Our third installment in the Horse Show Leases Safety Series is Horse Show safety! While it’s true that following the same rules and protocols that you do at home is a good idea, there are extra items to keep in mind at horse shows. Horse Shows are fun and exciting events, but all the horses, people, vehicles and extra action can lead to dangerous situations quickly.
Back in the Barn
Horse show stalls are set up with some important differences from your typical home barn. Most of the time, stalls are temporary. They can be inside a large building, like at an expo center, or they can be in a tent. Sometimes, there are no stalls and people are trailering in and tying horses to the trailer.
Make sure your horse’s stall doesn’t have any nails or sharp points. Horse show stalls are notorious for these kinds of things, so it’s important to check. The stall may have been used by the last people there for something different, like a tack room or hay storage, so you need to make sure nothing dangerous has been left behind. In the past, I’ve found syringes, wire from hay bales, scissors, and spoiled grain. Also make sure there aren’t massive holes in the ground or issues with the doors operating- and locking- properly.
Always make sure buckets are hung high- so the horses can’t put a leg through them. Make sure your method of attachment is a bucket hanger specifically designed for horses, or that if you use rope that it’s well tied and neat. If there is a way they scrape their face, poke themselves in the eye, or get their hoof caught, they WILL find it. The same goes for hay nets, if you use them. Make sure they are tied high enough, and that they stay that way. If you don’t know how to properly tie a hay net, don’t use one.
There are a few situations in which you might think you should tie your horse up. You might not have stalls, and be working off a trailer. Or, you might not have a grooming stall, and want to tie them up in the aisle. Or you might want to tie them in the stall to tack up. Be EXTREMELY careful with this. Do NOT assume that your horse will happily stand tied- especially to a trailer out in the open. If they are trained to do so, great- but still be watchful. If they are not, I personally would not tie them up except with a cord or safety ring that can break if they get scared and pull back. That way, they don’t break their halter or tear up the trailer. And you can catch them! This is least likely to be a problem in the stall- so tie them up in there if you have the option (but it can still happen).
Also, be sure to use extreme caution typing them up in the wash rack. Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of horses running loose at the horse show with a broken halter and someone running wildly after them with a soapy sponge… Better to have someone hold your horse for you. The best thing is to crosstie them with their rear to a wall/ fence. Always, always ask your trainer for instructions and best practices with your particular horse. Finally, practice and get good at quick-release knots. That is the only way you should ever tie up a horse. Plus, it’s a super handy knot to know!
Out on the Show Grounds
The most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings. It’s not a great time to be scrolling Instagram or messing around with friends, oblivious to others. Be aware of the following:
Young/ foolish horses
Young/ foolish riders
Loose horses (see above paragraph on typing up)
Horses schooling or showing near you
General Awareness is Key
To be sure, that is not an all-inclusive list of the hazards present at a horse show. However, it gives you an idea. Anything can startle your horse- or someone else’s horse. When we are all sharing horse show grounds, we have to do our best to all treat each other with courtesy. That means doing everything you can to not only ensure your own safety, but everyone’s around you. That’s one of the best parts of horse show culture- that in the end, we are all horse people, and we have each other’s back. I’ve seen strangers come to the rescue in many hairy situations, and I’ve certainly had people give me a heads up or help me out. Being kind about it really makes it a lovely exchange as well.
Another important thing while you are out on the show grounds is to be aware of the horses showing. This is a matter of courtesy upon which horse shows are based. It’s crucial. Whether you are walking, pushing a stroller, sightseeing with a group, riding a horse, a scooter, a bike, or otherwise- watch the rings. The horses showing have this sort of overall right-of-way. This means that if a horse is showing, you defer to it. Stop as it passes you if it’s very close. Don’t flap things around, yell, or move quickly. Just think about what you would want if it were you the one showing.
In general, unless you are accompanied by a professional, or are extremely well-practiced at watching out for the above, don’t try to ride up to the ring. Instead, hand-walk your horse. I know this seems like a bummer- but we are discussing best safety practices. Probably 1% of the time, something happens that could have been avoided by hand-walking to the ring. How important is it to you to have an injury-free show?
In the Schooling Arena
This is by far the most dangerous place at the horse show. It’s a seriously scary situation, even for professionals, when there are a lot of people and horses. There are two types of schooling rings. The first is the type for warming up before your class, which usually have only a couple jumps. There is also the open show ring in which multiple people can practice, usually on schooling day before the show starts. Both are perilous places to be, but the second type is the far higher likelihood for injury.
Keep the following things in mind for both types:
- Listen to your trainer. Carefully, constantly, and understand their expectations.
- If you are walking, stick to the rail. Let the people going faster have the inside track.
- Don’t walk in pairs/ groups.
- Pay attention- know where everyone is at all times.
- Watch people who are jumping- they have the right of way.
- Try to go the same way as everyone else if possible. This isn’t always possible, but do it if you can.
- Communicate- let people know where you are going, and if there is an impending crash (“Heads Up!”). Please, be courteous. You can be loud, but try to be nice. It doesn’t cost you anything and it makes for a better show for all.
The most important rules for the schooling ring with a full course:
- Listen to your trainer.
- Don’t go in until you are ready to jump, finish, and get out.
- Don’t walk around/ hang out if it’s busy.
- Keep going and get done as quick as you can, but don’t monopolize the jumps so others can’t use them.
- Don’t be that guy that wants to loudly complain about all the pony kids, etc. This is a horse show, it’s how it goes. Show some class and figure out how to jump around or do what you need, regardless of the less experienced people. Someone has to show them how to do so with grace.
Again, these aren’t all the tips you need to be safe. As always, organization, communication, and paying attention are the keys to success. If you are hungry for more tips for horse show success, reach out to Alicia at Horse Show Leases!