Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Picture this: the warm-up arena at the biggest horse show you've ever been to. Now, imagine all of those horses and riders shoved into a tiny indoor arena in the middle of the freezing winter. If you're fortunate enough to have an indoor or covered arena to ride in during the cold, rain, and snow this was probably an easy picture to paint. With this chaotic luxury comes a few important rules on etiquette we'd like to remind you of to help you stay safe (and sane!) when riding indoors.
1. Left Shoulder to Left Shoulder!
Unfortunately, most home indoor arenas are not managed like the Maclay Finals morning warm-up where everyone must track the same direction. Rather, you'll find a handful of amateurs, pony kids, and maybe a few un-trained babies attempting to swerve and circle around each other. In these instances "left shoulder to left shoulder" is a very important and universal arena guideline to follow to ensure every horse and rider's safety, while making your ride go as smooth as possible! It's as straightforward as it sounds: when passing an oncoming rider your left shoulder should be closest to their left shoulder. An example of this would be if you are tracking clockwise on the rail and there is an oncoming rider tracking counter-clockwise on the rail, you would move slightly off the rail to pass them on the inside track. Following left shoulder to left shoulder allows everyone riding to easily maneuver without any collisions or yelling in the arena.
2. Jumpers Take the Inside Track
If you happen to ride at a barn where people will be jumping in the indoor arena, a good rule of thumb is to always allow the rider jumping to have the inside track (or you take the inside track if you are the one jumping). This is important if you do not know the rider's exact course so you don't accidentally cut them off in a turn and worst-case-scenario get in a collision! Simply put: flatters take the rail, jumpers take the inside!
3. Eyes Up!
You've probably heard your trainer yell "eyes up" more times than you can count, and in a crowded indoor arena it is more applicable than ever! Left shoulder to left shoulder does not work if you are not looking where you're going!(!!!) Being aware of your surroundings (i.e. other riders, horses, jumps, etc.) is probably the most important key to having a safe and smooth ride in a small indoor arena, and you can't achieve this if you stare at your horses neck the whole ride, so remember: Eyes Up!
4. Use Your Voice
Sometimes left shoulder to left shoulder just does not quite work out. Maybe your horse is being extra spooky in a corner so you want to shave off the end or really push them into it but either of these decisions violates the left shoulder to left shoulder rule of thumb; that's okay! Just make sure you call out "inside" if you would prefer the inside track, or "outside" if you would prefer to stay on the rail to any oncoming riders. It is also important to call out "inside" or "outside" if you plan on passing a rider from behind because most people don't ride their horse with a rearview mirror!
*This article was posted by Equivont.