Course Ideas for Small Arenas and Informal Shows


By Amy Star

These WE course design ideas can have a BIG impact on your show in a small arena.  If you are designing a course for a smaller arena using these ideas can offer better riding opportunities.

Know what obstacles can be close together without hindering each other, this will allow better use of space in small arenas.   For instance, the table and pitcher could be close to the outside of the livestock pen or near a jump standard rather than standing alone in the arena.

Use a variation of the same obstacle to increase the difficulty of the course without needing to add obstacles.   i.e. – The Pole Corridor with Cup, can be done as a walk through for the lowest level, a straight back through at a middle level, and with a serpentine back through for high level contestants.

Have a ‘safe zone’ for the judge to stand, where the competitors are unlikely to cross, but the judge can see all of the course. You could even set chairs or a barricade around the judges area.

Offer riding space between obstacles, meaning don’t have consecutive obstacles right next to each other.   Leave enough space between obstacles for the competitor to have some choice of route from one obstacle to the next providing an opportunity to transition to canter and demonstrate a good canter rhythm.

Be fair to all riders.  If the sun or heat are an issue for helpers, be sure to add the umbrella or shade zone before a class has started, not in the middle of a class! Some horses may react to the visual of the umbrella in an unpredictable way.  If helpers are on the course during the competition, instruct them to stand in the same location during the entire class.

If the competition is a local or fun show, it isn’t imperative the jump height is the height of a bale of hay.  A lower natural object may be used,

A simple color scheme using only 1, 2 or 3 colors is preferable on a course.   Vegetation, either real or synthetic is a nice addition. Red flowers should be avoided because they can create confusion with the red flags.

Minimize the amount of course re-setting that is required between rider levels.  This reduces the amount of man-power required and speeds up the whole competition.  For example if your course will include Side Stepping over Poles, Jumping over Bales, or other obstacles that are not part of the criteria for lower level riders, place those challenges near the end of the course.  This eliminates re-numbering the entire course for riders at the upper levels.  This is a time saver and eliminates the chance of creating a course error.  During the walk down instruct the lower level riders their ride will end at a certain obstacle number, and upper level riders are instructed to continue on through the rest of the course.