Again we always seem to find negative rules. Don’t do this, go there, or do that. Let this be the positive approach to arena population management.

A separate area should be provided for lunging. If this is not possible, then provide times when the arena is for lunging only.

It is best to provide areas for tying horses. If they must be tied to the arena fence, they should be tied outside.

All drink containers should be left outside the arena.

Coats, sweatshirts should be placed outside when removed, not on the arena fence, jumps, roping box, barrels or poles.

Courtesy toward other riders equals safer riding. Experienced people should look out for novices, and adults should look out for children. But all riders should also look out for themselves. Care should be taken by those practicing or warming up for faster events such as reining, native costume, or barrels and poles. Sometimes, there will be other riders or juniors present who may not know your agenda. This is particularly important at local shows or playdays where novices may compete without the benefit of a trainer, instructor or other experienced person. It is also a consideration that must be officially addressed at a multi-discipline training facility.

In practice, this means that a reiner needs to choose the spot to slide and rein back so as not to crash into the unsuspecting rider behind. All riders, generally, in a crowded arena should look behind them before stopping. All riders should keep several horse-lengths behind the rider in front, just in case that rider stops suddenly. If both ride defensively, both will be safer still. If a rider is walking and visiting, she/he should yield the rail to those who are schooling – or better yet leave the crowded arena or warm-up area to socialize. The riders who remain in the crowded area must pay attention or should be offered a less congested area in which to ride or asked politely to do their socializing outside of the crowed arena.

What about jumping? One hopes that the jumping area is separate from the main flat area. If not, jumping riders need to look out for the other riders, especially the less experienced and call his line or "heads up". Calling "heads up" is preferred to "Look out you @#$%@&#%!!!" The accident should be avoided by the person who can most easily do so. That usually means the more experienced rider or, in the case of a bad situation, it may mean the stable or show manager, trainer, or livestock exposition board. It may require a decision from the person who controls conduct in this otherwise perfect arena. It is always better to ask about policy and, if necessary establish some, rather than have several people feel slighted or that they are being deprived of their legitimate enjoyment of the arena. This situation seems to happen more often in private arenas "open" at certain times to friends and neighbors and at large fairgrounds where the public is permitted to ride when the arena is not otherwise occupied.

If asked, most riders will have some horror story to share about an accident or near-accident that occurred because someone didn’t see, or wouldn’t yield, or didn’t’ care in a crowded arena, or in the warm-up area at a show or playday. "Wow!! That kid wouldn’t get out of the way…" or "…He rode right into the line I was jumping…" "I just hate to have to warn-up when reiners are schooling; they will stop and run backwards right over the top of you." "There I was working on a canter pirouette (or spin), when she came blasting across the arena in an extended trot (or run-down). She should have called her diagonal. I nearly didn’t see her."

At least in some English riding stables there is some idea that there is something called arena courtesy, although the specifics are debated in this country. But basically it goes something like this: Horses heading toward each other pass left shoulder to left shoulder, where possible. Slow riders yield to faster riders – the faster rider gets the rail. The right track yields to the left. Riders notify the rider ahead that they are overtaking and plan to pass by calling out, "inside" meaning between the horse ahead and the center of the ring, or "outside" meaning between the horse ahead and the rail, or by saying: "rail, please." Any change through the diagonal or burst of speed should be announced and only done where space permits, The same is true for changes of direction and stops. One should not leave it up to others to simply make way. No deliberate action in an arena should force another rider to take evasive action.

Stable and show managers must take into consideration the disparate abilities and interests of all riders and make appropriate arrangements and rules which are fair and known to all.

Contributed By: Jan Dawson (President, AAHS)

Reprinted with permission of the copyright holder and the American Association for Horsemanship Safety.  P.O. Box 39, Fentress, TX 78622.