By Tessa Woolf for Premier Equestrian
It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Such was the case for Premier Equestrian President Heidi Zorn when she developed the signature dressage arena that would launch her company and help modernize the dressage industry as we now know it.
Inspiration first struck when Zorn was shopping for dressage arenas back in 1999. At the time, most dressage arenas were either very expensive or poorly made. It wasn’t uncommon to see arenas constructed of chains or cinder blocks, which were ultimately dangerous for horses—so much so, that the United States Equestrian Federation eventually banned these types of arenas from competition. Frustrated by what was available, Zorn did what many entrepreneurs had done before her: she rolled up her sleeves and started designing her own version.
“I just wanted to purchase a dressage arena, but the price was a barrier; they were all $5,000 to $6,000, which was out of my budget,” recalls Zorn. “Also, people were using chains and cinder blocks to build arenas. These were proving to be very dangerous—horses were getting caught or cut in the chains, or they were kicking the cinder blocks and getting injured.”
Zorn knew she could do better. She developed the idea for an affordable, safe, and stylish dressage arena made from lightweight but sturdy PVC. The arena was portable and easy to assemble, and it could be anchored for a more permanent installation. She named it the Classic Dressage Arena™ and sold it for $1,500—and with that, Premier Equestrian was born in 2000.
“It was the first dressage arena of its kind,” says Zorn. “We launched Premier Equestrian with that product. It was a total game-changer for the dressage market. We offered safe and affordable arenas for both high-end facilities and competitors, as well as casual, backyard riders like me.”
As word traveled about the Classic Dressage Arena and the popularity of Premier’s signature design grew among the equestrian community, Zorn teamed up with now CEO Mark Neihart to grow the company and expand their line of dressage arena equipment.
Premier’s second dressage arena was the Pyramid Dressage Arena™, which utilizes a molded polyethylene base cone with a new set-in trough design that supports the rails, which rest neatly into the top of the cone. The base cone is virtually indestructible, stacks and stores easily, will not fade or discolor in sunlight, and never needs painting—just a few of the many benefits of a dressage arena built from Polyethylene and PVC.
“Later we developed the Wellington Arena in conjunction with a molding partner,” explains Zorn. “Due to its success, we updated the design and bought a new injection mold that helped lower costs and improve accuracy, and we were able to develop a new bottom plate for the cones.” This fourth, superior design was named the Sundance Dressage Arena™.
These new bottom plates allowed the cones to be filled with sand, which helps stabilize an arena in up to 60 MPH winds. This upgrade, along with a new aerodynamic design and rounded, tapered corners provided significant improvements. These benefits are featured on both Premier Equestrian’s Pyramid and Sundance Dressage Arenas. “To this day, the Sundance Arena is our top-selling arena,” notes Zorn, thanks to its stylish and durable design.
The fifth arena Premier Equestrian developed was the Brentina Arena™. “We saw a huge need in multi-rail arenas,” recalls Zorn. “Before the Brentina, multi-rail panels were riveted together and horses were getting caught and tangled in them—horses would kick a panel and get stuck, and then panic running off with a panel stuck to their foot, which is extremely dangerous for both horses and riders.”
The Premier team got to work on making a better, safer alternative. The result was the Brentina Arena, which features a unique quick-release design: if a horse kicks through the rails, they will pop out, ensuring no horse will ever get tangled in this design. “It’s such a safe and beautiful arena,” says Zorn. USA Dressage Coach Debbie McDonald was so inspired by the design, and such a huge fan of the safety benefits, that she allowed Premier to use her famous mare Brentina’s name for the arena.
Debbie McDonald isn’t the only fan—Premier Equestrian’s Sundance and Brentina Dressage Arenas are currently used for competition at the annual Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. Premier’s dressage arenas have also been featured at the World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, the US Dressage Finals, Desert International Horse Park, and more national and international, high-profile competition venues. “We’ve partnered with the US Dressage Federation for over 20 years,” notes Zorn.
Along with dressage arenas, Premier Equestrian also elevated the art of dressage accessories, introducing attractive flower boxes with dressage letters (which can currently be seen at AGDF), as well as wall letters and their Berkshire letters—a far cry from the ugly traffic cone letters that had previously been the standard for years.
Premier’s innovative dressage arenas and horse arena footing have also caught the attention of dressage greats Steffen Peters, Adrienne Lyle, and Sabine Schut-Kery; all three members of the US Dressage Team and Silver Medalists at the Tokyo Olympics are Premier Equestrian Ambassadors who ride and train on Premier Footing™ Products.
More than two decades and many new developments later, Premier Equestrian continues to grow and dream big. Along with their collection of Premier Footing™ Products, additional innovations in recent years include Arena Grooming Equipment, the Arion Smart Arena™, and more. “Everything we introduce to the market has been tested by myself and my three horses, Serrano, Primo, and Izzy,” says Zorn. “These are products we personally use and stand behind.”
To learn more about Premier Equestrian and shop their dressage and footing products, visit PremierEquestrian.com or call 800-611-6109 to speak with their team of equestrian experts.
©2022 Premier Equestrian, Inc.