Inside The Arena

The next rider and horse are introduced. There are a few cheers and shouts, some polite applause. The butterflies experienced while waiting are gone. The moment, the atmosphere, is quite electric. Both rider and horse are focused. A few seconds later, they start the course. The aim is a clean ride, no rails down, with the best time.

Before the ride is the more interesting part. Each rider has their routine. Some will go through visualization exercises, others will watch everything around them. A few will seem to be unaffected. The horses, they seem to be unfazed by it all.

NWSS 2016 – Secret Agent Man (left) and Comet (right) meet one another as Elizabeth and Deborah ride them to the warm-up area


NWSS 2016 – Deborah studies her crib sheet on the course layout


NWSS 2016 – Tara and Brie await their turn near the start area


While much of the riding season is done outdoors, riding an indoor venue has certain challenges. Many indoor venues have seating that brings their audience close to the action. It can cause sensory issues for horses. It is part visual and part auditory. Since horses do not see stereoscopically, their depth of field view is shallow when both eyes are focused in the same direction. They may perceive the audience as being closer than they actually are. The auditory aspect is that sound does not disperse quickly indoors, and most indoor venues are quite live.

With horses and riders having limited indoor experience, the challenges can quickly become issues. Horses that are normally calm in outdoor venues can become more skittish indoors, poorly processing the flood of sensory input. Riders, including experienced ones, can misinterpret the skittishness displayed by their mounts as pent-up energy. This is where a rider needs to thoroughly understand and be knowledgeable of their horse. If not, there is a good chance their competition ride will be ragged at best. Lilith is the one who becomes difficult in an indoor arena. Elizabeth can usually calm her with some gentle strokes on her neck. If Lilith doesn’t settle, Elizabeth gives her more rein to lessen Lilith’s anxiety. In the end, it is all about trust between horse and rider. It has to be unbreakable.

Las Vegas National GP 2015 – trusting Secret Agent Man completely, Elizabeth gives him as much rein he wants


Indoors or outdoors, winning ribbons, a top five finish, an oversized cardboard check are nice to have. However, nothing is better than a smiling rider and a smiling horse.

after the blue ribbon: Elizabeth and Lilith (San Juan Capistrano, Jun 2014)


Making Of A Champion

Other installments in this series:


6 thoughts on “Inside The Arena

  1. All worth the smiles. Congratulations to the young women and their horses for placing. When we lived in Madrid, Spain, we went to the Ecumad every year. It was a big horse show in the IFEMA Feria de Madrid. They had all kinds of great events, and a lot of beautiful horses for sale. The Spanish Stallions are big, beautiful, impressive horses. I can imagine that the Native Americans would be in awe of the conquistadores sitting atop those magnificent steads.

    • Thank you, Tim. With all the practice and ground work, my daughters find it all very enjoyable. The big horse show in Madrid, that must be a sight to see.

    • Lilith, she is a gorgeous horse – especially when she’s been freshly washed. My daughter Elizabeth really glams her up when they ride a GP at night with glitter on her brow band and a few sequins on the ear bonnet.

      The indoor shows, more important the ride, greater the tension.

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