Riding arena rules clarified for Alberta

Riding arenas such as Taber or this one pictured above (near Medicine Hat) have had their Covid-19 regulation rules clarified by the Alberta Government.

It was a positive message to the ears of those who use the riding arena in the Taber Agri-Plex.

The Chinook Rodeo Association announced on its Facebook site that the Alberta Health Services has allowed Covid-19 exemptions for animal conditioning and exercise. 

Earlier in December, due to Covid-19 regulations the doors were closed on businesses deemed “non-essential” and many sporting activities were effectively cancelled… events such as rodeo and barrel racing.

Amanda Valgardson, the Taber Exhibition Association office manager, helps coordinate and direct event traffic for such events like Route 36 Winter Barrel Racing Series, says it is a relief. She was grateful for the governments to deal with organizing and clarifying regulations and rules and “have been excellent to deal with all the ups and downs.”’

She says Alberta Health and local political officials have been understanding. 

“Back in the spring when we were closed then, rodeos got their own set of rules, eventually,” explains Valgardson. “We don’t fall kind of the same spectrum as like a hockey rink or a swimming pool but we all get lumped into general recreation.”

The following clarifications were issued (dated Dec. 11). 

“It is critical that the equine community work together to protect the health system and slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has the responsibility to help bend the curve over the next four weeks,” explained a Government of Alberta statement “COVID-19 Equine Community Update”.  The protocols… do not replace the mandatory, province-wide restrictions that are in place. These have been provided to ensure the health and welfare of the equines and must be followed.”

The protocols include Indoor Riding Arenas

1.Arenas are closed for public access (e.g. no walk in’s, no spectators, no parents, no friends, etc.)

2.To ensure the health and welfare of equines, individual riding is allowed

3.Indoor riding is ONLY allowed to ensure the maintenance and health/welfare of the horse(s)

4.2-meter distancing is mandatory and must be maintained at all times; it is the responsibility of the business owner to ensure this is followed

5.To limit the number of people in an indoor arena at any given time; business owners/managers must set schedules/appointments for individuals

6.The 15% fire code occupancy does not apply to indoor arenas; the number of people in an arena is determined by the ability to maintain 2-meter distancing at all times; the business owner is responsible to ensure this is followed

7.Lessons are not allowed

8.Masks are not required while riding

9.Therapeutic riding is not allowed at this time due to the close contact required

Outdoor Equine Activities

1.Are permitted under the maximum of 10 persons with social distancing

2.Outdoor lessons are permissible up to a maximum of 10 persons, including the instructor

3.Masks are not required while riding and 2-meter distancing is required at all times


1.If tack is shared between riders, it must be sanitized as required and riders must sanitize before and after use


If an individual is concerned that a stable or arena is not following these government guidelines, they are encouraged to file a complaint with Alberta Health Services at https://ephisahs.microsoftcrmportals.com/create-case/

The changes were heavily welcomed y the area riders. Valgardson helps coordinate the schedule for the riding arena and it has proved been popular as have a place to ride indoors is important for health on all levels.. 

“I don’t want to push people outside to ride. People are going to ride their horses no matter what. They love it, they know they need exercise,” explains Valgardson who says everyone have been good about scheduling and the rules. “They are going to go ride across community pasture or an icy outdoor arena at home or something like that and you know unnecessary accidents that can happen to the horse or the rider. I much rather let people have the option of coming indoor to exercise their horse.

“I was trying to restrict people from booking seven nights a week. Many people are working so I wanted to give everyone a fair chance, once everyone has had a day or two.”

Despite the riding arena amendments, it has been a tough year for agricultural, classic equestrian and traditional rodeo-type events in general. Most 2020 events were cancelled outright or severely limited this season. That hurts participants, the continuity of the events, fans but it hurts the bottom line for these facilities which need income in order to remain viable.

“The revenues are going to be drastically decreased, fortunately there is a small business relaunch program from the Government of Alberta right now,” explains Valgardson. “That grant was originally $5,000 back in spring and summer and now they have increased it to $20,000 so hopefully we and many arenas should qualify that increase. Help offset the closure. I mean we are already down in revenues because we haven’t be able to hold events: big roping jackpots are cancelled, different rodeo circuits can’t run… all of that has compounded.”

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