Arena Pocket Guides
1998 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com
Arena exercises combine gymnastics, geometry, and mental concentration.
As you practice arena exercises, remember that it is the quality of the work that
is most important. It is a much greater accomplishment to do simple things
well than it is to stumble through advanced maneuvers in poor form and with irregular
rhythm. Study the exercise, ride it in your mind, and then head out to the
Be sure that you eventually
perform every exercise in both directions. Whenever possible, ride off the rail
so your horse is not being held in position by the rail but instead by your aids.
Although it might seem like these exercises are more appropriate for a western
horse, all horses can benefit from all of the exercises.
Check (half halt) your horse before, during, and after every transition; before,
during and after every corner; periodically throughout any movement to re-balance
In order for an exercise
to produce positive, beneficial results, a horse must be ridden on contact or
up in the bridle. This means that the horse readily moves forward from leg
aids and accepts and responds willingly to pressures on his mouth via the bit
How can you tell
if the work is correct?
1. Work regularly
with a qualified instructor.
2. Ask an experienced friend
to watch and give you feedback such as where the
right hind was during such
and such a movement.
3. Have someone video tape your riding.
Then watch the tape thoroughly with slow motion and freeze frame.
Watch yourself and your horse in large mirrors on the wall as your ride.
Glance down (without moving your head) at your horse's shoulders, neck, poll,
and eye during different maneuvers to determine if he is bending correctly.
Develop a FEEL for when things are going right and when they are going wrong.
Answer the following by feeling, not looking:
Is there appropriate left to right balance on my seat bones? Can I feel
* Can I feel even contact on both
* Is the front to rear balance acceptable
or is the horse heavy on the forehand, croup up, back hollow?
Is the rhythm regular or does the horse speed up, slow down, or break gait?
Is my horse relaxed or is his back tense?
Is he taking contact with the bit or is he above it or behind it?
Is my horse loping on the correct lead?
* Can I
tell when his inside hind leg is about to land?
Can I tell when my horse is performing a 4 beat lope?
Can I tell when my horse is walking in front and trotting behind?
Can I tell when my horse is performing a pacey walk?
do you do when things go wrong?
each component of an exercise.
2. Return to some very basic
exercises to establish forward movement, acceptance of contact, or response to
sideways driving aids. Often, returning to simple circle work will improve
straightness and subsequently lateral work and collection.
Ride an exercise that the horse does very well such as the walk-jog-walk transition.
Work on purity and form.
4. Perform a simpler version of the
pattern. If it is a lope pattern, try it at a walk or jog first.
Perform the pattern in the opposite direction. Sometimes, because of an
inherent stiffness or crookedness in a horse, you will have difficulty with a
pattern to the left but no problems to the right! Capitalize on this by
refining your skills and the application of your aids in the "good direction"
and then return to the "hard direction" with a renewed sense of what
needs to be done. Often working to the right it improves work to the left.
Track right = ride along the rail making right turns.
Sometimes this is confusing in a show or lesson when you're told to come in the
gate and track right and you have to turn left to track right.
left = ride along the rail making left turns.
Stride = one
complete set of steps of the horse's legs in the footfall pattern of the gait
in which he is performing
Step = one beat in a gait.
There are several steps in each stride. Depending on the gait, a step may
involve more than one leg.
Inside = Inside generally refers
to the inside of the bend of the horse's body which is also usually the inside
of the arena. For example, when tracking to the right with normal bend,
the inside is the right which is the side toward the inside of the arena.
Outside is left. However, when a horse is counter-bent or performing a counter
canter, for example, the inside aids might be on the outside of the arena.
For example, if tracking right on the left lead, counter canter, the inside aids
would be the left aids yet they would be located on the outside (rail) of the
Outside = Outside generally refers to the outside of
the bend of the horse's body which is also usually the outside of the arena.