The majority of arenas have a notice pinned to the gate labelled “Rules of the Arena”.
On it are the usual statements:
- Pass left shoulder to left shoulder.
- Riders at a faster pace have priority on the outer track.
- Walk on an inner track.
- Give way to those riding lateral work.
- Ask permission before entering the arena. Only enter when no one is riding past the gate. Keep the gate closed.
- Do not halt on the outer track.
- Mount and adjust tack in the middle of the school.
- Inform other riders when leaving the arena.
- Do not pass other horses too close or too quickly.
- Do not cut up another horse and rider, so that they have to suddenly adjust their speed or direction.
But what about the most important rule?
Courtesy to other riders of course.
That means not riding in a noisy manner, no chatting to your horse or loud verbal aids. People are concentrating, so want peace and quiet with few distractions, so it’s also important that spectators are told be quiet and not fuss.
Ask if anyone is using the jumps, or if they mind you jumping before you start jumping. Tell them which jumps you are doing so that they can avoid that area.
Don’t lunge when others are riding unless the arena is plenty big enough; your horse is quiet on the lunge, and the other rider is happy. Not that long ago I was teaching a nervous rider and we were sharing the school with one other rider, when not one, but two women came in unannounced to begin lunging. I was furious!
If someone has a problem, stop. It doesn’t matter how important or perfect that medium canter is, their safety is more important. Whether they’re doing an unrequested wall of death, or have parted company. Halting your horse will calm the situation and their horse is less likely to flee. It may be useful to hop off and catch the other horse and then offer the fallen rider some help.
One request I used to have when teaching in a riding school was that advanced riders avoided the novice riders. That’s mainly because the less experienced rider has less control and are usually too busy worrying about rein length, trot diagonals, and staying straight along the track and not cutting corners. Likewise if you are sharing an arena with someone having a lesson then avoid the areas they are working in – after all would you like to pay to have someone continuously interupt your lesson?
Whilst you don’t want to be criticising others or make them feel scrutinised, it’s nice to be supportive and compliment them if you think they’ve ridden a nice transition, or if they’ve jumped a bit bigger than normal.
This unwritten etiquette is, to me, as important as the rules of the arena and horse owners should all be made ticrecite them before being allowed to mount so that sharing an arena is a pleasurable experience.