The Do’s And Don’ts Of Horse Show Etiquette

If you’re new to the horse show world, or even if you’ve been around for a while, knowing certain etiquette rules can help make your experience at the event more enjoyable. Horse shows are a fun and competitive way to showcase your horse’s talents and abilities. 

But they can also be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with what goes on during them. In this article we’ll cover some do’s and don’ts of horse show etiquette so that your next riding competition will be as fun as possible!

Do’s & Dont’s of the Horse Show Ring
Always give way to hikers, cyclists, and other trail users.
Respect your horse’s physical and emotional limits.
Stay on designated trails to prevent damage to the environment.
Be courteous to fellow riders and trail users.
Leave no trace and pack out all trash and waste.
Always be prepared with the right equipment and supplies.
Practice good horsemanship and riding skills.
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Follow the rules and regulations of the trail and park.
Have fun, but always prioritize safety.

Do: Be Courteous

  • Be courteous to others.
  • Be courteous to the horse.
  • Be courteous to the judge.
  • And be courteous to organizers, too!

Do: Be Prepared

The best way to avoid embarrassment at a horse show is to be prepared. This means knowing the rules of the show, having a schedule printed out or on your phone so that you don’t miss anything, knowing how to get there and where to park (and if necessary, how much it will cost). 

It also means having a clean well-groomed horse that has been bathed within the last 24 hours (or more), trimmed hooves and proper attire for yourself as well as any companions who may accompany you on this adventure.

The dos and don’ts of horse show etiquette can be challenging, especially if it’s your first time. It’s important to make a good impression, so check out our guide on horse show etiquette to ensure you have all your bases covered.

Do: Keep Your Horse Under Control

As a rider, you should be the first to keep your horse under control. The horse show arena is not a place for bad behavior or acting out; if your horse is nervous or afraid and misbehaves, it will reflect poorly on you as an exhibitor.

If you feel that your horse may be prone to being nervous or spooky during competition, it’s best to try out the environment before bringing him/her into it so that they can get used to being around crowds of people and other animals (if there are any). 

Some horses are very good at adapting quickly while others take longer–just make sure whatever approach works best for yours!

When it comes to trail riding, safety should always be a top priority. Check out our article on 17 safety tips for a safe and fun trail riding adventure to ensure you’re taking all the necessary precautions.

Do: Help Out

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to ask others if they need help with their horses and if they have time, offer it! The same goes with you – if someone offers to help you, accept it graciously and thank them afterwards (even if all they did was hold the tail while you untied a knot). 

It’s just good manners! Also remember that just because someone isn’t asking for assistance doesn’t mean they don’t want some; so don’t assume anything – always ask first!

How to Help Others with their Horses

Be observantWatch and listen for any distressed signs or changes in behavior of the horse or rider
Offer helpDepending on how you perceive the situation, offer help with grooming, tacking, leading or walking a horse, holding a horse while a rider mounts or dismounts, clean up tasks like scrubbing hooves or picking up manure in the barn or trail
Be polite and respectfulAlways ask first before offering help and be gracious when accepting or declining help. Respect their routines, timing and processes. When helping, be gentle, calm and speak in low soothing voice
Keep safeAlways prioritize safety, wear proper attire, follow etiquette rules, avoid rushing or making sudden moves around horses. If something is outside your area of expertise, don’t try to help or provide advice beyond your knowledge. Suggest a vet or professional for those serious issues
Pay it forwardHelping out is a cycle of generosity and kindness. Once you receive help, be sure to pass on the favor. Remember, it’s not just riders who need helping hands, trainers and stable care staffs also need assistance

Note: This table provides examples of how to help others with their horses, but it is important to consider the situation and individual preferences when offering help.

Don’t Trample On The Arena’s Footing

This is one of the most important parts of horse show etiquette, and it can be easy to forget when you’re excited about going fast or showing off your horse’s moves. 

But trampling the footing will damage it (and cost money for repairs), which makes everyone sad. 

If you want to gallop around the ring like a racehorse, try doing so before or after competition hours so that no one else has access to that area at that time–and don’t forget to clean up after yourself!

Every horseback rider knows the importance of having the right equipment. If you’re planning a trail riding trip, make sure you’re equipped with the best bridle for your horse. Read our article on the best horseback riding bridles for every discipline to learn more.

Don’t Crowd People

Don’t be a ‘band-aid.’ You know how it goes: you see someone struggling at their horse, so you rush over to help out with whatever it is they need (a saddle pad? some water?) and then stand there holding the saddle pad or water bottle while they try to figure out what’s wrong with their horse. 

It’s nice that you want to help, but this kind of thing can be incredibly awkward and uncomfortable for both parties involved–especially if the person doesn’t speak English very well! Instead of being a band-aid, offer advice in a way that lets them know what may have gone wrong without making them feel like an idiot or asking too many questions yourself (unless they ask).

Don’t Ignore A Horse That Is Nervous Or Afraid

Don’t ignore a horse that is nervous or afraid. If the horse is nervous or afraid, don’t try to force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. 

Instead, give him time and space so he can calm down before continuing with whatever exercise you were doing.

If your horse becomes frightened during an event, don’t encourage him by pulling on his mouth or legs in an attempt at persuasion; this will only make matters worse as it causes pain and fear in your mount.

How to Handle a Nervous or Afraid Horse

Recognize signs of anxietySweating, wide eyes, fidgeting, tensed muscles, irregular breathing
Analyze the situationTry to identify the cause of the horse’s anxiety; new environment, sound or some natural triggers like predator scent
Create a calm environmentSpeak softly, move slowly, reduce environmental triggers, eliminate sources of loud noise, reduce horse-to-human and horse-to-horse contact, ensure a comfortable and cool temperature
Calm the horsePet the horse, enable the horse to smell its environment, guide the horse through calming exercises such as breathing practices, and all other techniques that aid relaxations like Equine aromatherapy
Restart trainingOnly start with exercises the horse knows already to rebuild its trust and confidence before moving to more advanced lessons or environments

Note: This table is a basic guide on how to handle a nervous or afraid horse, and it is recommended to consult a professional trainer or veterinarian in case of severe anxiety issues.

Don’t Be A ‘band-Aid’

The first step to becoming a better horse show citizen is knowing what not to do. One of the most common mistakes made by novice riders is trying to cover up problems with excuses and Band-Aids. 

This strategy can backfire because it makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, which will only make things worse for everyone involved.

Here’s an example: You’re riding in a hunter under saddle class, but your horse isn’t really listening or responding well out on course. 

Instead of owning up to this fact and working through it together as a team (which would be much more effective), some riders choose instead just try harder through sheer force of will alone–and then complain about how difficult their horse is being! 

This does nothing except make everyone else feel bad about themselves and their abilities; no one wants their day ruined by someone else’s poor attitude at the show grounds!

Horseback riding is not just a sport, but an art form. If you’re interested in creating beautiful equine paintings, check out our guide on the art of horseback riding for tips and inspiration.

Don’t Judge Others

Here’s a quick list of things that you shouldn’t judge others for:

Their appearance. If they are wearing jeans and boots, or if they wear fancy dress clothes, it doesn’t matter!

Their performance. Some horses may be better than others at jumping; some riders might have more experience than others in showing their horses; some riders might be nervous about being on stage in front of thousands of people…these are all normal things that could affect how well someone does at a horse show!

Skill level – everyone starts somewhere! Don’t worry about how good or bad someone is compared to yourself; instead focus on enjoying yourself at the event and supporting one another as we all learn together over time 🙂

Things you Shouldn’t Judge Others For

AppearanceWearing jeans and boots, wearing designer clothes, having tattoos or piercings, having different hairstyles or hair colors
LifestyleEating fast food, using a certain brand of phone or laptop, living in a certain area or type of housing
BeliefsPolitical affiliation, religious beliefs, dietary choices
Interests/HobbiesListening to a certain genre of music, preferring a certain sports team, enjoying a specific type of hobby or activity
RelationshipsBeing single, dating a certain type of person, having children or not having children

Note: This table is not comprehensive and is meant as a starting point for things that you shouldn’t judge others on.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Riders

Comparing yourself to other riders is a waste of time. You can only improve by comparing yourself to your own progress, and you should be focusing on your own goals, not those of others.

Equine colic is a serious and potentially fatal condition that all horse owners should be aware of. To learn how to prevent and understand equine colic, check out our article on understanding and preventing equine colic.


We hope that these tips will help you be a better horse show rider and make your time on the arena more fun and enjoyable. Remember, it’s all about having a good time with your friends!

Further Reading

Check out these additional resources on horse show etiquette:

Valley Ridge Farm: Horse Showing Etiquette: Valley Ridge Farm offers a detailed guide to horse show etiquette, covering everything from proper attire to ring etiquette.

Equest Room: Horse Show Etiquette: Equest Room provides a comprehensive guide to horse show etiquette, including information on grooming, proper riding attire, and trailering etiquette.

Horse Illustrated: Horse Show Dos and Don’ts: Horse Illustrated offers tips and tricks for proper horse show etiquette, including advice on how to prepare for your first show and what to expect while at the event.


What is horse show etiquette?

Horse show etiquette refers to the proper behavior and manners expected of riders, owners, trainers, and spectators during competitions and events.

Why is horse show etiquette important?

Horse show etiquette is important because it promotes safety, fairness, and sportsmanship in the equestrian world. It also helps create a positive and professional image of the sport.

What are some examples of horse show etiquette?

Some examples of horse show etiquette include arriving early, wearing appropriate attire, grooming your horse well, following ring rules, and respecting judges and other competitors.

How can I learn more about horse show etiquette?

You can learn more about horse show etiquette by attending shows and events, speaking with experienced riders and trainers, and reading articles and guides on the topic.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when it comes to horse show etiquette?

Common mistakes to avoid include arriving late, not following the event’s dress code, being disrespectful or unsportsmanlike, and failing to properly warm up and prepare your horse for competition.