Riding Arenas: Best Practices

by Matt

This time of the year, the best option in many parts of the U.S. for training, exercising, and generally spending time with your beloved equine is to head for the indoor arena. (In the southern hemisphere, it’s summer!)

To remain on good terms with our horse-riding community, let’s review the rules of etiquette for any horse riding arena that is big enough to handle multiple riders at once.

Always remember that the first rule is to follow any posted rules.

What time to ride

Any large arena frequently used for multiple riders for riding and lessons should have a posted schedule. If possible, schedule your ride times outside lesson hours, especially when group lessons may be happening.

The advantage of having your own arena is controlling your schedule and accessibility. If, however, you do have to share arena time, find out the time when you can best focus on your riding rather than having to work around others.

Mounting your horse

It is wise and courteous when entering the riding arena to loudly announce yourself with, “Door,” to warn approaching riders and horses that you are about to appear.

The track is no place to mount up. Mount out of the way, in the center, and then merge onto the track safely.

Go with the flow

It’s best if riders in the arena are doing the same thing: jumping, lessons, dressage, etc. That’s not always the case. Therefore

  • Ride in the same direction
  • If riding in different directions, pass left-shoulder to left-shoulder
  • Ride slow on the inside, fast on the outside
  • Announce your intentions to other riders (passing, jumping, etc.)
  • Don’t crowd other horses (and when passing, keep out of biting and kicking range)
  • Do not do speed moves, such as the running and sliding stops that reining horses do, while other mounted riders are nearby

Keep it clean

Don’t leave clutter in the arena. If lunging is permitted in your arena, place the lunge whip, lunge line, jackets, halters, etc. safely outside the arena.

About lunging

Do not free lunge your horse without approval of management and at a time when others are not waiting to use the arena. If there are riders in the arena, check with them to see if lunging is OK with them and their horses.

If your horse is prone to wild leaps in the air, wait until a time that there are no other riders. Rake out any holes in the footing your horse has created and pick up manure deposits.

Keep the noise down

Any noises you use to cue your horse should be done away from other riders and quietly. You don’t want to inadvertently cue someone else’s horse. Don’t start loud equipment in an arena. Warn other riders if you’re about to open or shut a door that you know is noisy. You could spook other peoples’ horses.

Do not chat on your cell phone while riding in an arena and do not text your friends. In fact, leave your phone in a locker or somewhere so that weird 70s ringtone you’ve chosen won’t spook horses or make other riders question your good taste.

Keep in mind that if there is any violent weather, like hail or hard rain and wind, it could make lots of noise inside the arena, depending on the type of roof on the building. If it’s tin, it could be very jarring to your horse. You might wait for another day.

Horse control and rider respect

Speaking of doors, don’t leave them open. A horse can bolt through a wide or narrow arena door in a flash. If someone is having trouble with a horse, be respectful. Be generous about right of way in all events.

No one should allow loose horses in a riding arena. If you see a rider leaving a horse unattended, ask the arena manager to speak to them about the safety of other riders and horses.

Don’t tie horses to the rail or anywhere in the arena and leave them unattended.

Safety and Emergencies

Keep dogs tied up and children (unless mounted) safely outside the arena.

If this is your home riding arena, know where the first aid kits are kept. If a rider falls in an arena, all riders should dismount.


Ultimately it’s your job to be aware of what’s going on around you in the riding arena. While you’re warming your horse, pay attention to who seems new, who is on a young horse, which horses seem to be straining against control, and who might not be paying attention to the rules. It’s not your job to police the arena but situational awareness can put you in the position of avoiding or preventing unpleasant experiences.

These gentle suggestions for equine etiquette especially apply when you are at a show grounds and utilizing a warm up arena.

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