Winter is not my favorite season when it comes to riding my horse. If you’re like me, you get easily bored in your indoor arena. When asking an equestrian what their favorite season is, you’ll most likely hear Summer, or Spring, or Fall. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an equestrian say “I just love riding in the winter!” Shows and races start back up in the spring and continue into summer and fall. Sure the winter is beautiful to trail ride through woods that have a light snowfall, but once the snow hits a certain depth, we all are pushed into indoor arenas to ride. Indoor arenas can make both you and your horse feel confined. Riding a few times clockwise around the arena at a walk, trot, canter; then a few laps counterclockwise with the same routine. Not only are you bored at this point, but so is your horse. I pulled together a few different options for keeping both you and your horse from becoming bored in your indoor arena.
Start off by changing up how you ride around in the arena. Instead of doing the usual, riding on the rail around in a circle, try some different patterns. Work on riding in a big figure 8 in your arena. Place a cone directly in the center so that you have a visual of where your 8 should cross over. Be sure to pay attention to how you are bending him around the circle, and try to keep the circles as equal as you can. Another idea is to ride in a diamond shape. At each corner, create a swift turn to travel up the other side of the diamond. Be careful not to rush your horse. Start with a walk first, and then trot the diamond. One more variance to try is to be about ten feet off of the rail towards the center of your indoor and ride in the same motion as you would if you were on the rail, a rounded rectangle. At the long sides, allow your horse to extend, but then collect him as you come into the corners and keep him collected or slower on the shorter ends of the rectangle. This will help you increase and decrease speed smoothly.
If you feel very motivated you can use various obstacles in your arena. Some obvious examples are setting up smaller jumps, or poles on the ground for you to work your horse over. But if you have long winters like we do in upstate NY, you have time to get creative. One example I read about is to set up various barrels around your arena and place a cone on a few of them. Work on walking to the barrel, stopping, picking up the cone and then walk to a second barrel and place the cone down. As you progress in this challenge, don’t stop at the barrel to grab the cone, make your horse move right past it while you grab the cone. A few other options are placing tarps on the ground and working with your horse to calmly walk over the tarp, even though it may make scary crinkling noises. I have also seen others use hanging noodles that you walk your horse through through. Walking through these various obstacles will build your horse’s confidence and trust in their riders. It is hoped that the horse will react calmly if they were to encounter something like these obstacles in real life situations.
Riding in an indoor arena can also be a hassle because of trying to deal with dust. Focus more on training your horse through various obstacles or different patterns than worrying about dust by switching to one of our dust-free footings. You will never have to water your arena again!
How do you stop from getting bored in the winter?