I feel like arena etiquette is one of those things in the equestrian world that is often overlooked, yet it’s one of the easiest things that we as riders can do to keep the arena as safe as possible for everyone. Arena etiquette is hands down one of my biggest pet-peeves as a rider. It’s a lot like using your turn signal when you’re driving a car: everybody should do it, a lot of people skip it, it only takes half a second, and it can prevent some pretty bad accidents. Here are some helpful guidelines to being courteous in the arena:
Eyes up: Always look where you’re going and be aware of your surroundings.
Spacing: You should have at least one horse-length between your horse and the horse in front of you (some say two horse-lengths). If someone should halt abruptly or even fall off, you have to give your horse the space and time to maneuver. Not to mention some horses don’t like other horses in their personal space!
Use your voice: Always be communicating vocally with other riders in the arena. A quick “heads up” can mean a world of difference to someone dealing with a difficult horse, or a beginner rider. When passing, you should say “inside” or “outside” depending on the situation, the “inside” being closer to the center of the arena and the “outside” being closer to the wall (passing on the inside is always best). When entering the arena, you should say something like “door” or “coming in”. Don't be afraid to speak up! Everyone in the arena should be able to hear you.
Direction: Generally it’s a good idea (and polite) to stick to the same direction that everyone else is riding, mostly to avoid head-on collisions!
Stopping: Look behind you before you stop! Don’t halt and sit on the outside track though, move your horse to the center of the arena so you're not in the way. You should also stop when somebody falls off or when the power goes out and it goes dark.
Dismounting: Dismount in the center of the arena, not the track or in the pathway of any jumps or poles.
Passing: Riders going opposite directions should pass left shoulder to left shoulder.
Right-of-way: Riders under instruction during a lesson have the right-of-way, always.
Use your head: When riding a horse, situations change and things happen. Be alert, be as prepared as possible, and use common sense.
These are just a few basic guidelines for good arena etiquette, ones that I feel are incredibly important to arena safety. There are many nuances to riding around other horses, and every arena and barn has their own rules to follow. Here are a couple of good resources for arena etiquette that go into more detail: