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.
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.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: