Unless you’re in Wellington, February is often the month of semi-desperation. Spring IS only a month away, and yet has never felt more like fantasy. This is particularly true this year for those who, like the TSB crew, live and ride in New England.
But if you’re a hunter-jumper rider or eventer looking to sharpen your ride for the upcoming season, or if you’re just trying to spice up the interlocking circles you and your horse are both quite bored with tracing in the indoor by now, there’s no need to despair. In her acclaimed book JUMP COURSE DESIGN MANUAL, Susan Tinder—a hunter-jumper rider and owner of Tolland Falls in Colorado—provides an entire section for those with smaller arenas or minimal jump components (or those stuck schooling indoors!).
Although courses you might set in a small indoor might be unconventional, at least in terms of what you typically see at horse shows, they should still follow basic course design principles (which Susan covers in her book). As with larger courses, you should have at least one change of direction and at least one single vertical fence. When you have a limited jump inventory, you will most likely have to use more vertical fences to allow you to create more jumps for your course. Another way to increase the number of jumping efforts in your course when you have a limited amount of equipment or space is to set the fences so they can be jumped from both directions. This means you will need ground lines on both sides of each fence.
The distances between related obstacles are just as important over courses designed for small spaces, if not more so, as when you set up in a larger space. Be aware that the horse’s stride naturally shortens when the space is small, and pace and the quality of the canter is harder to maintain. The narrow width of the arena forces you to ride tighter turns (causing a natural loss of impulsion), and you have less time on the long sides or across the diagonal to get your horse straight to the jumps. Fences and lines set on the diagonal will most likely have sharper angles to them.
Taking all this into consideration, inside courses and those in small arenas often need to be set on a 10- to 11-foot average stride length in order for them to ride comfortably. In addition, the light level will probably be low. Use white or brightly colored poles and fill elements so the obstacles are easier to see, and avoid anything that blends in with the footing or the color of the walls. If the indoor you use for schooling has windows or skylights, take note of how shadows and sunspots may affect the visual aspect of the jumps.
Here is one free sample space-saving configuration from JUMP COURSE DESIGN MANUAL. The “Y” gives you two single fences, one off either lead so you can practice changing to/from both directions. This sample course is not drawn to scale—you must determine how to use the space you have for your schooling while staying safe.
“I’ve spent time with this book and find it very correct. Author Susan Tinder did an excellent job putting together a useful collection of courses.”— George Morris