There are some ways to use the arena that make teaching larger groups more manageable. Here are some I’ve seen and wanted to share.
- Keep riders together so you can see all of them at all times, and they all can hear you. If they get too far or close to each other, instruct them to woah, circle, pass, or cut across the arena.
- Stay in the middle of the arena at all times so you can see everyone better. If you need to fix stirrups, check tack, etc. have the individual come in to the center.
- Mount everyone, send everyone around the arena once, then have everyone come down the centerline and woah to check their tack one last time before beginning.
- Teach your riders arena manners and give them permission to do these things themselves or with cues from the leader
- what to do if you get too close to the horse in front of you: woah, circle, pass, or cut across the arena
- how to pass: leave plenty of room and say “passing”
- if approaching a horse going the opposite direction, pass left shoulder to left shoulder, or call out “inside” or “outside”
- Create activity stations on the wall for riders to alternate through, and have trotting down the middle.
- Put ground poles in the corners to create an inside and outside arena (as seen below). Have half the group do an activity on the outside path (such as woah at each letter), and half the group do a different activity on the inside. (From “Teaching Techniques for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder” by Kim Wendell & Kat Rusnak).
- Since you can’t help every student at once, give the sidewalkers permission to help direct. Designate one sidewalker to be the talker so as not to overwhelm the rider with too much help at once.
- Choose the best way for that particular group to practice the skill:
- line them up somewhere (rail/centerline/end of arena) and have them go one at a time (ex: line up and go through obstacle course one at a time)
- line them up somewhere and have them go several at a time (ex: line up, next rider starts obstacle course when rider before them reaches the second obstacle) – watch out for congestion
- keep them walking and have them go one at a time (ex: first rider trots until catches up with last rider)
- keep them walking and have them go all together (ex: everyone trot)
- Spread cones out on one wall a few horse lengths apart, have the riders each stop at a cone, then proceed now in the correct spacing.
- Have the activity start from the middle of the arena where you are, send out students to do the activity from there, then when finished they come back to the center to you. This lets students work at different speeds, and allows more volunteer interaction with students. (ex: Have one side of matching cards on barrel in middle of arena and the other matching sides on barrels in the rest of the arena. Send students out to barrels where they get one card, then bring it back to you and match it to its partner.)
Most importantly, whatever you do, remember that according to PATH Intl. safety standards you should be able to see all your students at all times!
What group arena management techniques have you used?
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!