AQHA Professional Horsemen offer rules for excruciatingly correct behavior in the warm-up arena.
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Rule No. 4: Use Common Sense
Common sense is actually not all that common. Matter of fact, it can be pretty scarce in the warm-up arena.
One of the most foolish things seen at horse shows is an exhibitor attempting to longe an overly excited horse in a pen packed with riders. AQHA Professional Horsewoman Renae Dudley points out that unless it is a large warm-up arena, horses should not be longed around horses being ridden.
“It is just a train wreck waiting to happen when you longe a horse that is acting wildly, kicking up his heels and racing around, in a crowded pen,” she says. “It’s not only dangerous for the horses that are riding around the horse on the line, it’s dangerous for the horse on the line.”
If a horse must be longed, Renae recommends that it be done when the arena is less crowded, like early morning or late evening. Also, show management will sometimes set up areas just for longeing or times when the warm-up arena is only open to longeing.
Safety is of the utmost importance in the warm-up pen, and that is where common sense comes most into play. Riders practicing patterns or fencing their reining horses should be watchful of others. Also, if warming up in an area where jumps are set up, avoid riding a horse near them.
“If you’re not using the jumps, then stay away from them,” AQHA Professional Horseman Chuck Briggs says. “I’ve seen some bad wrecks just because somebody runs in front of the jump as somebody else is trying to jump. They crash into each other.”
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Rule No. 5: Don’t Park Your Horse
Riders who park their horses in the warm-up arena are not only annoying, but also dangerous.
“You wouldn’t park your car in the middle of a traffic lane, so why would you do the same with your horse?” Renae asks.
And, most of all, don’t talk on the cell phone while warming up.
“If you are in there to ride, you need to be riding, not talking on your phone,” Chuck says.
If a rider must park her horse, Renae recommends either leaving the warm-up arena or riding to the center where there isn’t as much activity.
Rule No. 6: If You Move It, Put It Back
Remember that if you disturb a jump or trail obstacle, return it to its proper place.
“It isn’t the job of the next rider to reset the obstacle; it’s the job of the person who disturbed the obstacle to reset it for the next rider,” Renae says. “We’re generally all jammed up trying to get through the trail obstacles, and there are always more riders than there is time. If the obstacle has been moved and not reset, then the next person can’t practice it the way it should be done.”
The solution? Bring along a companion to reset jumps and obstacles.
“Take someone with you so if you knock over a jump or move an obstacle, then it can be fixed right away,” Renae says.
And there’s nothing better than having an extra set of eyes, especially when jumping.
“Somebody on the ground can watch to make sure another rider doesn’t run in front of a jump as you’re coming to it,” Chuck says.
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Rule No. 7: The Golden Rule
Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself. In other words, avoid rude and impolite behavior.
“Sometimes, you’ll get some rider in there who thinks he’s Joe Horse Trainer, and go running around and not even watch who he is running into. He only cares about himself,” Chuck says.
Renae sees this type of self-absorbed attitude most in the warm-up pen where youth and amateurs practice their patterns.
“I have witnessed this many times where a set of trainers take their students to a quiet area in the arena that is just big enough to kind of go through the upcoming pattern,” she says. “The trainers will be helping their people work the pattern, and as the students are moving through the pattern, you’ll just see another rider blatantly ride through the pattern area that these people are trying to learn.”
Renae usually asks these riders to not interfere with the pattern practice.
“Most of the time, these people are in their own zone and don’t realize they have done it and they are like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ and they will move,” she says. “But I have actually had a rider one time that refused to move and continued to ride through the pattern. Finally, I just walked up to him and said, ‘I am going to go to show management and report this.’ I had to do that to get him to stop because he wouldn’t do it when I asked politely.”
Chuck points out that riders whose classes are not coming up right away need to stay out of the way of those exhibitors preparing for more immediate classes.
“You need to stay out of their way, and just because you want to do something doesn’t mean the other riders should stop what they are doing,” Chuck says. “Give them the courtesy you expect them to give you.”
“Unfortunately, there are just people who are focused on themselves more than trying to help those around them,” AQHA Professional Horsewoman Shannon Johnson says. “But we all need to remember that we all have to work together to get the proper warm-up for our horses.”
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