Unless you are fortunate enough to have your own arena at home for private use; you most likely have to share arena space with other riders. And a riding arena (like any other sports arena) has rules to follow. But in horseback riding those arena rules are not always evident or clearly stated. This is a guide to help you ride courteously in an arena with other people (no matter the discipline; aka Western, Trail, Dressage, Jumper, etc.). Not only does this help with traffic, it ensures the safety of all riders and horses in the arena.
1.) For starters: LEFT HAND TO LEFT HAND!!!! when not going in the direction of other riders.
What this means: Your left hand should pass the oncoming rider’s left hand. Or you are on the “right” side.. like when driving in a car in the USA.
2.) If traveling the same direction as a horse you need to pass; pass to the inside. Never pass to the outside as it can cause issues if unexpected and you try to get between a horse/rider and the wall/rail. Also be sure to call your plan of travel. AKA “passing to your inside” or just “inside”.
3.) When getting ready to come through a gate or door (on horse or off horse) state clearly “door” or “gate” so that riders (and horses) get an idea that you are coming. This will help alleviate accidental spooks and possible safety risks to everyone involved.
4.) When mounting/dismounting/standing still. Try to do so outside of the arena if at all possible. If not possible; make sure you are not in the path of riders.
5.) Before you come into the arena make sure your saddle and other tack is adjusted properly. This will alleviate being on the ground with your horse for too long and possibly getting in the way. i.e. adjust your stirrups, tighten your girth, etc. before coming into the arena (if necessary to enter arena before mounting).
6.) Call your intended path. Examples include: “diagonal”, “quarter line”, “inside”, “20 meter circle”, “10 meter circle”, “counter canter loop”, “oxer”, “vertical”, “bridge”, etc. This lets other riders know where you are going so they can try to stay out of your way for the movement. Give them plenty of heads up though, don’t expect them to move for you when you call something last minute.
7.) In case of emergency: be prepared. If a horse spooks, someone falls off, etc.; be ready to dismount and stay out of harms way if necessary. Some horses do better if you stay mounted, some do not; just be aware of your own safety if this situation arises. ALWAYS be observant. If you can help the person having trouble safely, make sure to do so. Always ask the person that is having issues if they are OK. Know where First Aid kits are.
8.) Try to give non verbal cues when possible. Avoid kissing to your horse when it might affect other horses around you. You don’t want to inadvertently cue a passing rider’s horse to canter by kissing to your own horse. Also, avoid popping a whip if lunging in an arena with other horses/riders.
9.) Give more advanced riders than you extra room to work. They typically work more difficult patterns and need to move around the arena differently. If you know you will be working on a 20 meter circle for a while; tell them “Hey, I’m going to be on a circle for a while feel free to ride on the outside of us”.
10.) Just be courteous. If you are unsure how to act in the arena with the people around you, just ask. Other riders will appreciate the gesture and let you know exactly what they would like (and it is usually a pretty easy request to meet).
11.) Make sure you are having fun!!! We are all in this for one reason; we love horses. Get out there and no matter the level make sure you (and your horse) are enjoying yourselves.
Hopefully this helps simplify the process of riding in an arena with other people. If you have any questions; please feel free to ask on this post, we are happy to help and be sure to share these arena rules with your friends and barn so everyone can ride peacefully together.