10 things you need to know about Collecting Rings

Collecting Ring & Warm-Up Rings for Dressage, Show Jumping, Cross Country, and Showing

This is your 10 step guide featuring all you need to know about collecting rings (also referred to as warm-up rings) including important etiquette information!

For many horse riders, horse owners, and horses the collecting ring or warm-up ring can be the worst part of competing.  In this guide, we will explain the best etiquette, the rules, and the differences so you can get the best out of your warm before you compete. 

Collecting ring vs warm-up ring – what’s the difference?  In short, there isn’t any difference although generally when jumps are involved, they are known as collecting rings – where the competitors collect before they go to compete.  It’s an area that will either be roped off or it will be an all-weather arena that is in a separate place from the competition.

Dressage competitors tend to call them warm-up rings as this is where you warm up your horse before performing.  But they are the same – a place where your horse can exercise and warm up its muscles before competing.

3-minute read

10 Step Collecting Ring Etiquette Guide:

  1. Pass left-hand to left-hand is probably the most important and basic rule. This will help you know what to do when you ride towards someone else. So, if you’re on the left rein, you should stay on the track while the rider coming towards you takes the inside track.  Left hand to left hand – make it your mantra.
  2. Walk on the inside track when you’re working on your horse’s walk or letting him have a breather, stay on the inside track so you don’t get in anyone's way
  3. Lateral work takes the right of way. So, you will need to be aware of other riders. If another rider is doing a leg-yield they won’t benefit from the exercise if they get cut up on their way to the track.
  4. Don’t suddenly stop on the track you are on – you are likely to end up in a pileup! If you need to practice your halt, do it on the inside track or centre line.  If you need to halt to check your girth or alter your tack, it's generally best if you step out of the warm-up arena.
  5. In a busy jumping collecting ring, you can call out the practice fence before you turn to jump it. Do this before you get your line to the fence to avoid other riders crossing your path.
  6. Ride away from the fence don’t circle or stop after landing unless you’re lucky enough to be in a relatively empty warm-up arena. Keep the flow going to let others jump the fence after you.
  7. If the warm-up fences have flags (red and white) you must follow the flags. Jump them in the direction they are marked up.  Keep the red flag on your right and the left flag on your left.  You can be eliminated in the warm-up for jumping flagged fence the wrong way.
  8. It’s OK to tell others what you want to do. So, if you want to practice your centre line or come across the diagonal, you may never find a suitable gap, let other riders know by calling out what you are going to do, just like would a practice fence.
  9. Avoid tailing other horses, it’s not just annoying for others but you and your horse could get kicked. Give other riders plenty of space.
  10. If you’re carrying a schooling whip, be mindful of how much it sticks out – it’s easy to accidentally brush or tap a passing horse.
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Finally, try and remember to breathe, enjoy yourself and enjoy your lovely horse.  Your warm-up time should be just enough work to enable you and your horse to go and do your best performance.  You can do too much work and your horse is tired or not enough work and neither of you is fully warmed up.  Before competitions practice your warm-up, routine and time them.  If your horse is young or it’s a new venue, he might need a little bit longer to settle into the environment so experiment and soon you will have your warm-up routine nailed!  Good luck and enjoy!