designers to draw up a custom arena for you.
For more information, visit www.priefert.com or call Jeff Rash at 1-800-527-8616.
Tips from Casey Wilson of Southwest Equine
Southwest Equine specializes in portable roping arenas, portable riding arenas, portable team penning arenas, portable barrel racing arenas, gates, chutes, stripping chutes and panels. As all-galvanized portable arena and panel experts, they will do their best to give you a quality product at an affordable price. Their all-galvanized arenas and panels can be customized to fit your needs. Their products are endorsed by B.J. and Bucky Campbell.
1. Size: What will you be doing with your arena? Are you practiciing, training or are you a producer? A practice arena will not need to be as large as a producer’s arena for the fact that very large arenas take a lot out of horses. If you like to rope a lot of cattle, you would most likely want a shorter arena that will keep you from wearing out your horse, somewhere around the 200 to 250 foot range. Trainers tend to need longer, wider arenas to help track cattle in order to train their horses. They also like to be able to have several people riding simultaneously. Finally, producers look for durability and size. They need a longer, wider arena to accommodate many horses and people. Producers and trainers often like an arena to be 250 to 325 feet long. For most arena widths, 120 to 150 feet is appropriate, however size will vary to the roper’s personal preference.
2. Upkeep: An arena should be functional as well as good looking. Does a little rust bother you or would you prefer an arena with a rust inhibitor such as galvanization? Do you want to be painting your arena every year to keep it looking good?
3. Return Alleys: Do you tend to keep a lot of cattle around, or is your herd ten or less? If you rope a smaller herd of steers, you may want to use a single-file return alley around 28 inches wide. This will keep you in continuous cattle throughout your roping session. If you prefer a traditional return alley, 10 feet wide is adequate, making sure you have enough room to turn a horse around. Also add gates or stops in your return alley to keep steers from lingering halfway down the alley, causing the steers you’re roping to run that way.
4. Durability: Too often it is not steers that are hard on arenas, it’s people and horses. People tend to tie their horses to anything. Many wrecks could be prevented if people would just put up some good solid tie racks around their arenas where people tie horses. It is also a good idea to tie wire ties around your arena so people can tie their horses with the bridle reins to the wire. If the horse pulls back, it will only bend the wire open and does not break reins or wreak havoc on the arena.
For more, visit their Web site, www.swequine.com or call
Casey at 877-455-8757.
Tips from Kirk Brenner at Safe-T-Lighting
Be it indoor overhead or outdoor, Safe-T-Lighting has you covered. From the planning stage using our state-of-the-art photometrics or single fixture retrofit, anywhere more light is needed they can help. At less cost, our experience in 1000’s of installations will go to work for you.
1. Use Quality Equipment, namely metal halide, a compressed gas, ballist-driven lighting technology used in all major sports: When you use quality equipment, several
benefits arise immediately.
• First, you won’t have to replace the equipment as often, so you have a reduced maintenance.
• Second, if you’re not replacing parts, you’re avoiding the dangerous job of climbing light poles.
• This technology gives users improved energy efficiency.
• Next, metal halide produces a very white light with good color recognition and depth perception important in roping.
• Finally, quality poles are essential. The metal halide fixtures will outlast steel or wood poles, so galvanized are preferred to prevent rotting.
2. Computerized Photometrics
To create the most efficient pole placement and fixture aiming, computerized photometerics should be used. You can work this out on the computer first so you get a good understanding and a smooth and efficient outcome. This technology develops a precise aiming pattern for your fixtures resulting in an efficient outcome for your arena categorized by a higher and more consistent light pattern to eliminate shadows and bright spots.
3. Power Source
You should have a knowledgeable expert calculate the electrical needs for each circuit correctly. Circuit and conductors need to be the right size to prevent voltage drop problems. Running fixtures at improper voltages can ruin the fixtures.
For more information about
Safe-T-Lighting, visit our web site at www.safe-t-lighting.com or call Kirk at 1-888-544-3833.
Tips from Harry Felts at Amos Roping and Rodeo Arena Products
Amos Arena Products understands the importance of making the correct decision when choosing a roping or rodeo arena supplier. They feature heavy-duty hot dipped galvanized products with a three-year warranty. Their roping chute comes in manual, with electric remote capabilities or totally automatic. Their products are used and
endorsed by Arnold Felts, Steve Duhon and Jimmy Powers.
Below is a list of questions Harry Felts of Amos Arena Products feels are “must ask” questions while shopping for your next arena purchase.
• Are you now, or have you ever roped or participated in a rodeo? If so, at what level and how long? Make sure you are receiving the correct information pertaining to your arena, when it comes to how and why it should work.
• Ask your sales person why the diagram is best for your needs.
• Describe your land terrain and surroundings for your arena location. Ask the sales person how the arena should be installed (direction, uphill, downhill, etc.) to best fit your needs, and receive the most “Perfect Practice” conditions. Ask for an explanation of why, regarding the recommendations.
• What is the size, and gauge of materials used? For example: If it is called a 16 gauge material, ask if it is a true 16 gauge (.065) wall thickness. Is the diameter OD or ID dimension? What is the weight of each arena section?
• Is the same weight of material (wall thickness) used throughout the system?
• Describe your finishing process: Unpainted, paint vat, spray paint, galvanized material, hot dip galvanizing, etc. What is the estimated lifetime of the finish?
• Describe the safety features of the arena and components.
• Will the company guarantee a delivery date?
• Will the system totally connect without emphasizing?
• What type connectors are used in the arena system?
• How are the arena sections attached to the post?
• In my particular arena, (if used) how long should the score line be?
• What size arena do I need for my particular use? (barrel racing, team roping, calf roping, rodeo; professional, novice, beginner, etc.)
• Will my wife and children be able to operate the roping chute?
• How far is the heel box set off of the right fence? And why?
• What type maintenance does the product require?
• What different lengths are the arena sections available in?
• What method of payment do you require?
• Is installation available?
• Are the horizontal rails pinch cut and welded on one side, or are they mitered and welded all the way around?
• Do you offer a written warranty?
• Do you have a CAD engineer available for larger projects?
• Is the roping chute a combination calf and steer chute?
• Do you offer a remote controlled chute? How does it operate? Air, 110AC, 12 Volt, etc.
• What different types of financing do you offer?
• Do the arena sections have any butt welds?
• Are the vertical braces lap welded, or notched and welded?
• Does your company accept special orders?
• What type of gate comes with the arenas? Pasture gate, bow gate (height x width).
• Do you provide a professional diagram with the arenas?
• Do you provide a professional diagram for special orders?
• Does your company have personnel available for project committee meetings?
• Is your product manufactured from secondary or prime material?
If your sales person does not answer the questions to your satisfaction, you may want to be aware.
For more on Amos Arena Products, visit www.amos-arenas.com or call Harry Felts at 1-877-777-2667.