Horse Show Etiquette For Spectators

I recently went to a fund raising schooling show for a local therapeutic riding center.  We got to the show just as the riding center kids were starting their part of the show.  Some of the kids had side walkers and some rode by themselves.   I thought all the kids did an amazing job riding their horses.  After their last class, the regular schooling show continued.

To give each horse and rider the best opportunity to show their best, there should be a certain amount of courtesy shown by the spectators.  During this show, I was astonished at the lack of spectator etiquette.  So, I thought I would put together a list of things that a spectator should follow while viewing a horse show.

  • If the spectator walkway is right next to the show ring, wait until the class is finished to take your seat or leave.  Also, be courteous of your actions when seated next to the ring.  I witnessed a woman opening her umbrella for shade when a horse was coming down the rail near her.  This startled the horse and it took several frightened steps sideways before the rider regained control.  The  rider lost points in that class.  If this had been a group class, it could have caused a major wreck.
  • While some types of classes are okay with cheering their favorite during their run, refrain from clapping or cheering until the class or the individual run is over.  With that said, please keep in mind that some of these classes run the individual riders one after another so there may not be time to cheer before the next rider starts their run.
  • Don’t boo the placement of a class.  While the outcome may not be what you think is correct, a horse show is purely the opinion of the people who are judging it.  Besides, the other riders in the class don’t deserve this type of bad behavior from the crowd.
  • These horses have been brushed, bathed, clipped, sprayed and spruced up for hours.  Some owners are very particular about the way their horse looks before they enter the show ring.  Before you decide to pet a horse, ask the owner or rider first.
  • Turn your cell phone ringers down or put them on a silent or vibrating setting.  If you need to talk on your cell phone, keep your voice down.  People around you  came to see the horse show, not listen to your conversation.
  • Kids can startle a horse just by being doing what kids do naturally.  Don’t let them run around unattended and get into mischief.
  • Kids also have a short attention span, especially if they decide the outing is boring.  So bring something to keep them entertained and possibly their favorite snack.  If they start to get unruly, take them away from the show ring.  A change in activity can do wonders.
  • Throw your trash away.  Don’t leave half empty cups or partially eaten snacks on the seat next to you or on the floor.  They just end up being kicked over and make a big mess.
  • If you bring your dog, keep them on the leash.  You have to keep in mind that a lot of horses do not like dogs and will charge them.  So a loose dog around horses is dangerous not only to the horse but to the riders and anyone around them.
  • If your dog continually barks or yaps, it is best to leave it at home.  This is very annoying to the other spectators and could make the younger horses nervous.

This is just a short list for spectator etiquette.  There are probably other things you can do to be courteous while at a horse show.  Some of the riders are nervous enough.  Any distraction from the spectators could be enough to make a rider lose his concentration.

Every horse and rider deserves the chance to do their best with the least amount of distractions as possible.  That’s only fair.


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