The first part of our puzzle is the posts. The most economical option here is to use regular, wooden landscape posts. These are what you would typically use for your backyard or garden projects. As you can imagine, they are not necessarily meant for long-term wear and abuse. Furthermore, landscape posts are not made of the highest quality wood and many times you will find many defects in the wood itself.
However, don't let this scare you off if money is an issue. For a temporary solution they will work just fine.
Tip: Spend an extra $15 - $20 and buy 4" pressure treated post for your gate posts. In a very short amount of time, you will be delighted that you did.
Consider landscape posts your lowest cost and a somewhat temporary solution. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day! Landscape posts are an excellent way to get started building a horse round pen and later on, you can always upgrade your materials as your budget allows.
The second part of our round pen puzzle is the rails. Use 4" (preferably 4.25") vinyl rail with integrated metal wire. It usually comes in rolls of 300 - 600 feet. This type of vinyl horse fence is made to withstand a significant amount of force and it holds up incredibly well in the elements over the years. Vinyl has the advantage being a very low maintenance item to use. In fact, you may have noticed that many people nowadays use 2-rail vinyl fences for outlining their property and general landscaping.
Purchase enough vinyl horse fencing to complete a 3-rail round pen. For example, if you are building a 50 foot round pen, you'll need approximately 440 feet. Don't forget to back out the gate measurement - you will build your gate out of wood and it will match your round pen fence perfectly. Budget around $50 for your gate supplies and materials.
Round Pen Footing on a budget…Yes, I know, it’s quite an oxymoron!. If you have a sand base, you’re very lucky. Build your round pen here and as your budget allows, consider addressing your drainage issues. Otherwise, start with a tiller and till the round pen surface until you have loose soil that’s about 4” deep.
Tillers can be rented from many do-it-yourself centers for around $40 per day. To make the most out of your tiller dollars, take a look around your yard. Do you have a garden that needs some help? Perhaps you have a flower bed that could use some rejuvenation. You can combine projects to help lower the overall cost the tiller rental and come out ahead!
As the natural round pen footing becomes packed down from use, haul in sand to provide a better cushion layer. While a truckload of sand can cost $100 - $200, it is a worthwhile investment. Not only does it provide an excellent working surface for your horses, but it will also help keep your round pen from getting muddy when it rains. The sand can provide better drainage so you don’t end up with a round pen pond!
You can also try mulch or wood products. Your choice should be based on your climate and your natural soil. Without a proper base in your round pen, you run the risk of losing your cushion layer as it may seep into the natural ground.
Let’s examine the financials of our “Round Pen on a Budget” and see where we land. We’ll use a 50-foot 3-rail Round Pen as our example:
- Posts will cost approximately $70
- Roll of Vinyl Rail (650’) ~ $300
- Other accessories and supplies ~ $80
- Gate ~$50
- Tiller rental ~ $40
Total Cost : $540.00 (and you’ll have around 200’ of vinyl rail left over)
So, don’t let lack of funds stop you from building a round pen. You have a lot of options for controlling costs when building a round pen. Try out this formula and you’ll see that you can still give your horses the safety and comfort they have earned.
Just because your budget may be tight doesn’t mean that you cannot have a beautiful and functional round pen.
E Landers is the author of "Building A Round Pen"