So you’re going to your first horse show, bet you’re super excited! Maybe it’s your first ever, or maybe it’s the first time you’ve competed in a long time. Either way, you should make time to brush up on some horse show etiquette before you load up and head to the show grounds. Keeping these things in mind will help keep you safe while schooling before the show or warming up in the schooling ring.
- Left on Left: Riding in a busy schooling ring is a lot like driving a car, you should always try to keep on coming traffic on your left when doing flat work on the rail.
- Call Where You Are Going: Schooling rings can get chaotic when busy. Everyone is focused on prepping their horse or rider. Sometimes, the schooling ring is just too crowded to find left on left. In In these situations when approaching another rider from behind or head on be sure to announce “Inside” or “Outside” as you approach. Steer to the inside of that rider or that outside of that rider as called. This little courtesy keeps everyone around you aware of your intentions.
- Faster Traffic Has The Right Of Way. Slower riders should keep as close to the rail as possible and allow riders traveling at faster gaits to use the inside track of the ring.
- Be Aware Of Your Surroundings: A busy schooling area is the last place you want to take a mental vacation while hacking your horse. You always want to be aware of what other riders are doing to make sure that circle you just started isn’t putting you in the path of an oncoming horse.
- Call Your Jumps. Jumping in a busy schooling ring can be terrifying, especially if there is no ring steward to keep the chaos at a minimum. Always Call “Heads Up.. X Jump” (cross rail, oxer, verticle blue flowers, etc) loud enough to be heard when approaching a fence. Don’t mumble! Make sure the path is clear and yell out a heads up.
Everyone will appreciate knowing where you are going so they can stay out of your way, or avoid crashing into you. This also falls back on rule 3, be aware of your surroundings and move out of the way if someone calls a heads up. Your trainer is focused on you, so make sure you let everyone else know where you’re headed.
- Before heading to the show, make sure that you’re competing at the level you’ve practiced. A busy schooling ring isn’t the ideal environment for a rider or a horse to learn something new. It wouldn’t be fair to expect your horse (or yourself) to excel at a competition with skills they learned the day of the show.
- Avoid Stopping On The Rail: If you need to stop for a tack adjustment or to chat with a friend, be sure to leave the ring first. This small courtesy will keep you from getting bumped into and keep the schooling ring moving efficiently.
- Ride Single File: Be considerate of others at the show and ride single file to prevent clogging traffic in the schooling area. Sure at home it’s fun to chat with your barn mates as you walk out or start your warm up but it can be dangerous in a busy schooling ring.
- Move Away From The In-gate: When you exit the ring after your trip, be sure to move away from the in-gate so that the next person can head on in. Especially after a flat class when several riders are all leaving the ring at the same time. We all want that feedback from our trainer, what we did good, what we could fix, but it’s best to do it way from the in-gate.
- Schooling Equipment. Be considerate of others; schooling standards and poles are for everyone to use. The schooling ring is not the time to take a part the jumps to practice the ‘Circle Of Doom’ exercise or pull away all the ground line rails from the jumps to school a stride counting exercise on the rail. Need a 9′ take off or landing pole, no problem. Schooling a 5 stride bending line on the rail of a busy schooling ring while comandeering the equipment is inconsiderate to everyone else in the ring.
Sometimes you or your horse need a little extra practice, it happens to all of us at some point or another. The rule of thumb here is to be considerate of others and use an empty schooling ring, or wait until prime time schooling has ended.
One last pointer, if you are doing a one day show or shipping in, be sure leave enough room between your trailer and your neighbor so you can each tie out a horse and not have to worry about a horse getting kicked. Always err on the side of leaving too much room, there’s nothing worse than two horses getting into a kicking match when tied out at the trailers.
Key reminders when it comes to horse show schooling is AWARENESS. Being aware of where you are in relation to other riders, being aware of where others are before making changes, and making sure everyone else is aware of your intentions.
If you follow and share these 10 simple rules, you will be able to relax while you have a good warm up or pre show schooling session. This will enable you to concentrate executing your plan in the show ring, and not dealing with rattled nerves from a near collision at a jump with another rider.
Happy Horse Showing!