Why does my horse become distressed when I ride in an arena?

Here we catch up with leading horse trainer, Jason Webb, who gives advice on how to calm a horse down who frets when he's being ridden in an arena and can't see any other horses.

Jason says:

Start with some groundwork exercises to get your horse paying attention to you. Teach him to move around and away from you on vocal and visual command. This will help your horse follow you calmly and quietly, and encourage him to focus and concentrate on you rather than the lack of other horses present. 

Try this 

  1. Start by standing next to him with one hand holding the leadrope and keeping the other free.
  2. Apply firm pressure to his hindquarters with your free hand, while saying 'over' and push him away from you.
  3. Bring his head round towards you as necessary to encourage this movement.

With practice, he'll learn to step sideways away from you when you say the word and point to his back end.

Say 'stand' when he stops moving, so he learns what this word means too. 

Practise on a regular basis until he'll stand still at a distance from you, and move all the way around you on vocal and visual signals.

By doing this exercise prior to riding him, your horse will be calmer and focused on you, ensuring you get a lot further with ridden exercises.