Best Practices in Riding Arena Safety

riding arena safety

When you work with horses every day, it’s easy to become complacent.  But as soon as you do, you will find that the horses will teach you. Conversely, it’s also possible to appear, by having a certain easy way with horses, that you are not thinking about safety- or that horses are totally safe.  However, experienced professionals and horsepeople are always aware of the risks and best practices that keep them safe. They become habit: they must in order to avoid dangerous situations and injury to you or your horse.

Reminders are always helpful when it comes to forming habits, so we will have a Safety Series here at Horse Show Leases.  The first part will feature arena safety. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather things that have come to mind lately and are important reminders.  Some may seem simple, but neglect of any of these can cause huge problems.

Riding Arena Safety

  • Always be mindful and considerate when you are watching others ride in the arena.  This can range from relatively obvious things to common courtesy.
  • Don’t make sudden moves or loud noises.  Whatever you are doing, look around and see if a horse is approaching.  Horses are alert for sudden changes. Papers blowing around, a blanket being whirled over your shoulders, a chair scooting across the ground all read as DANGER to a horse.
  • Even if you are still, be mindful of lessons or training taking place.  It’s impolite to carry on loud conversations- even if the horses aren’t spooking- that make it hard for the trainer, rider, or horse to focus.
  • If you are a spectator, try to watch from outside the ring, rather than entering.  The more people in the arena, the more likelihood for issues or injury. Many farm insurance policies specifically do not allow spectators inside the ring. If nothing else, ask the trainer first, and respect their answer.
  • When moving or adjusting jumps, be sure to keep cups with pins and keep loose or unused ones safely away from where a horse can step on them.  Out of the arena, or within designated storage.
  • Remember that riders taking a lesson have the right of way, so if you are hacking, watch out for them, and try to avoid their path.
  • Regardless of who is lessening, remember to be courteous.  Even if you are the most advanced rider doing advanced work, that doesn’t mean the arena is yours alone.  In fact, it means you should be able to operate around the less experienced riders without causing a problem. Be polite, be patient, and if necessary, be creative.
  • Should be obvious, but it’s not.  Wear a helmet. Whenever you are on a horse, no matter what.  Make sure it’s approved and that it fits properly. Always.

There are certainly more important things to remember in an arena, but these are some of the most relevant and common issues.  As professionals, we may seem like we are always going on about safety, we may seem like we are nagging: but we have seen some things.  It’s only through these rules and practices that we can even begin to create a safe environment for the horses, as well as the riders. So please, if you take horses seriously, make a habit of safety.


Hungry to learn in a safe riding environment? Contact Alicia Wilkerson today!

Jenn Crow
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