Basic Principals of Horse Show Etiquette 

Competing at horse shows as a rider and winning prizes is whether professional or beginner almost every rider’s aspiration. Horse shows are also a perfect fun time activity for horse lovers to watch amazing riders and horses. However, when all the nervous riders, trainers, families, and enthusiastic spectators come together, things can get a bit stressful and you may see people becoming more and more aggressive. One pinch of anxiety can sometimes ruin everything but by following simple rules of horse show etiquette, everything can go smoothly for all the riders, horses, trainers, and spectators.


Here are the basic principals that we all should follow at horse shows:

  • Riders

  • The show day is one of the most important days in a rider’s life. Years of practice with their four-legged companion will finally pay off. They have to focus on the course and remember everything when they step in the arena with their horse… Also, they have to make sure that their horse is as ready as they are both physically and mentally. Therefore, they can be the most anxious and stressed person at the horse show. To make everything work better, riders should pay attention to general etiquette rules so that all the riders and horses can have a safe environment to compete. 

    • Be well-prepared: Before leaving home for a horse show, please check all your equipment and make sure you have everything that you will need during the show and everything is in order. It is ok to ask others when you are missing something but doing it too often might annoy them.

    • Ask what you need to know: At horse shows, there can be different rules and procedures about the barns, arenas, and rings. You should ask if there is something you need to know about these. In addition, you must know about the tail ribbons if the horses have them.

    • Inside or Outside: Consider the pace speed of your horse before starting to exercise him/her at a horse show. It is better for fast-paced horses to exercise outside and slow-paced horses to exercise inside if there are 2 arenas to practice. 

    • Practicing: When there are too many riders warming-up in the same ring, it can be quite confusing and cause problems for both horses and riders. Don’t forget to ask if there are times set for practice areas. Be mindful of the riders around you. Also, if you need to circle, try to do it closer to corners instead of doing it in the middle to avoid annoying other riders.

    • Apology: When you are unsure about something in front of another rider or any other person, don’t hesitate to offer an apology. There may not be something to apologize but it is always better to be polite around the people you don’t know.

    • Respect your horse: Just like you, your horse is under great stress during the show. He/she can have a hard time because of changing the environment and being in the same place with so many stranger horses. You two can win or lose but don’t forget that your horse worked on it as much as you did. So don’t get angry or disappointed. 

  • Trainers

  • Horse shows can be really hectic for trainers and instructors. They are responsible for both the horses and the riders that they coach and they have to think so many things such as gears, setups, team conditions, courses and many more to put them in order. As a trainer, you may get nervous, angry, and even disappointed but you should be careful with your manners. 

    • Plan everything in advance: The one thing that causes anger for trainers is the mess on the show day. To avoid this, make sure to plan everything a while before with the riders. You can make to-do lists or the list of the items you will need. You can prepare everything a couple of days before the show days and put everything in order to enjoy the show.

    • Learn and inform the rider: Make sure that you know everything you need to know about the show and about the place. If there are things that you should let the riders know, tell them as soon as possible.

    • Do not shout: We all know that one trainer at horse shows who keep yelling and shouting around for no real reason. No matter how bad the situation is and how angry you are, it is not the end of the world and there is nothing to shout at your student. From the outside, it creates a bad impression as well as it affects the motivation of your student rider. 

  • Parents and Spectators

  • Spectators and parents may cause even more trouble at the show as some of them may not know anything about horses. Especially parents who spend so much money on their child’s passion should know that the show days can test the sanity of anyone but you should keep calm and know the rules of the place.


    • Don’t interfere with the trainer: If you are a parent, let the trainers do their job as they are the ones who trained your child until that day. They are the professional and they are already under a huge amount off stress. Don’t talk much about other trainers, other riders, and be courteous and supportive to both your child and the trainer. 

    • Keep quite: As a parent or a spectator, never ever make an urgent noise around a horse. Cheering, shouting, yelling or any other loud sound can cause a horse to get spooked. Keep your conversations as silent as possible.

    • Sudden moves: Just like sudden loud noises, some horses might get spooked because of sudden moves around them. Be careful especially if you have a child or a pet wandering close to horses. 

    • Keep clean: Everyone enjoys having some snacks while watching those amazing equestrians show off but please keep in mind to clean your trash after and keep any plastic bag away from the arena or any other place that horses walk. 

    • Phones off: Just like in any show, people want to focus on what they watch. They want to watch the horses and riders and enjoy the moment but a sudden phone ring can distract them. Therefore, remember to turn off or silent your phone before the show starts. 

    All in all, horse shows are marvelous demonstrations that should be enjoyed by everyone. To make everything go better and have fun with everyone around you at a horse show, please pay attention to your manners and the general etiquette rules of horse shows.

    1 comment

    • Ella Luker

      Thank you for this message. I have my first ever horse show in two months and I really needed this my mom sister and dad having no knowledge of anything horse and so I will let them read this. Thank you and I will be mindful of everything This told me.

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