Sharing an arena is never easy. If the world was perfect, we’d show up at the barn to a freshly-dragged arena and no one else waiting to use it. Just you, your horse, and the fresh prints you leave in the ground as you work or have your lesson. But the world isn’t perfect and more often than not, if your arena is big enough, you’re sharing the space, especially in the evenings and on weekends. Here are a few rules to follow when you find yourself maneuvering around your fellow riders.
Lessons Take Priority: If there’s a lesson going on, it’s your job to ride around the person having a lesson. If it’s possible, stay to one half of the arena. If not, make sure you’re moving out of their way and not the other way around. No matter the rider’s skill level, they’re there to be concentrating on what their trainer is telling them to work on. So move out of their way.
Call Where You’re Going: We all know we have to keep our heels down and our heads up. Sometimes it’s hard to see who’s going in behind us or across from us. If there’s multiple people in the arena, make sure you communicate. Call “door” when you’re opening the gate to come in. If you’re cutting across to head for a jump, let them know. Horses don’t have turn signals and your fellow riders aren’t mind readers.
Walk On The Inside: Everyone is often going at different speeds when they’re sharing the arena. Unlike driving, if you’re going slow make sure you move inside and circle around the quarter line so your fellow riders who’re going faster can move around you. It’s also safest to pass on the inside, or even go the opposite direction of other riders when you ride in the inside.
Stay With The Current: Make sure you and your fellow riders are traveling in the same direction. Leave at least one horse-length distance between you and the rider in front of you. Even if your horses are all familiar with each other, it doesn’t mean they want, or are comfortable with, another horse coming up close behind them.
Be polite: This should be a no-brainer. Especially when you’re at your home barn, working in your arena, the other riders are your barn-mates. They’re your horse-world family. So make sure everyone is able to get the most of the ride time they have. Your horse might be the center of your world, but it can’t be the center of everyone else’s all the time. Share the space as best you can.
Finally, be aware of the space and time you have. If your arena is small, and you have the time, wait until the other rider is finished. Or communicate with your fellow riders about when they plan on riding that week and find out what the lesson schedule is. If everyone puts in a little effort, life at the barn and in the arena can be a lot easier.