Many successful performance horses spend quite a bit of time in the arena, sticking to a regimented exercise and training program. However, time spent outside of the arena is an important part of that program, as well. Here are 6 reasons to go beyond the arena – and how it can benefit your horse.
Riding in new environments provides mental stimulation for your horse. It exposes him to different sights, sounds, and smells, keeping his mind engaged and curious. Horses, like humans, can get bored with repetitive routines. Exploring new places outside the arena introduces novel stimuli, encouraging him to stay alert and attentive. Mental stimulation is crucial for preventing behavioral issues and promoting a well-rounded and contented horse. Happy and emotionally balanced horses are more willing partners and generally easier to handle
Riding outside the arena exposes your horse to various challenges, such as uneven terrain, different obstacles, and changing surroundings. Successfully navigating through these situations can boost a horse’s confidence. When a horse learns to handle diverse environments and obstacles, he becomes more self-assured and trusting of his rider’s guidance. This confidence extends to other areas of his training, making him a more willing partner.
Riding on varied terrain helps develop your horse’s balance, coordination, and muscular strength. The different surfaces and inclines outside the arena contribute to his overall physical fitness. Unlike the controlled environment of an arena, outdoor riding engages a broader range of muscles and encourages your horse to adapt his gaits to different surfaces. This physical conditioning contributes to his longevity and performance potential.
Trotting in endless circles might help your horse get into shape, but can also be costly for his joints. If you’re trying to build up his stamina and endurance, long trotting down the trail is an excellent exercise.
Real World Application
Riding in natural settings allows you and your horse to apply your training in practical scenarios, such as crossing streams, navigating through woods, or opening gates. This helps reinforce your horse’s training and aids in real-world responsiveness. Horses trained exclusively in an arena may not fully understand how to apply their skills outside that controlled space. Riding in varied environments teaches them how to handle real-life challenges, preparing them for safe and enjoyable experiences beyond the barn. This is especially useful for horses used in ranch classes, as a horse that’s able to tackle these challenges outside the arena will be more likely to succeed in the show ring.
Facing different situations outside the arena can enhance a horse’s problem-solving abilities. It encourages him to think critically and adapt to varying circumstances. Whether it’s navigating through a narrow trail or crossing a bridge, your horse learns to assess situations and respond appropriately. This can improve his cognitive abilities and build his confidence.
Bonding and Trust
Exploring the outdoors together fosters a stronger bond between you and your horse. Sharing new experiences and overcoming challenges together strengthens trust and communication. Horses are sensitive creatures, and the quality time spent together outside the arena builds a deeper connection between horse and rider. This enhanced bond results in better responsiveness and can build your confidence in your horse.
Shake off the Monotony
Regularly riding in the same arena can become monotonous for both of you. Exploring new trails or open spaces adds variety to your routine and keeps your horse engaged and interested. Breaking the monotony with new sights and experiences enriches the horse’s life and prevents boredom, which can lead to behavioral issues or a lack of enthusiasm for training. Endless circles can even sour your horse on your discipline, and create problems down the road.
Incorporating riding sessions outside of the arena into your horse’s routine helps create a well-rounded, confident, and content equine partner, ultimately benefiting his physical, mental, and emotional health. These experiences also enrich your riding time, promoting a deeper appreciation for the beauty of nature and the incredible bond shared with your horse.