Horse Safety In A Riding Ring

Posted: July 6, 2013

Safety must be addressed when training a horse in a horse ring or confined area.

Riding Arenas or Rings

Many horseman do not have personal facilities that provide a safe, confined horse ring. A horse ring needs to be large enough to have the space to train and exercise a horse. Excessive practice is needed to train a horse and perfect the skills necessary to be proficient at horse events and shows. 

  • Horse rings can be expensive to build and maintain. Consider the acreage necessary to build a ring to enable the horse/rider the room to exercise at all gaits. Most horseman find that a 60 ft x 100 ft arena gives ample room for an individual horse/rider and can accommodate up to ten horse/rider combinations.
  • Arenas needs to be on level ground with consideration given to "crowning" the ring to allow for precipitation to drain outside of the riding area. The crown should start in the center of the ring and slightly slope toward the exterior fencing. This method will prevent "puddling" or surface water. Placing a ring on excessive sloping topography promotes unsafe exercising at gaits faster than a walk.
  • The footing must be a safe and non-slippery. Consider the cost, maintenance, durability and seasonal weather when selecting footing material. Local Extension offices can provide suggestions on varieties of footing materials.
  • Often non-horsemen think a pasture can be an area to utilize in training a horse. Horse pastures don’t always provide a very smooth ground surface like athletic fields do. The pasture is where the horse frisks and plays and between the tuffs of growing grasses, animal nests, burrows and numerous hoof divots, the pasture is just not a safe location for a practice arena. 
  • The exterior fencing should be a sturdy material of wood, metal or plastic and must be a visual barrier to the horse. Posts should be on the outside of the rail and the gates must be solid and at the same height of the rail fencing. Fencing  should be at least 3 to 4 feet high. 
  • Fencing, gates and footing materials are the most important elements in designing a safe ring.

Ring Etiquette

Often beginning  riders think that the whole purpose of a riding a horse is to make the horse move at the fastest gait or speed possible. Many are unaware of how dangerous it is to extend the horse into an uncontrolled speed that puts the rider and horse in a dangerous situation. Therefore, when exercising a horse in a confined area consideration must be considered to protect the safety of the horse and rider.

  • Horses can reach a speed of 25+ miles per hour and one stumble or fall could throw the rider off. If a horse is moving at this type of speed the rider could get severely injured in a fall when hitting the ground. The horse can obtain serious injury if it stretches a tendon, breaks a leg or physically falls. Normally a horse’s nature is to avoid any obstacle that is on the ground that could impair their movement pathway, but a horse at top speed often does not have the time or ability to avoid contact with a thrown rider. 
  • Ride in a controlled manner to enable the horse to support the weight of rider, adjust to turns and footing conditions and to negotiate around other horse/rider combinations. Leave amble room between other horse/rider combinations and obstacles located in the ring. 

A well build ring and controlled performance when exercising will promote safe riding and help eliminate unforeseen experiences.