Ring Etiquette(May 21, 2009)
SHOW RING ETIQUETTE
Ring Etiquette is about common courtesy, manners and safety. No one likes to be crowded or cut off in the ring. No one likes near misses when a rider passes in the opposite direction or seems to travel around the ring without direction or as if they were the only one in the ring. No one likes to be kicked at by another horse or have his or her horse doing the kicking. All these things take away from the fun of the showing experience and our presentations to the judge.
This information has been put together to form a standard to which everyone is encouraged to follow. You will see these standards being followed when riding in a ring/group situation anywhere.
TRAVELING IN A GROUP
Remember the number 3. Whether you are just traveling in the same direction, passing in the same direction, passing the opposite direction, or not moving at all 3 is your optimum number. 3 horses lengths from nose to tail or 3 horse widths from shoulder to shoulder. This allows each horse and rider room to do their own thing without interfering with others. For example: if your horse spooks at something and you’ve allowed 3 horse lengths to the horse in front of you, your horse has room to move with out crashing into the horse in front and potentially getting kicked. Another example: ‘On Command’ class in Ellis River Riders open shows. This is a class where the riders are asked to halt their horses at random points through out the class. If your horse doesn’t stop as fast as the horse in front of you, you have time to turn your horse off of the rail and complete your stop with your horse in a safer place than the tail of the horse in front of you. Again prevent the risk of getting kicked. Not all horses like to stand still all the time and if you allow 3 horse widths between your horse’s shoulder and the ones to either side of you, you allow ‘wiggle room’ and time to move out of the way if necessary.
PASSING IN A GROUP
When coming up behind a horse that is traveling at a slower rate than yourself, you need to pass, circle or cut across the ring. It is important to make this decision while you still have a minimum of 3 horse lengths between your horse and the horse in front of you. This will prevent the potential situation of kicking by either horse.
If the decision is to pass then you must allow yourself and your horse plenty of room as to not upset the horse in front of you. If you pass too close, even the best-behaved horses can feel threatened and lash out in self-defense. Move your horse off the rail towards the center of the ring while you still have at least 3 horse lengths between you and the horse being passed. Allow at least 3 horse widths between your horse and the horse being passed. A way to measure this distance (prior to entering the show ring) would be to extend your arm straight out to the side with a whip in your hand. You want to make sure that the end of the whip still has plenty of distance between it and the horse next too you. Before moving your horse back too the rail, make sure that you’re allowing the horse you’ve passed enough room. Not all horses are kickers, as some prefer to bite! If you move back to soon you could cut the other horse off enough that they are forced to break gait. Continue to ride past the horse until you have at least 3 horse lengths between the tail of your horse and the nose of the horse that you just passed. Another thing to look for is whether there is room at all for your horse. You may have to pass more than one horse to find your spot.
If there is more than one horse in front of you moving slower than your horse, you might choose to cut across the ring. Before getting closer than 3 horse lengths to the horse in front of you, look around the ring for an opening big enough to accommodate you faster moving horse. Once one is found, plan your route. You don’t want to have a near miss with the judge; it won’t look good for your skills as a rider. You also don’t want to have any near misses with other horses. Once a clear route is decided on, move off the rail while you still have the 3 horse lengths between you and the horse in front. Travel your planned route and before moving back onto the rail, make sure that you leave the horse that you are about to move in front of at least 3 horse lengths between the tail of your horse and the nose of the horse behind.
If all the horses in the ring have clustered into a group you might decide to do a circle and utilize the empty space behind your horse. Before moving off of the rail, take note of where the judge is and plan your circle. Move off of the rail and begin your circle while you still have at least 3 horse lengths between your horse and the horse in front of you. Once your circle is completed you will arrive back on the rail with plenty of room for your horse.
There maybe classes where there are a large number of horses in the ring at once and finding space is difficult. In that situation you will have to do your best to not crowd the horse in front of you by carefully controlling the speed of your horse until an opportunity presents itself for you to pass, circle, or move across the ring.
If you take the time to plan your routes and pass before you have ridden up to close too the horse in front, you will show the judge that you are a competent rider who is in control of themselves and their horse. It will also prevent potentially dangerous situations as even the best-behaved horses have bad days.
When passing a horse traveling in the opposite direction, no matter the gait, the standard rule is “left to left”. Keep your left side to their left side. If you are both traveling on the rail one rider would automatically move off of the rail toward the center of the ring to allow the on coming horse to pass on their left. When everyone follows the same rule, it eliminates the game of chicken, as the rider who needs to move has been pre-determined.