Indoor arenas with mirrors have long been used in aid in the rider/horse connection during training. Many dressage, hunter, and jumper barns are employing this tactic. While mirrors offer a number of training benefits, they do also come with a few disadvantages.
- Mirrors offer riders the ability to watch as they simultaneously perform movements. By setting up a mirror on the short side of the arena, you can watch to see if your horse continues to track in a straight line or if he swivels his hind-end to one side. When performing a half-pass, leg yield, shoulder in, or any other lateral movement, a quick glance in the mirror will confirm if your horse is tracking properly.
- Mirrors can be a trainer's best friend. A mirror allows the trainer to check on both inside and outside aids. No more cheating when you drop your stirrups; the mirror will reveal your "secret" attempts to post with your outside stirrup iron.
- Installing mirrors can make a space seem larger. Just as mirrors inside a home can make a room seem larger, so too can mirrors in an indoor.
- Mirrors can be very distracting to young horses. A young horse is typically more likely to spook than its older stable mates. As such, mirrors offer an extra excuse for horses to spook and misbehave.
- Mirrors are a dirt magnet. No matter how many times you clean the mirrors they always seem to be dirty. Unfortunately, dirty mirrors can make the rest of the indoor arena appear to be a bit shabby. If only someone could come up with a translucent dust-repellant spray (that actually worked) for indoor riding arena mirrors.
- Expense. If you thought purchasing a nice mirror for the interior of your barn office was expensive, wait until you try to purchase indoor arena mirrors. Indoor arena mirrors can run upwards of $350, not counting installation or maintenance costs.
The debate of having mirrors in an indoor arena may never be resolved. When it comes to young horses, the mirrors can be particularly distracting. For the old school master, the mirrors allow a trainer the ability to literally "see with eyes in the back of his head."
If you are in preparing for indoor arena construction, be sure to leave space on the long side for mirror attachments. Mirrors can be built into indoor walls with a simple bracket and hinge mechanism. While the installation is usually quite simple, the mirrors do need some type of fixture that they can attach to. Properly spaced bars or crossing wooden structures will securely hold the mirrors in place. No matter your preference on mirrors, a properly constructed indoor arena is sure to provide for a great riding experience!