Making the Most of Riding in a Smaller Space

Making the Most of Riding in a Smaller Space

Making the Most of Riding in a Smaller Space

Making the Most of Riding in a Smaller Space

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Get clear on the actual size of your riding space
  • Improve your accuracy when riding
  • Realise why markers are so important when working within a limited space
  • Use riding in a smaller space as a way to build and develop your training

Do you find yourself regularly moaning about having to ride in a smaller space?  Are you looking at this specific circumstance as a roadblock or challenge to your progress in the saddle?

If this sounds like you, I want show you how simply changing your mindset about working in a smaller space can be enough to help you begin making that space really work for you and your horse.

In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I will explain why a smaller space, if used correctly and strategically, can actually help you to focus and improve your skills.  And those of your horse as well…

Finding Out Exactly How Much Arena You Have…

It often amazes me how, when square meters are at a premium, riders can often just assume the space is too small to be of any real benefit to them or their horse.  There is an almost defeatist attitude towards the smaller space.

I have found this to be particularly true where corners are concerned…  I regularly see, especially in smaller arenas, overgrown or cluttered corners which are clearly not being used by horses or riders.

Knowing exactly how big of a space you have available to ride in will help you begin to decide what you can potentially accomplish within that space.  It allows you to actively look for exercises that will fit within that length or width.  It will allow you to create shapes or school movements that work on specific aspects of you and your horses development. 

Riding in a smaller space requires that every square inch or centimeter is used.  Not just used, but well used.  And this is where what is often seen as a liability, can quickly become an asset to your training.

Begin by ‘Cultivating’ Corners that Can Be Ridden Into

I’ve mentioned that the corners are often overlooked.  From there being a ‘track’ or ‘rut’ created in the ground avoiding the corners, to them just being inaccessible due to weeds.  Your corners are an important part of your arena.

Clean, level and rideable corners will often allow for an extra two to three strides of straightness on the ‘long’ and ‘short’ sides of your arena.

Also, the deeper you can ride into your corners, the more suppleness is required of both you and your horse.  Simply put, having corners that are usable and rideable will definitely help both you and your horse.  Especially as your skills develop.

Use Markers to ‘Plot Out’ Your Arena

Once you have made sure that every usable and rideable square inch is accessible for you and your horse, I suggest beginning placing markers in your arena.  Markers are great in any riding space as they help to hold you accountable regarding how accurate you are.  This is particularly true when riding in a smaller space.

Riding in a smaller space can almost cause us to lose perspective regarding distance and what can be achieved within any given length.

It is easy to assume that our lack of being able to perfect something in the saddle is due to the smaller riding space. Having markers set up at specific points in the arena will help you to remain focused on what you are doing; and how well it is going for you and your horse.

Begin By Focusing on Your Accuracy when Riding in a Smaller Space

Accuracy is not just for dressage riders and horses.  It is also not just for show jumpers, or eventers, or any other discipline you can think of…  Accuracy is essential for all horses and riders.  It is often the difference between ‘hit and miss’ and having certainty and trust in what you are doing.

As you begin to increase how accurate you are, you will find that your ‘small space’ begins to open up.  You will be able to achieve so much more each time in the saddle, while still remaining riding in a smaller space.

Take the basic halt for example.  How many riders do you know who, on a consistent basis (every time they ask for one) ride a good halt?  Probably very few.  And yet, the halt is something you can work on regardless of how big or small your riding space is.

Basic Exercises to Get Started With

When we think of the halt, it is never just the halt itself we are referring to.  It is the transition into the halt and the transition out of the halt that also count.

What is great about the halt is that, as you progress in your training and development, it too progresses.  From working on it in the walk, to the trot and, later, the canter.

Another basic movement that does not require a whole lot of space, but does require accuracy is the turn on the forehand.  Both the halt and the turn on the forehand can be worked on while you are on the ground or in the saddle.

Riding a Basic Square in Your Small Arena

Another great exercise is to ride a square.  It really has everything; straight lines and the bends or corners.  It asks lots of questions from both horse and rider.  And as you and your horse get stronger, more questions can be asked concerning your suppleness.

Riding a basic shape such as a square, it is important to remember that the ‘basics’ must remain present in order to really make the most of the movement.  Forwardness, relaxation and rhythm are essential if you want to improve suppleness.

This is why I highly recommend getting off the ‘track’.  Allowing your horse to just travel wherever the worn track dictates will not help either of you to learn and grow. 

Focusing on your horse remaining on the track that you have planned will help you both to develop your overall straightness. This requires planning on your part and then accountability on both you and your horses part.

Shifting Your Mindset Surrounding Riding in a Smaller Space

I really want to impress on you today how important it is to begin shifting your perspective on how you see your space.  Your mindset or thoughts surrounding what riding in a smaller space means for you and your horse.

I have seen, time and again, how dedicated riders have used this potential drawback to their training as an actual spring-board for making progress in their riding.

It all comes down to how well you plan your exercises using the space available to you.  Use this space to really increase your responsiveness and your accuracy.  Allow this to be where you focus on applying clear and correct aids.

Be Prepared for When The Situation Changes

Finally, at some point your horizons will open out.  The limits of your smaller arena will be taken away and you will find yourself riding in a bigger area.  How well you and your horse can make a successful transition from confined space to open space will, often, come down to how well you used the space you had when you had it.

Any opportunity you have to ride in a bigger, more open space, should be as well planned with regards to what you want to achieve in the time you have.  How much work you have put in up to this point will become evident very quickly… 

So, put the time in now.  Stop complaining about your lack of square meters and begin using every one of them with purpose and intention.

Happy Riding


Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-

Daily Strides Premium

If you are feeling a little limited by riding in a smaller space, I am going to suggest joining Daily Strides Premium today.  In there, you will have instant access to a whole group of audio trainings, which will take you step by step through 10 different exercises you can use while riding in a smaller space.

5 flat work exercises and 5 pole or gridwork exercises will ensure that you are moving forwards and making progress in your riding; regardless of how much space you have to practice in. 

Couple This with Built In Accountability…

It really is the easiest way you can begin moving forward in your riding – on your own terms. When you join a Daily Strides Premium Member you will get built-in accountability.  A real person from our team will be reaching out to you on a fortnightly basis to help you build and then maintain momentum with your progress in the saddle.

Couple this with the live Q&As, the monthly review and planning live calls and the members only private group ~ we are here to help you remain accountable as team leader for you and your horse.

Daily Strides Premium is packed full of step by step trainings for you to use in the saddle. All the trainings are easily accessed using your phone, meaning that you can take them with you where ever you are going.  These trainings and so much more are available for you immediately when you join Daily Strides Premium. Find out more HERE

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