In the cold season, riders are increasingly drawn to the riding hall. But the fuller it is, the greater the stress for man and horse. Therefore, rules must be observed so that there is no chaos in the hall, but relaxed togetherness.
Icy trails in the country, early darkness, and uncomfortable weather: In winter, many riders are happy if they can exercise their four-legged partners in a hall. Because the horse’s need for exercise does not change during the cold season and animal protection legislation stipulates that they must be allowed to exercise daily, regardless of the weather and light conditions.
The Swiss Association for Equestrian Sports SVPS and the professional association of the horse industry Swiss Horse Professionals SHP therefore successfully campaigned before the second Corona lockdown for facilities for equestrian sports to be explicitly exempted from the closure of leisure and sports facilities. They argued with animal welfare, but also with the safety of riders or people who take care of the horses. The riding halls are therefore still open in large parts of Switzerland, only a few cantons have prescribed stricter measures.
Social distancing, i.e. keeping your distance, is given anyway if you sit in the saddle and have a meter of horse in front of and behind you. The bigger problem in crowded riding halls is that many horses don’t like it when other animals get too close to them, or they get infected when other four-legged friends are high-spirited and happily buck off. Horses react very sensitively to the mood and signals of their peers and notice when they are hectic, nervous, or irritable.
If you ride, lunge and lead at the same time in an average-sized hall with an area of 800 square meters, this can lead to a commotion that puts a great strain on the nerves of horse and rider. Therefore, as in road traffic, certain rules apply that minimize dangerous situations such as collisions and make relaxed coexistence possible in the first place. According to the individual company regulations, there is a prescribed maximum number of permitted rider-horse pairs. Some advanced equestrian facilities such as the Horse Park in Dielsdorf ZH have an online reservation system.
Left hand has priority
If a rider wants to enter or leave the track, he announces his intention with a loud, clear “Door is free, please” and waits until the fellow riders reply “Door is free”. To get into the saddle, go to the designated corner with the climbing aid or to the middle of the hall so as not to disturb other riders.
If a rider is walking at a walk, be it to warm up, to relax after a demanding lesson, or after training, he goes to the second (1.5-meter space to the fence) or third hoof beat (three meters distance). The outer lane remains free for riders with faster paces. Anyone who would like to chat with their stablemates while warming up should refrain from standing next to each other for long periods so that the others can ride their track figures undisturbed. And since a certain degree of concentration is required when riding anyway, the mobile phone should stay in the jacket pocket.
In the riding arena, the rider who is on the left-hand side, i.e. riding anti-clockwise, has priority. Those who ride on the right hand move inwards when someone comes towards them. The crossing is always done in such a way that you can shake hands with one another – just like in traffic.
Anyone who rides “the whole course”, i.e. on the outside hoof pad around the hall, also has priority over riders who are practicing volts, wavy lines, or other figures. Whole halts (stopping) are also not practiced on the first hoofbeat. When riding in a row, there should be a distance of at least three meters between the horses so that no horse feels pressured and fights back by kicking. Behind slower riders it is best to turn onto a curved line, if you have to overtake, then you should keep a sufficient safety distance.
The be-all and end-all for a functioning togetherness in the riding hall is mutual consideration: If there are weaker riders in the hall or those with young, inexperienced, or very nervous horses, you should not stubbornly insist on your right of way, but also give away of your own accord or even stop if the situation calls for it. Just like driving a car in heavy city traffic, riding in a crowded arena requires concentration, constant readiness to brake, and anticipatory behavior.
If the horse allows itself to be distracted by the hustle and bustle around it, it helps to keep its “head” busy with new, varied exercises. For example, wavy lines, transitions, tempi changes in all gaits, lateral movements, or short turns. Thanks to these tasks, the horse will automatically concentrate and then no longer has eyes and ears for the hustle and bustle that surrounds him. Incidentally, the same applies to the rider.
If you need aids such as cones, poles for your training, you can put them away at the end and store them in the designated place. Saddles, blankets, and jackets do not belong on the hall floor or on the obstacles. If there are other riders in the hall, jumping is only allowed if everyone agrees. This also applies to lunging. Most riding establishments have special regulations for both. For example, certain evenings are reserved for jumping training, and lunging is only permitted if there are no more than three riders in the hall. There are also mostly stable-specific regulations for manual work and ground training.
There are no exceptions when it comes to removing horse droppings: Everyone collects what their four-legged friend has left behind as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the other riders in the hall make sure that they don’t ride over the manure and distribute it. When leaving the hall, the hooves are scraped out at the designated place and the sand is then wiped away.
If everyone adheres to the rules mentioned, staying in well-filled riding halls will not become survival training and the fun of riding will remain.