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The Warm Up Ring for Dummies!

scottie ridden showing

After reading Horse and Hounds article on Friday about a near miss in a jumping warm up ring, it made me remember how big a problem this is. Over the summer, when more people are out competing, I see someone complaining about people’s actions in the warm up ring nearly every week and I myself have had several stressful incidents, usually involving children on small ponies suddenly appearing under Scottie’s neck!

In the majority of these cases it is down to people not understanding or knowing the ‘rules’ of the warm up ring. So I thought I would create an easy to understand list to help answer any questions.

  1. Pass Left to Left. Always. This means that if you are on the right rein, you will need to come off the outside track to allow an oncoming horse to pass between you and the fence. So make sure you give them plenty of space.
  2. Outside Track is the ‘Fast Lane’ A bit like on the motorway and duel carriage ways, faster cars (horses) go in a different lane to slower cars. In this case, the outside track is the fast lane and the inner track is the slow lane. Unless the warm up ring is empty or everyone else is walking, if you’re walking, get off the track. Similarly, if everyone else is cantering and you’re trotting, stay on the inside.
  3. Don’t Turn In Front of the Jump. If you are warming up for some jumping there will likely be at least one jump in the warm up ring. Don’t turn in, or wander in front of the jumps, especially if you didn’t look to see if there is a horse about to jump it! You might just get flattened.
  4. Check the Flags Before you turn your horse into a jump, you should check to see if the jump has white and red flags on each side or not. These flags tell you what way you should jump the jump. Remember the red flag should always be on your right. The flags are there to make sure everyone is jumping in the same direction, usually on the left rein, to help avoid crashes. If you are lucky enough to have the warm up ring to yourself, you can probably get away with jumping crosses and straights the wrong way if you want to practice on both reins before your round.
  5. Call Your Jump If you’re ready to start jumping in the warm up ring, call out which jump you are going to do just before our turn into it. This lets everyone else know someone is about to jump it and hopefully people will stay out the way. The jumps will usually be different colours and/or be different types (ie; cross, straight, spread etc.) Just call “Red” Or “Spread” before you commit to the fence.
  6. Control Your Whip If you are carrying a whip, especially a schooling whip, make sure you’re not holding it so that it is going to touch other horses/riders as you go pass. You either need to hold it closer to the horse or give riders more space.
  7. Give People Space Getting too close to other horses can be distracting if not dangerous. Competitions are exciting enough for many horses as it is, a strange horse bumping into them won’t help the rider get them ready for competition. Plus you don’t know whether that the strange horse you’re heading towards is going to kick out or not!
  8. Know the Ribbon Colours You may have seen horses with different colour ribbons in their tail while at a show and thought that it was pretty. But most of the time these ribbons mean something! Below I will put a few ribbon colours and their universal meaning. But if you struggle to remember the meanings on the ribbons, just remember that ribbons generally mean give that horse space!

Ribbon Colour Meanings




Stallion – Stay Back.


Green/Young/Inexperienced horse.

For Sale


Stallion/Aggressive Gelding


Moody Mare… Probably kicks.


Hopefully these 8 rules will help you avoid problems in the warm up ring! Please comment below with any more ‘rules’ you think should be included and any of your near misses you’ve had.

Last Updated on 05/04/2019

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