Poll Recap: Training Location Preferences

Of the 669 poll respondents, 337 (50%) said they prefer to train their horses in an arena.

Photo: Thinkstock

Developing a horse into a steady, experienced mount takes time, patience, and a lot of training. But where, exactly, should that training happen? In last week’s poll, we asked our readers if they prefer to train their horse in an arena or on the trail. More than 650 people responded, and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 669 respondents, 337 (50%) said they prefer to train their horses in an arena, while 227 (34%) individuals said they prefer to train their horses on the trail. The remaining 105 respondents (16%) said they's rather train their horses in other locations. 

Additionally, more than 100 people commented on their training location preferences:

Several people explained why they prefer to use and arena for training:

  • “I prefer to train in arena or somewhere enclosed for safety, but have had teachable moments on trails.”
  • “I prefer an arena for training so I can go out on the trail and be safer.”
  • “I prefer arena, but mix-and-match is healthiest for horse.”
  • “An arena allows them to focus on the training, not all the new things they see when on the trail.”
  • “I prefer a controlled setting in early training!”
  • “I like an enclosed, rock-free, and controlled environment for training.”
  • “I prefer an arena because the environment is less of a factor in learning a task.”
  • “An arena has clearly defined boundaries.”
  • “She is a nervous horse, so I need her to be able to calm down and learn in the arena first.”

Others shared why they prefer training on the trail:

  • “I do both ground work and under-saddle work on the trail. It keeps it interesting!”
  • “Both my horse and I prefer the trails. The arena is boring.”
  • “I don't have an arena and my round pen is tiny, so on the trail it is!”
  • “There's no better place than the trail to become a team.”
  • “I use the trail, sandy desert washes, meadows, and mountain switchbacks for training.”

Many respondents said they train their horse in both the arena and the trail:  

  • “Both areas are good depending on what needs training.”
  • “I use the arena for some training and trail for the rest.”
  • “I use a variety! Trails are wonderful. Arena is necessary.”
  • “The arena helps the horse focus and keeps him contained if he gets away, but trails expose horses to real life.”
  • “My horses can be controlled outside of an arena, but for specific training, both sites are needed.”
  • “I use both places. They don't get sour and just hacking out makes them happy.”
  • “I like to cross-train all the horses I teach. I play on the trails and in the ring.”
  • “We start them in the arena then take them out on trails.”
  • “He's a dressage horse so most time is spent in the arena but we do trails for R & R and training.”
  • “I do new skill training in the arena and refresher training on the trail, usually.”
  • “I prefer to do both. It makes a better competition horse.”
  • “I use the arena for learning and refinement and the trail for real life.”
  • “I do work in both places, as well as in our pasture with other horses around.”
  • “I like to ride on the trail, but get my basics down in the arena. I wish I had one!”
  • “Planned training takes place in the arena and teachable moments on the trail.”
  • “Both arena and trail (also round pen and large open field) depending on lesson goal.”

Some respondents commented about other places they prefer to train their horse:

  • “On the ranch, working cattle. It gives training purpose.”
  • “I train in round pen, arena, and trail. It depends what my goal is.”
  • “No trails, but we do work in the fields and pastures.”
  • “Youngsters start in round pens, move up to arena and pastures, and go cross-country when they mature.”
  • “On the ranch as a cowhorse”
  • “Round pen training has been very successful for us.”
  • “I ride in a cross-country field.”

And several people left general comments:

  • “It's important that you cross-train your horse. It keeps them sharp and prepared.”
  • “He gets bored in arena. He's a quick learner.”
  • “It depends on what lesson is being taught.”
  • “Any time you are with a horse you are training it for good or bad.”
  • “Any contact you have with a horse teaches them something, good or bad, so anywhere and everywhere!”
  • “All horses need to have an understanding and acceptance of the aids prior to going on the trails.”
  • “Every ride is a training ride.”
  • “I never do more than two days in a row in the arena. Getting out on the trail is good for both of us.”
  • “They need to be trained in all environments, starting in round pen or arena.”
  • “It all need to be fun for the horse!”

You can find more information about learning theory-based horse training principles, how cross-training can be beneficial to equine athletes, and training on the trail at TheHorse.com! 

This week, we want to know: have you ever used a slow feeder for your horse? Vote now and tell us about your experiences at TheHorse.com/polls!

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health e-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer, is a lifelong horse owner who competes with her Appaloosas in Western performance events. She is a University of Kentucky graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Community Communications and Leadership Development, and master's degree in Career, Technical, and Leadership Education. She currently lives on a small farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

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