As anyone who competes regularly will attest, the warm-up arena at shows can be a bit of a hotbed of stress and nerves. The dreaded pre-competition nerves are kicking in, there’s the worry about getting your timings right, there’s the task of navigating your way around safely, and there’s the added stress of a number of excitable horses and nervous competitors all sharing the same small space.
Everyone has their own pet hate in the warm-up ring – and if you don’t, then maybe you’re the one causing everyone else’s pulse rate to go soaring. Here’s our handy guide to spotting the most annoying person in the warm-up.
Sometimes you go to venues with huge warm-up spaces, with acres of smooth surface on which to perfect your canter transitions or nail that practice fence. Other times, not so much. Despite the fact you’re fighting for space in a 20m x 40m arena with 10 other horses, that doesn’t stop Ms Arena Hogger over there from standing around, taking up valuable room while she grills her trainer, gossips with her friends or adjusts her tack.
It’s all about me
You never know who you’re going to be sharing a warm-up arena with. You could encounter a hormonal stallion, a very green horse, a novice rider or so on. Yes, we must take responsibility for our own horses and ensure the safety of everyone in the warm-up, but equally we all have to start out somewhere and most riders understand that if you see someone struggling, you should try to give them a bit of room. Mr All About Me doesn’t care about that as he thunders right past in canter for the third time, close enough to almost clank stirrup irons, and sending your horse into orbit yet again.
Ms Daydream doesn’t seem to worry about such things as arena rules – if anyone has told her about passing left to left or staying on the inside track in walk, she either doesn’t care or has long forgotten. Ms D wanders round on a long rein, staring down at her horse’s withers, generally drifting into other riders’ paths or walking straight in front of the practice fence just as someone is about to jump it.
The practice fence demon
Ms Higher-Please has been hogging the practice fence for the past half hour, loudly screeching ‘upright’ on every approach. She’s about to jump 2ft 6in in the arena but outside she feels she needs to intimidate the opposition by putting the practice jump up at least a foot higher. Anytime anyone dares send a helper to lower the fence, the familiar yell of ‘upright’ rings round the arena once again, and Ms Higher-Please’s horse approaches the jump for the fiftieth time. Everyone is counting down the seconds until her number is called, so they can have a chance to actually jump a fence or two before their own round.
Mr Broncho can sit any buck or spin with ease, and therefore he doesn’t mind that his horse is causing chaos in the warm-up and setting all the other equines off. Mr B could have taken the time to lunge his horse before getting on, instead of performing a rebreaking job in the middle of the crowded arena, but he didn’t fancy it. Nor did he bother putting a red ribbon in his horse’s tail, even though it likes to do a spot of double-barrelling in between the bucks and leaps.