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Warm up ring etiquette is a topic best covered by discipline. However, there are so many disciplines available to horses and riders these days, and so many exceptions to each discipline’s warm up rules, it makes it impossible to cover all areas. Here are some suggestions to hopefully get you and your horse to the ring safely this summer.
First, know the rules! Between USEF, USDF, USPC, USEA, breed shows and any other type of show, they all have rule books. Read your rule book! Don’t assume that what your association rule book accepts, and what another accepts are the same. This is important when cross-training your horse. Often riders that event or show at breed shows will bring a young horse along at local hunter/jumper shows. They do not practice the same warm up rules, especially when jumping is involved. So knowing how each discipline addresses the warm up ring is important.
Some typically accepted rules in the warm up ring are:
Pass head-on-traffic left shoulder to left shoulder. This helps to avoid collisions.
More forward moving horses typically pass on the inside of slower moving horses. This is useful if anyone is jumping in the warm up ring. However, in dressage often the horse going more forward or doing a higher level movement will take the rail.
More experienced riders should keep an eye out for less experienced riders who are more likely to make mistakes.
Do not lunge your horse when riders are warming up to show, if you need to lunge go to the lunging area or get up early before the ring is busy.
Give some extra room to someone riding a difficult horse.
If you are just practicing rather than warming up to show be courteous and allow competitors who are showing soon to have some extra space.
Call out (not scream out) a direction you wish to go or a jump you are hoping to jump. Communicating with your fellow competitors nicely will often result in them yielding the right of way.
Practice. As Nike would say, “Just do it!” the more you go in with all those people and horses, the more comfortable you will become.
Take a friend, trainer, coach, anyone familiar with that discipline’s warm up etiquette and have them help you the first time.
A busy warm up ring is not the place to “train” your horse. Warm your horse up to show, train him at home.
Inevitably everyone makes a mistake in the warm up ring so make a point to nicely apologize and go on with your warm up. Keep your eyes up and be aware of everyone in the ring so that your warm up experience is a safe and productive experience in getting your horse into the show ring this summer. Remember, everyone has the same goal: Have a good show and have fun doing it!