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Arena Etiquette: What is appropriate in the warm-up pen?

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Proper etiquette in the warm-up arena is always important for the safety of both the horses and riders at equestrian events. Protocol may vary slightly by venue, discipline or event but overall warm-up pen etiquette is simply - good manners. Keeping an eye on what others are doing is an excellent way to get with the flow of the horses and their jockeys while establishing what the overall riding etiquette is for the given event.

Sharing the arena with other riders is part of equine ownership. It does not matter if you are a boarder at a large facility or a showman that frequents competitions, you will encounter other riders on a regular basis. Horse and riders must stay alert for their own safety as well as the safely of others while in the warm-up arena. Disruptive actions and words can spook horses and cause other riders to be injured.

  • Be courteous when entering the arena. Move in the direction of the majority of other riders instead of interrupting the flow.
  • Don’t mount and dismount where the horses are moving.
  • If passing someone going the opposite direction, use the left shoulder to left shoulder rule - just like when driving a car.
  • Stay to the inside of the warm-up circle in order to help prevent collisions, and confusion.
  • Do not tailgate other horses! Leave at least 8" between you and the horse ahead of you. If your horse is known to kick, tie a red ribbon to the base of his tail to let other riders know. They will appreciate the warning and hopefully will leave extra room between your horse and theirs when passing or riding close by.
  • Leave the outside for faster horses with the slower riders on the inside. For example if the majority of horses are walking but you need to trot – move to the outside.
  • Be courteous, positive and polite when riding with other equestrians in a warm-up pen. Cue your horses quietly and remember basic warm up pen manners such as no smoking, no swearing, and no phone use in the area.
  • Don’t lung your horse in the warm-up area that others are riding in; head to a lunging area for this task.
  • Be prepared for an equine emergencies at all times! Warm-up pen emergencies can be anything from a rider stopping too quickly, a bucking horse, or someone falling off of their mount.

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