Essentials for the first time rider: you probably did not know there was such a thing as arena etiquette. While watching horses in an arena, everything seems to move along in a smooth and organized fashion. Here are some of the reasons why and what you need to do:
Entering the Ring
Etiquette starts as soon as a rider leaves the stable and leads the horse into the arena. People need to be aware that when a rider enters. Saying “heads up” or something similar works. Entering is to be done at the proper location. This means knowing up front where the gates to the ring are located. Some gates double for entry and exit, some could be either-or.
Mounting the Horse
When mounting the horse, it should be done out of the way of other riders. Usually, riders will warm their horses up going in circles close to the fence. The horse should be mounted away from traffic, somewhere in the center area. If other people are mounting at the same time, it is courteous to give them plenty of space also.
In the Ring
Once in the saddle, the rider should go in the direction everyone else is going. Usually, that is clockwise, but if other exercises are going on already, this could be counterclockwise.
Common courtesy demands to not ride too close to other horses. There should always be enough space to fit one horse in between. Since horses are herd animals, their instinct is to be close to each other. This means it is each rider’s job to give the correct commands to not let their horse crowd another rider.
This can be done by cutting diagonally across the ring to find a larger space, or by making a circle if the horse in front is too close. The latter option works only if there isn’t another rider right behind.
Passing should be done on the outside of the rider in front (not between the fence and the rider), and an audible command should be given loud enough for the rider in front to hear.
Obey the RingMaster
If another rider falls, other riders should not panic. It is imperative for them to stay calm and to try to stay in one spot until the loose horse is re-captured. That all instructions of the ringmaster should be obeyed at all times.
Dismount and Exit
When dismounting and exiting, the same rules apply as for mounting and entering. Dismounting needs to be done out of everybody’s way, and exiting should be done through the proper gate. When filling out, riders need to walk their horses out by leaving enough space for others.
In closing, riding a horse is just like bringing a car into traffic. Using proper signals at all times and leaving enough distance are the key components of horse riding arena etiquette.