Etiquette 101

As a Spectator: Horses don’t see color, so I’d drop the line about loud, attention-getting colors. Mentioning flappin clothing or loud jewelry are good tips.

  1. No sudden movements or running

Many factors go into why horses are so easily startled. One is the placement of their eyes on the sides of their head. They have blind spots – areas that they cannot see around their bodies – and if they perceive a fast movement from a direction around them that they cannot fully see, they will spook. A horse may simply look quickly to the motion, or just step to the side when they’re scared. However, a horse doesn’t know how strong or big it is, and if they get truly frightened they could take off at a full-speed gallop, or rear up on their hind legs.

Horses also have the “flight” instinct when it comes to being a “fight or flight” animal. If they see something remotely new, they will want to explore it slowly and get familiar with it. This includes new people, so if you are approaching a horse with the owner’s permission, you will want to move slowly to avoid the horse’s defenses flaring up.

Also consider your attire for the event with this in mind. Don’t wear loud jewelry and avoid scarves that could easily become undone and fly away!

  1. Right Lingo: There are many types of equestrian sporting events. Red Hills Horse Trials is a competition in the sport of Eventing, an equestrian triathlon that may be held in one day or over as many as four days. The first test of horse and rider must always be Dressage, a ballet-like performance that is closely parallel to compulsory ice skating figures. Dressage is an exercise to supple and strengthen the horse, so this is essentially the warm-up round of the competition. Most often, the second test will be cross-country, arguably the most exciting of the three phases since the equestrian duo races through natural settings and flies over large, fixed obstacles. Eventing traditionally closes with show jumping, with a ring filled with very colorful, beautifully-designed jumps, the rails of which can be knocked down. In National horse trials and in some CIC events show jumping may be ridden before cross-country. The CIC3* Division at Red Hills will be run with show-jumping before cross-country.
  2. It is fairly obvious when a rider has completed his or her ride. In dressage, the competitor will return to a point on the center line, halt and salute the judge. Show jumping ends after the competitor has cleared the final jump and crossed the finish line. You will see the loosening of the reigns by the rider and a big pat on the horse’s neck as they exit the ring. Cross country wraps up with the horse slowing from a gallop to a trot and then a walk after it has crossed the finish line. Applause is always welcome when a rider clears a cross-country obstacle, or finishes the test, whether it was a perfect run or not. Their hard work should be recognized by the audience.
  3. The warm up rings are extremely busy, with lots of horses and riders warming up, possibly with their trainers instructing them. Needless to say, it is a very crowded space. It is best to observe from a safe distance as a spectator to avoid getting in the way of trainers walking in and out of the ring, and horses and riders. The horses you will see at equestrian events will be so perfectly groomed and majestic, it will be hard to not walk up and pet them. ​However,​be sure that you don’t approach a horse without an owner’s permission.

​5. Horses always have the right of way.  If you see a horse and rider coming in your direction, always stop for a moment and give them the permission to continue.

The competitor always has the right of way.​  It is easy to assume that the rider​will see you, but there is a lot to pay attention to when the rider is mounted​,so be courteous and play it safe.​

L​et the​horse and rider cross if you do intersect with their ​path.

The most important thing to remember when at an equestrian event is to enjoy the competition and have a blast! Eventing is such a unique sport, and provides spectators all around the world with a terrific reason to spend the day outdoors, admire gorgeous horses, and to cheer for incredible athletes.