The Indoor Arena Lean

By Terry Golson

It takes me upwards of 40 minutes to drive to where I board Tonka. Every day the drive feels like too much, but then I arrive, see that my horse has been cared for impeccably, and get to ride in this:

This indoor is big, airy, and filled with sunshine. The footing is perfect, which isn’t something you can say about what’s outside!

But there are downsides to riding indoors for months. I get the indoor arena rider’s slant. Look at how my head perfectly mirrors the line of the wall!

I self-correct. I take my own advice and look, focus and go, but it’s a constant battle to stay plumb and balanced.

It’s not just me. Tonka, too, has the indoor arena slant. Horses, though, don’t lean away, they rely on the wall. I taught dressage lessons this past weekend at an indoor in Connecticut. I had them ride down the long side eight feet off from the wall. Even my student on the upper level dressage horse could feel the wall pull them like a magnet back over.

It doesn’t help that riders and horses are asymmetrical. Humans and horses are innately right or left-handed. We’re tighter and weaker on one side than another. We have old injuries. We get arthritis. Tonka has mild changes in his left hock, so it’s more difficult for him to engage that leg.

I try to ride actively and equally both directions, but I’m sure that I don’t. I ride patterns, I get off of the wall, I use my eyes.


But the best solution to that indoor arena slant is to get out, even if it’s just to walk carefully around snowy paddocks. Take your feet out of the stirrups and swing your legs.


Breathe that fresh air. Relax. Sit deep and plumb. Look ahead as if you have somewhere to go.

I couldn’t do this without first training and exercising in the good footing of the indoor. And I couldn’t get the beautiful movement of dressage without walking outside like this.


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4 thoughts on “The Indoor Arena Lean

  • Jan

    It always amazes me how much time our animals take up. From choice I poop clean my Hens coup and outside area completely every day and as they have part of the garden it takes around an hour. Most people will say this is over the top but I find it very rewarding to see it clean, plus it never smells. I hope Tonka’s fitness continues and you are able to get back into dressage and long trails 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Why doesn’t Tonka live on your own property? It seems zoned since you have goats and chickens. It would save a lot of money and you could walk right out your own back door straight to Tonka. I have always wanted a property where I could have large animals. And when needed you could drive and rent an arena for dressage practice.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Good question! There are many reasons. Although we have two acres, it’s very narrow, and the septic mound divides it, and it’s illegal to have horses on that. So, there’s actually not enough land for Tonka. Other considerations are that horses like to live with other horses, and one equine is plenty for me. They also require a lot of care, and it’s difficult enough to find someone to take care of the dogs, goats, etc, when we travel. So, all in all, this isn’t the right place for him.