An equestrian arena is an enclosed area where horse riders practice, train and compete. It is a vitally important part of any horse facility and is designed to accommodate the needs of the various types of horses and riders. A pleasure rider’s arena will differ greatly from that of a show jumper or high performance dressage rider. The type of footing, arena size and location are also factors to consider. Ideally, the riding arena should be located on flat, well-draining land and it is best to build a covered arena as opposed to an open one.
The first factor in choosing an equestrian arena is determining the type of riding you plan to do. This will help you select the proper arena size and design, and it will also dictate whether to use an indoor or outdoor arena. An open riding arena is better suited for pleasure and show jumping, while an indoor arena can be more versatile and accommodating for other riding activities like dressage and training.
If you decide to go with an indoor arena, it is essential to make sure the building is located on a flat piece of land. A hilly site can be difficult to navigate and it can be dangerous for both the horses and the riders. The arena should be as close to level as possible, and it is a good idea to have an adjacent paddock for emergencies.
A basic arena is usually composed of a solid base layer that is compacted and designed to support the loose footing material. The footing material is designed to “knit” to the base layer, meaning that it will not easily slide over the surface and rip up the arena floor. This kind of arena is generally used for dressage and lower-level competitions, but it can be utilized for jumping as well.
If the arena you are using has jumps set up, it is important to keep out of the way of riders who are taking them down or approaching from the side. It is also a good idea to call out when you are going over a jump, and non-jumpers should stay off the inside of the arena. This helps to avoid unintentionally cutting someone off or spooking their horse.
Dressage riders often utilize the center of the arena to change reins, ride half-passes, serpentines and pirouettes. If you are going to be doing these movements, it is a good idea to let other riders know by calling out to them. Otherwise, it is a good idea to work along the rail and keep out of their way.
If you see a rider having trouble with a green, excitable or misbehaving horse, it is a good idea to offer them space in the arena. This is a gesture that is appreciated and can make all the difference for a nervous or untrained horse. If it is safe to do so, you can even offer to help the rider by working them up in one end of the arena.