From Endurance to Dressage
The warm-up ring has become my scab. Ew. Yeah. I know. But I am just going to keep picking at it. Based on comments from the other days's post, many riders have conflicting opinions about the warm-up ring's "rules." And by the way, thanks for all the comments since they served to illustrate my point. There are a lot of interpretations of the warm-up rules! All of you had something to say about this or that. How can such a precise, stringent, and governed sport not have more clear cut rules for the warm-up ring?
And before someone gets all "preachy" and tries to tell me me that I'll get it with more experience, that's just bullpucky. In what sport do you have to participate for a decade before the rules are revealed to you? None. For the record, I'm in my third season of showing. So far, I've attended seventeen shows at eight different venues. I've shown in schooling shows, one-star events (CDS-rated), and three-star events (USEF/USDF/CDS). So I think I have just enough experience to speak on this topic. Mind you, I am NOT saying I am E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E-D, but I have been to enough shows to know that the rules are a bit gray, especially regarding right-of-way.
At not one of those seventeen shows was there a posting for the warm-up rules. Yes, lunging has a designated spot, but the rules for ridden warm-up are not posted. And it's not as though they're understood. Clearly they're not or people like Louisa Zai wouldn't have to be writing articles for Dressage Today!
In many of the comments made the other day, the importance of shared rules was brought up over and over. Crossing the diagonal is probably what caused my previously mentioned scab. I am not expecting an answer here, but how in the world can anyone follow any kind of order when someone is charging across the diagonal? And when I mention that, it is NOT because I want to school across the diagonal (or ride my entire test or whack anyone with my whip), but that others do. If I am making a 20 meter circle anywhere within the warm-up, the horse charging across the diagonal either has to speed up or slow down to not t-bone me. Or I have to.
How does this make a warm-up effective? For lower level riders especially, establishing a nice working rhythm is essentially the warm-up. If I am constantly slamming on the brakes to avoid Sir Charge-a-lot, I might as well just walk the rail. Oh, wait. The "understood" rule is that slower riders take the inside track, but walkers are usually seen on the rail. Huh? Oh, wait, another "understood" rule is that faster traffic passes to the inside. How can they if the slower riders take the inside? Shaking head.
I know what you're thinking: Get over it already and just get in there, keep your eyes up, watch where you're going, and do your best to be polite and not cause any trouble.
I hear you, and that's precisely what I do. But. I take offense when Sir Charge-a-lot glares at me for being in her way and then feels compelled to tell someone else that I am causing trouble. I also take offense when Sir Charge-a-lot's twin sister roars up behind me and scares the crap out of my clearly lower level pony at a schooling show.
What's to be done? Well, probably nothing, and since I am no doubt preaching to the choir, I will just have to start warming up with my lance and shield with my armor-face firmly positioned to glare as equally pissy as Team Charge-a-lot.
And with that, here is a list of "official" warm-up rules as posted by the United States Dressage Federation. To see the full document, which I have also added here (it's called Dressage Protocol), visit USDF here. By the way, the Dressage Protocol document is actually quite informative and should be read by all competitors, especially newbies.
All USEF rules apply from the time the entries arrive on the show grounds (when the show office opens).
If you arrive the day or evening before the competition, ask permission before entering the competition areas. Management sometimes allows schooling in or around the competition ring, but do not assume that you may enter the competition arenas to school. The prize list may describe the schooling policy.
Numbers must be worn whenever a horse is ridden, exercised, or out of his stall or away from the trailer. Some management issue two numbers; if they want you to wear two, the second number is not a spare in case you lose the first one.
The size and layout of the warm-up areas will vary greatly. Find out if management has a stated policy for warm-up and schooling areas. Think of “warm-up” as the arena for the work you will do immediately before entering the competition arena. The warm-up area is not the place to train a horse or give a riding lesson. Other schooling areas for lungeing, exercising, and coaching are to be designated.
The warm-up area is primarily for the use of competitors preparing for an upcoming test. Others should give these competitors priority. Sometimes only the next two or three competitors are permitted in the warm-up ring. Others will be advised to use schooling areas. When entering the warm-up arena, be careful not to cut off another rider. Slower gaits take the inside track.
Pass left shoulder to left shoulder and look where you are going. When overtaking traffic in the same direction, pass to the inside with care and plenty of clearance. Better yet, take a circle or cut across the arena to avoid passing.
Keep at least one horse’s length from any other horse.
Plan halts for the center of the ring.
When turning, check your “rear view” first.
Be careful how you use your whip. Other horses may react more enthusiastically than your own.
Fractious horses should be removed from the area immediately.
Upper-level riders should be careful not to frighten green horses and riders in the warm-up arena.
Make way for ring maintenance crews in the warm-up arena. Some competitions post ring-maintenance schedules. Be aware of them.
Be courteous to other riders who are trying to concentrate on their own warm-up.
Do your schooling in a positive manner. Do not school after a test if you are angry. Perform your warm-up routine with a purpose: do not merely meander around the arena.
Be polite. Foul language is never tolerated.
Horses not entered in the competition do not belong in the warm-up area.
Remember the warm-up arena is for work. Do your final tack adjustments outside of the warm-up arena. Most competitions request that trainers and helpers stay on the rail, with no foot traffic allowed in the warm-up.
Ring stewards are required to spot check tack after your exit from the competition arena. Keep in mind that some equipment allowed in warm-up is not allowed in the performance arena. Tack permitted in the warm-up area and the competition arena is specifically stated in the USEF rule book.
Lunge only in designated areas, and give all horses enough room. When you are finished, pick up your lungeing equipment—do not leave it on the ground as a hazard.
Be especially courteous to show volunteers. They keep the competition running smoothly and facilitate communication between competitors and management. They are there to help you, but it is your responsibility to get to the right arena at the right time.
Inappropriate behavior by a competitor or his/her family members or assistants can be an unpleasant experience for others at the show. In addition, be aware that a competitor can be penalized for USEF rule violations as a result of inappropriate behavior of family members.
4/16/2012 12:59:44 am
If you really want an answer to any of your questions - a quick Google search brings up the rules you are looking for. After 15 shows, you really do need to just figure it out! Nobody was out to get you. You brought up the fact that someone glared at you many, many times and I figured out who and what you did. Basically you cut someone off. This person didn't know who you were, didn't bring it up and I certainly didn't identify you! It is very normal for people to whine about their ride. It's time to put down the log you've been carrying since you started this blog with the loud whine "nobody will help me". There are people helping you, there are rules for the warm up, you made a mistake - learn from it.
4/16/2012 11:44:58 am
Ouch ... but as they say, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I'll stand by my interpretation of events. :0)
4/16/2012 09:58:19 pm
Mary said, "you really do need to just figure it out", then said, "all of us can tell you about bad things happening in the warm up", and "Serious accidents also happen."
4/16/2012 02:52:51 am
I am not a dressage person... at all... but I ride at a mainly dressage barn. I frequently over hear discussions on warm-up ring snafus. There may be some written rules but it certainly sounds as if some/many people either do not follow them at all or only when it serves their own purpose. I have seen this frequently at my barn
4/16/2012 11:47:23 am
Sara - thanks for your input, and you got exactly what I was trying to say. And just to clarify, she only glared at me once. :0) I appreciate your feedback and wonder what kind of interesting things you are privy to day after day. :0)
Firstly, I really enjoyed your first post and reading all the responses! Secondly, I'm enjoying the continued dialogue. Thanks for finding the Dressage Protocol! As I do mostly eventing, I'm not super familiar with USDF rules/reg/society as a whole, but really it can be a great resource! They certainly cleared up that slower traffic needs to be on the inside. At most warm up rings I've been in, most people in the ring go either one direction or the other, then at some point it changes and everyone goes the other way. That naturally evolves to make sure there aren't too many "lanes" to speak of - walking first direction on far outside, walking second direction one "lane" in from the outside, then trotting first direction in the "third lane", and so on. Everyone just naturally goes either first or second direction, so there isn't a ton of passing going on and directionality doesn't conflict with speed.
4/16/2012 11:51:22 am
Excellent points, Sarah! One of my h/j friends has shared the warm-up ring protocol from her sport and it does seem as there is more of consensus with the directionality issue. Unfortunately, in dressage, everyone is going a different direction. There is no clear flow of traffic.
4/16/2012 04:24:26 am
I think that the warmup ring for dressage shows is a NIGHTMARE. I credit a lot of my dislike of shows to the stress of the warmup ring. There are top riders in my area that I was warned would ride over me and my horse in a second if I was in their way. Really hard to focus on relaxation and rhythm when I was constantly worried about what direction someone was coming and were they doing a lateral to the corner or? not only that but I was suppose to give a huge bubble to each horse. I'm respectful of other horses - on the endurance trail I don't tail gait and know approximately the polite space. However, it seems like the bubble in teh warmup ring of dressage is HUGE. So now, not only am I worried I'm going to be plowed over by other people, I'm constantly trying to NOT get in other people's space - so apparently there's a subset of riders at a certain level that not only are trying to stay OUT of other people's space, I've been told that there are people that will willfully ride INTO my space.
4/16/2012 11:53:36 am
Mel - I see you've been in my shoes. And I KNOW you live in area with some big time riders. Scary stuff for sure. It makes me miss the 100 or more horses milling around at a ride start without anyone getting killed or glared at! :0)
4/16/2012 05:42:24 am
First of all OUCH! Second of all you are not whining! That said i think the one rule that needs to be posted at every event is BE COURTEOUS! Everyone! If the slower, greenies stay on the rail and the faster riders stay to the inside there will be less chance of collisions i would think. Accidents can happen anywhere so the other rule or reminder posted should be PAY ATTENTION!
4/16/2012 11:54:38 am
Thanks, Sandy. I would really love to see some written, and followed rules. It would make things less confusing for sure! Any chance we'll see you on Saturday? :0)
I was once sharing the ring with a rider who was having a lesson on a big warmblood trained to at least third level. The longer the lesson continued, the larger the rider's circles became. It wasn't long until I was stuck on a fifteen middle circle (with a second rider) and the other seemingly oblivious rider has two-thirds of the ring. It was frustrating, because I was not infringing on anyone's space. My space was being invaded by a rider who could not control the size of her figures. Ironically, my little quarter horse had to half-pass at the canter to avoid a head-on collision with a more highly trained horse. I find those types of situations very irksome and I would imagine that they apply in varying degrees to the warm up ring.
4/16/2012 11:55:52 am
Go, Harley go! Oblivious is a good term to use. Some riders are hyper-aware, while others are not. You just do your best, I suppose.
4/16/2012 08:17:11 am
First I spent the weekend with Karen - I can assure you she whined! Second she was the one in error and that seems to get lost here. A horse changing direction (circling) yields to a horse on a straight line. A horse doing a working trot yields to the horse doing a more complex movement (extended trot). Also she was in the warm up with the big guys hours before her class and there were other places to ride. So she broke at least 3 rules of warm up and could have caused a dangerous collision. She only got glared at once! She whined about the glare multiple times! And she's blogged about warmups more than once. Really it is not - after so many shows - unreasonable to ask her to take responsibility for her behavior and fix it! She is no longer a complete novice! I have made my fair share of mistakes in the warmup and I've been the victim of such mistakes. One of my horses got run into hard by someone and to this day she freaks in the warm up! That's just because someone was not paying attention. Fortunately no one was hurt, but this horse has a problem for life.
4/16/2012 11:58:28 am
Again ... ouch. Either way, no hard feelings! Everyone interprets an event differently, and that's okay. I respect that you saw the day differently than I did. I hope you'll continue to read and comment, Mary, as I know you bring a wealth of experience to the discussion. I still hope to see you on Saturday.
4/16/2012 12:09:34 pm
Well, showing is stressful and everyone deals with stress differently. I think that writing is a very healthy outlet and there are certainly plenty of commiserating spirits here.
4/16/2012 10:55:36 pm
My hubby frequently has to ask, "riding or writing?" I enjoy both and need to do both - as do you I imagine!
4/16/2012 02:17:26 pm
I'm not mad at you! Just think it's time to fix what you can fix and that 's you! The behavior of others isn't something we can change - no matter how many articles we write! People have tried! Everybody thinks it's the other person's behavior! Some of the articles you can find on Google specify exactly how many meters one horse should be from another! Don't expect USDF to do that! I can just see a ring steward out there with a measuring stick! We fix what we can.
Two things I'd like to note.
4/16/2012 11:42:02 pm
Comments are closed.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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