Location, Location, Location
Depending on your discipline and what you plan on doing with your horse, location is important. You can only do so much if the footing, size and weather conditions of the space you are trying to work in is working against you.
If you keep your horses on land that does not have a leveled riding ring, you can't expect to train your horse to be a Grand Prix jumper. That's why location is important.
When working with a young horse that you are trying to teach how to longe or accept a saddle and a rider, your ideal location would be in a round pen that is away from all distractions. If you decide to work in a bigger ring, the chances of your horse running out or cutting in to the circle have increased. Of course, you want to build your horse up to be able to longe him almost anywhere, but to start off it's better to work in a round pen as it sets both of you up to be more successful than working anywhere else.
When training for a hunter, jumper or equitation class, you want to have the space to build a proper course without being too crowded. It's kind of a given that jumping in a dressage ring won't get you too far. You won't have the space to get a 10 jump course in there.
The same goes for those training for dressage, you want to train in a dressage ring instead of a bigger ring where there aren't any of the letters posted. Sure you can practice your shoulder ins and pirouettes in a big ring, but if you're practicing a test and want to make sure you transition at the right spot to be accurate, a dressage ring is where you should be.
For those training for cross-country, they're able to be a little more flexible where they ride. You can easily ride in a jumping ring and modify the jumps to look more natural or build a cross-country course in a ring. When it comes to increasing stamina and getting them used to extending and collecting in an open space though, you need to expose them to that space. That way, they won't be so excited and hard to control when competition day arrives.
If you're wanting to go on a trail ride, then go on a trail. There's no use in walking in or around a ring. It defeats the purpose of the joys of a trail ride. Try riding through a pasture if you don't have access to any trails. The great thing about trail riding is that it can build your bond while you experience "scary" things (like a rabbit or a squirrel running across your path) together.
When you live up where the winters are cold and the ground is covered with snow, it makes it almost impossible to train in the winter without an indoor arena. If your winters take up many months like they do here, then you know that you can't let those months go to waste if you want to be ready for the show season in the spring and summer. So, an indoor is a must. They also make it possible to ride while it's raining and during other weather conditions that might happen in your area.
You need to work with your horse in the right environment to achieve the results you want more easily. That doesn't mean you can't train your horse to be an international jumper without a proper jump course, it just means that it might take you longer and be more challenging for you.
Thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense and I hope you all enjoy spending time with your horses. Have a good weekend!
Until next time, happy riding!