Western Horse Show Etiquette from A to Z
Horse show etiquette consists largely of unwritten rules, but poor losers and inconsiderate riders are immediately noticeable.
Although competitors may be surrounded by clouds of dust and spectators are often dressed in jeans and t-shirts, riders must nonetheless learn how to behave at equestrian competitions. Breaking horse show rules can lead to disqualification, but it is also dangerous for other horses and riders.
The first rule of horse show etiquette is to pay attention to surroundings. Riders should always keep their eyes open and their ears perked just in case, and if a situation seems dangerous riders should leave the area immediately. Horse shows are busy and chaotic, and each rider must look out for himself.
Parking at Horse Shows
Horse show etiquette starts in the parking lot. At schooling shows, many riders might forgo stalls entirely and get their horses ready at the trailer. If this is the case, competitors should leave sufficient distance between trucks and trailers to allow movement for horses and riders. If camping do not walk your horse over extension cords etc.
It is extremely important to drive slowly at equestrian competitions. Riders will take their horses outside the arenas for long walks, and competitors never know when they are going to run into a spooky horse.
Moving Around the Grounds
Riders should place themselves in bubbles at horse shows. Walking too close to another horse might provoke a bite or kick, and even the calmest of horses can strike out aggressively if they feel cornered. When walking a horse to the show ring, a stall, the trailer or the wash area, a rider should be careful to maintain a safe distance.
Before taking a wash stall, horse show etiquette requires that rider make sure that no one else is using it. The same is true for a round pen if the rider wants to lunge, or any other designated area of the grounds.
In fact, it is always appropriate to talk to other competitors, trainers, instructors and family members. If a rider isn't sure if a horse is friendly, for example, he or she can ask the horse's owner whether he is standing too close. Communication can avert disaster.
Walking or moving around the horse show ground without a horse, competitors and spectators should remember that other people do have horses. Shouting, making noise, waiving colourful objects and littering are all against horse show rules.
Schooling a Horse
There are usually multiple schooling rings open for competitors who are getting ready for their classes. Schooling rings, despite their name, are not for learning new things or fixing bad habits; they are for warming up. Unfortunately, the schooling arena is often the most dangerous location on the grounds.
Riders should take as little time as possible warming up. Monopolizing the area prevents other riders from getting ready, and this can be as much the instructor's fault as the rider's.
Etiquette Warming Up Arena
· Left shoulder to Left Shoulder: Riders should try to ride in the same direction. If this isn't possible, then the left shoulder to left shoulder rule should apply.
· How to overtake a slow horse: Slower riders should ride on the outside track, Riders working at a faster pace such as a faster jog, extended jog or lope should stay on the inside track.
· Announce Your Intentions: Tell the other riders what you plan to do: "passing on your right", "walking poles", "leaving arena", "entering arena", “behind”.
· Mount Out of the Way: mount and dismount in the centre--not on the track.
· Work Together: Users should be doing similar things: i.e. poles, flat work, if at all possible. And even though the rule is left shoulder to left shoulder understand it isn't always possible. Be generous with right-of-way
· Cue Quietly: Voice commands, kissing, smooching to cue your horse should be done quietly and away from other horses. Accidentally cueing another person's horse as you ride alongside them could cause problems.
· Try Not to Interrupt Lessons: Try to schedule your riding for times when the arena is not being used for lessons. If you must ride during a lesson try to be unobtrusive.
· Clean Up: Clean up the arena after use. Clear out manure, put away jumps, trotting poles or pylons. Leave it the way you found it or better.
· Follow Posted Rules: Most arena owners have rules posted. Follow them SQHA will have them shown at the office window.
· Keep A Horse Length Between: Don't crowd other riders and keep at least a horse's length between you and the horse in front of you. This keeps you at a safe distance from being kicked. Furthermore, when there are riders working on both the inside and outside track, leave enough passing room that one horse isn't able to bite or kick at the horse on the other track.
· No Smoking: Smoking in an arena or stable is a dangerous fire hazard.
· All Horses under Control: There should be no loose horses in the arena while others are riding.
· In Case of Emergency: Know where the nearest phone and emergency number and first-aid kit are.
· Don't Allow Escapes: Keep all doors or gates closed. A horse could bolt through an open door into a low-ceilinged stable or down a lane way and cause injury.
· Be Aware: Be respectful if another is having problems with a horse, is riding a young horse, or is a beginner or timid rider.
· Give Right of Way: Be generous, giving right of way even it if it is not technically the correct right of way.
· Always Ride Safe: Wear a helmet, cap and proper boots. Ride in control.
· Don't get in the Way: Spectators should stand outside the arena, not alongside the track.
· No dogs: No dogs in the arena with horses and riders. Most stable owners don't welcome other people's dogs anyway.
· Warn of Noisy Doors: Announce if you are going to open a sliding door as some horses might spook at the noise. Give riders a chance to prepare.
· In an Emergency get off: If a rider falls off and a horse gets loose, all riders should dismount.
Show Ring Etiquette
The big one: Horse show etiquette is particularly important during classes at equestrian competitions. Riders must respect their fellow competitors as well as judges and spectators if they want to follow horse show rules.
Passing at horse shows can be dangerous, so it is best to find a spot on the rail. When a rider is moving faster than other horses in the arena, he or she should pass wide or make a circle to avoid a collision. Don’t take over from the outside track!
· Knowledge: Riders should know the horse show rules regarding judges. All riders should own or download the AQHA rules and regulations booklet. A trainer or coach should go over the rules prior to the competition.
Keep A Horse Length Between: Don't crowd other riders and keep at least a horse's length between you and the horse in front of you. This keeps you at a safe distance from being kicked. Furthermore, when there are riders working on both the inside and outside track, leave enough passing room that one horse isn't able to bite or kick at the horse on the other track. Only take over from the inside. The side closes to the judge as showing your horse.
When horse is playing up: Bucking, piggy rooting, bolting please stop showing and line up in the middle so other competitors can concentrate.
Be respectful: Don’t try to distract others while riding.
· How to overtake a slow horse: Slower riders should ride on the outside track, Riders working at a faster pace such as a faster jog, extended jog or lope should stay on the inside track. Always the track close to the judge.