Training For the Indoor

My all-time favorite indoor!
Over the years, Dino and I have ridden in a lot of indoor arenas.

At college, in lessons, in clinics, at horse shows, and for schooling sessions during bad weather. But while working through yet another, "Yes, leg still means go, no I don't care that you think the indoor is stupid and would rather trail ride, it's pitch black out," conversation with Dino the other night, I realized that I haven't had consistent access to an indoor arena since we were both in school over ten years ago. Each time I rode him in an indoor, there was a certain level of psychological pressure present. We had to perform - whether that was in a lesson, clinic, or competition environment, or even just to get my ring fee's worth - and I took the attitude of having to just do whatever was necessary to "get through" the ride, even if it resulted in a pony who was perhaps compliant, but not really a partner in what we were doing that day.

I realized that I've never actually trained my pony to work happily in an indoor arena.

The only indoor Dino ever worked consistently in...
While it may never be his favorite thing (and let's face it, I'd rather be outside, too!) I had a serious lightbulb moment when I realized that I could help Dino learn to work better in the indoor - I now have all the time in the world to make each ride as fun, relaxed, and free of the pressure to perform for someone else as possible.  I'm still mulling over how to formulate a specific plan to accomplish this, but I think it's got a lot to do with making sure my rewards and releases for his good behavior are clear, as well as continuing to assign Dino the responsibility for carrying our forward momentum and impulsion during rides. I can make the indoor a place where we go to do fun things, not just a four-walled box of boredom and stress.

At least, that's my hope, though I was seriously doubting my optimistic idea last night as I battled some major pony'tude in relation to going forward when I put my leg on so I could let Dino do something fun, like jump a crossrail. "He is 20. He would never do this out in a field. Why are we still doing this?" I asked myself, pony-club-kicking him around the arena until Dino stopped snarking at my leg and behaved like he was a trained riding animal.

It's going to be a long winter, but perhaps we can make some headway in giving Dino a little bit of a change in perspective about the indoor arena.


  1. If you don’t already have them I’d highly suggest some of the Jec Ballou books. She has fantastic exercises that really help keep things interesting.

  2. Oh what an interesting insight - makes perfect sense that Dino would associate the indoor with more intense lessons! Let us know what you figure out to help him have a little more fun!

  3. I find that almost all horses prefer to work outside -- I've only known one who didn't care either way (Moiya). What I find helps with Niko at least, is to set up ground pole exercises and keep my sessions short, when possible. If pony is good and we complete the warm-up and exercise in 20 minutes, that's all the work he has to do!

  4. How did I miss he is 20! wow what a guy.

  5. if you have no one in there can you do some gymkhana type fun stuff or set up some obstacles AKA like trail stuff. Anything to keep him from thinking you are just trotting circles ;) Ahh Dino :) he is so special :) I envy you your arena. SO MUCH :) Enjoy (Once you get grumpy pants going)! :)


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