The Warmup Ring
Horseshow Etiquette Checklist
Some typical council I have for a student when I'm attempting to calm their fears regarding their first show is; "you don't have to worry about the show ring, it's the warmup ring you'll have to survive"! I always love to see my student's stunned reaction to that pearl of wisdom, delivered by me with a coy smile and a gleam in my eye, evidence of my confidence in knowing I can skillfully and successfully give them a good experience amongst circumstances that can be challenging at best.
What you accomplish in the warmup ring can make or break your achievements for the day or even set the tone for an entire weekend. Featured below is a list of ideas you'll want to think over to prevent yourself from going in ill prepared or unaware.
Let's start at the beginning; Are you to the show and tacked up with time to spare? I cannot begin to stress this concept enough. Don't think for a moment your horse is not affected by the stress you're feeling from being late and in a rush. Horses are far more sensitive than people to other's emotions and you can only imagine what your stress level is doing to them. Remember: Early is on time and on time is late! Make this your motto and see if your horse's behavior at shows doesn't change for the better?
Next, keep in mind that the show warmup ring is NOT a lesson ring! I know some of this involves your trainer and the schooling they provide you with at the show but I would hope that your trainer has the wisdom to know that the warmup ring is no place to tackle new concepts! While there are often breakthroughs made at the show it is far less traumatic to perfect as much of what is expected while in the comfort of your own facility. The key is to keep the "show experience" as stress free as possible and trying to master something new is not helpful in realizing that objective.
Be selective about where you warm up. While there are specific rings set aside at most shows designated as the warmup ring, sometimes you have options of more than one so be sensible and choose one with the least traffic. Even with a seasoned horse, just as in driving a car you want a certain amount of space to prevent a collision not to mention subjecting your horse to the carelessness of other riders or their attitudes that's causing their horse to be on the verge of a meltdown. (Horses are very aware of another horse's anxiety and often they cannot help but react)
Be courteous! You should be well aware of "laws" of the warmup ring. Always pass on the right, just as though you were driving a car. Pass those coming toward you to the right and you'll prevent a lot of embarrassing moments. Try to pass someone slower on the inside not along the rail! If on the rare occasion you find yourself forced to come up along the rail, when in doubt, call it out! Not one will mind if you politely notify the rider you're passing but just as with cars, passing on the right can be somewhat hazardous as it puts you between the rail and the horse being passed with no way out.
Don't crowd the gate or hog the rail! I still can hardly go to a show without seeing someone being very inconsiderate by hanging out inside the warmup ring, chatting to others over the rail and joining up with comrades and visiting while blocking the paths of those trying to get their horse ready to go into their class. I try to be nice about asking such people to please go elsewhere for the sake of everyone else attempting to do right by their horse but I fear in my older age I'm becoming far less subtle because I feel this behavior is so blatantly rude I can hardly believe it's not being done on purpose. Please show some class when in the warmup ring and respect other's right to have the space needed to get the job done.
These are just a few things to keep in mind the next time you enter the ring. Remember to keep it simple, be thoughtful of your horse and others and enjoy the opportunity you have to showcase all of yours and your horse's hard work! Have a splendid show!