Avoiding collisions in the warm-up arena

For some of us when it comes to competing, remembering the correct show jumping course or dressage test is our main focus and everything else seems to blow away with the wind.

Entering the warm up arena can be extremely intimidating for somebody who is not very experienced and it is very easy to get so focused on what our horses are doing that we fail to pay attention to things that are going on around us! It is important to make sure that the warm up area remains a safe place for horses and their riders.

While warm up rules can vary slightly depending on the discipline, there are some general rules and guidelines that you should follow.

On entering the warm up arena, firstly check that the entrance is clear and that you can enter safely.

• Riders should pass each other left hand to left hand
• Walking your horse should be done on an inside track and never on a completely loose rein
• Do not halt your horse with his quarters pointing towards the track anywhere in the arena
• Always enter and exit the arena at a walk and do not cut across other riders
• A horse who is likely to kick should wear a red ribbon on their tail, a green ribbon should be worn on the tail of a young or a green horse

Specific to Show jumping;

• Before jumping a practice fence, always ensure that the way is clear for you to jump before doing so and make sure to call ‘vertical’ or ‘oxer’ depending on the type of fence that you are jumping
• The red flag should be on your right when jumping a practice fence
• Do not cross another riders jumping or landing lines
• If you do need to turn into the centre of the arena, always check that your way is clear and call ‘turning’ before you turn in

Specific to Dressage;

• Give way to riders who are performing lateral work, ignoring the left hand to left hand rule in this instance
• Riders are encouraged to circle away from those who are performing counter canter

Specific to Riding Club;

• Declared trainers or riding club members are the only people allowed on foot in the warm up arena
• Those riding stallions should wear a red sash
• Dressage- warm up on both reins is permitted, obeying the left hand to left hand / lateral work rule
• Show Jumping- warm up on one rein only depending on your grade. Check with the steward if you are unsure
• If you are competing two horses in the same class you may get an AIRC member to walk one of your horses for you

Some rules may vary, so if you are unsure always ask one of the stewards, as they will be able to guide you correctly. Competing is a really fun and rewarding experience for both you and your horse. While it’s important to concentrate on what your own horse is doing to achieve the best performance possible, remember to always pay attention to those around you while warming up. And remember, don’t forget to breathe and best of luck competing!

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