Warming up correctly is crucial to success in the ring, but sometimes surviving the warm-up arena can be more stressful than actually competing! At many venues the warm-up arenas are small and crowded. Some riders are so absorbed in what they are doing that they don’t pay attention to those around them, and so it’s not unusual to have someone come flying up behind you or halting abruptly in front of you. Collisions happen more often than they should and if you have a nervous or excitable horse it can make for a nerve-wracking experience. An understanding of etiquette in the warm-up ring should make it easier to handle.

Arena etiquette


  • Pass approaching riders left shoulder to left shoulder.
  • Keep to the inside track if you are moving at a slower pace.
  • Be aware of what the other horses and riders are doing and give them space.
  • Move to the centre or leave the arena if you need to adjust your tack or dismount.
  • Ask your coach to stand on the edge of the arena, not in the middle, and pick up poles if you knock a jump.
  • Call out “cross” or “oxer” when approaching a jump so that your intentions are clear to the other riders.
  • Move to the edge of the arena if your horse is misbehaving so as not to upset the other horses. Similarly, stay away from other horses who might be misbehaving. You don’t want to be accidentally kicked!
  • Be quick to apologise if you unintentionally cut someone off.


  • Pass too close to other horses.
  • Ride up behind or stop suddenly in front of another horse.
  • Circle or halt in front of a jump, especially if you see someone approaching it.
  • Talk or text on your phone – it’s distracting.
  • Adjust the height of the jumps to suit yourself; everyone competing is entitled to jump at the correct height.
  • Stop for a chat without moving out of the way.

How long should I warm up for?

The duration of your warm-up will depend on your horse. Some horses are cold and need a longer warm-up, while others need a little less. As a rule of thumb, if you get on when there are eight horses to go before you, that will give you approximately 15 minutes to warm up for jumping. Allow for the fact that horses may have been scratched (you can check this with the marshal) or eliminated at the first jump, in which case the time may be shorter than you estimated. This is not an excuse to go in late and you should allow for all eventualities. It’s easier to judge your warm-up for dressage or showing as your riding time is set, so you can prepare accordingly.

Know your horse. If your horse becomes less careful the more you jump, do a few jumps well and leave it at that – don’t use up all his energy unnecessarily.

Text by: Jan Tucker

The full article appears in the January issue (118) of HQ magazine > Shop now