How long should one school their horse in an arena? I get this question all the time.
I have a very specific time table I go by and it is very reliable. The first five to ten minutes is the most important.. How you start the first couple of minutes can set the tone for the next hour. The beginning of anything is always the most important. Pacing yourself so the horse can work easily up to twenty minutes doing athletic maneuvers. I like to stop or pause every five to ten minutes so my horse can keep a clear head. I spend approximately 20% of time walking, 70% trotting, and 10% loping.
After twenty minutes a horse will level off in energy and usually can sustain for another ten minutes if they are in good shape. When forty minutes have passed it is time to wind down and let your horse relax.
After forty minutes of consistent work in an arena, you must really take care of your horse because this is when they could get hurt. Never purposely try to run your horse out of breath, because this is when they are the most vulnerable. We are talking about normal dressage type work. When working cattle or schooling them in reining, the working time should be much shorter. Adjustments in time should be made to compensate for weather and the condition of the horse. Most horses can be completely satisfied in twenty minutes.