Arena Etiquette & Protocol

When you teach a group lesson or have two instructors teaching private lessons in the same arena, you need some sort of arena etiquette to keep things safe. Usually this is unspoken common knowledge, or the barn may have a list of rules posted. In therapeutic riding this is especially important as there are many more moving parts in a lesson than usual! Here is a list of arena etiquette and protocol that we created to help our instructors, instructors in training, and leaders.

Arena Etiquette & Protocol

Arena Etiquette

  • If you are the second one mounting, it is polite to start riding in the same direction as the other rider.
  • Try to stay riding in the same direction.
  • When passing in the same direction, always pass on the inside with a horse length of room.
  • When passing in opposite directions, always pass left shoulder to left shoulder (like driving).
  • When going the same direction and passing is not a good option, either make a large circle back to rail or cut across the arena.
  • When turning, check your “rear view” first.
  • Don’t crowd. Keep a full horse length between horses.
  • Slower riders take the inside track, faster riders and lateral work stay to the outside.
  • If one rider is trotting and the other is not, you may want to agree to keep the slower rider on the inside of the arena doing an activity while the trotting rider takes the outside.
  • Pull in to the center of the arena for halting, mounting and dismounting.
  • Try not to halt on the rail for too long. If you must halt on the rail, check behind the rider first and warn the other instructor.
  • Keep your voice at a level appropriate to all clients. If the other client is easily distracted, don’t speak loudly.
  • Give right of way – be generous giving right of way even if it is not technically the correct right of way.


  • Before the session, check in with the other instructor about your lesson plan. Agree on the areas of the arena you will be using – if you want to split or share the arena, the use of any obstacles, and how to handle lunging (if applicable).
  • Announce your entry and exit of the arena.
  • Communicate what you are planning to do. For example: “Opening the gate.” “Passing on the left.” “Trotting on the rail.”

Do you have arena rules at your barn? Do you have any you’d add to this list?


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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