Tackling the Arena
I am riding Cole all over the place on the trail—walking, trotting and cantering, but I still felt nervous in the arena. Now, it didn’t help that I only rode him in there a couple times a week. It was the same old problem—the far end just got me nervous. That didn’t mean I didn’t go over there—I did, but I didn’t enjoy it. It distracted me. It didn’t help that the pasture of our barn and the neighbor’s barn are by the far end. If their horses were in their pastures—who knows what unexpected things would happen? It was actually a big part of my problems, initially. Any sudden noise from that direction sent Cole flying!
In August, I started reading a book that mentioned I should set goals. I put the book down, and thought about it. I always ride with goals on the trail. As we meet each goal, I add a new one. It is a very effective way to train, obviously. It keeps us focused and on track. Now why haven’t’ I been doing this in the arena.
So, right there, I decided to pick a goal. The first thing that came to my mind was trotting laps. I decided I would trot 5 consecutive laps in each direction. I then caught my breath at the thought of it. I would really be pushing to try that right now. I needed to make my goal achievable. I would walk 5 laps each direction—using the full arena.
Isn’t it crazy that I couldn’t do this before? I have been riding for many years, and I have spent plenty of time in the arena with Cruiser and Mingo. I needed to get over my arena anxieties.
The plan was to walk the 5 laps in the first direction. I could stop, but when I started, I had to continue on the path. If I didn’t, I had to start all over again. For a person nervous about riding on the far end, that was quite an incentive to keep going.
My first attempt was in the evening. There were horses turned out in both pastures. I wanted to do it at the beginning of the ride to get it over with. I was very nervous the first few laps, and I had to stop Cole and stand for a moment, but a miracle happened. By the 5th lap, I felt pretty good. I turned him around and did our 5 laps the other direction.
The feeling I had was tremendous. Not only did I succeed with my goal, but all the fear and uneasiness had vanished. I ended up trotting Cole all around the arena.
This marked a change in my arena riding. In just a few rides, I was a totally new person. I left the old one behind. He even spooked a few times on the formerly scary end. That didn’t stop me. I didn’t want to have to redo any of the laps.
I stay focused and try to make the corners perfect. Sometimes I get bored and start trotting the laps and working on transitions. I now ride the whole arena whether there are horses out in the pastures or not without hesitation. In a very short time, I have changed my whole attitude about the arena.
Other goals I have set are riding round circles, good transitions and inter-gait transitions. I have always had these goals, but now I have quantified them. I need 10 good transitions—and I won’t quite my circles until I get at least one of them round.
I have never enjoyed arena riding as much as I have the last month or so. I am still only doing it a couple times a week, so we don’t get that much accomplished, but by the time winter rolls around, I will be ready…
That doesn’t mean I want winter to hurry to Cleveland! I am having too much fun on the trail…