Ocala lives up to its reputation as Horse Capital of the World by hosting equestrian events in a variety of disciplines all year long. From HITS to the OJC 3 Day International Event to the Live Oak International and everything in between, there’s something for everyone in horse country. But while you’re out enjoying all the fine equine entertainment Marion County has to offer, it’s important to be conscious of safety and etiquette so that you, your family, and the show participants all have a positive experience. Here are some things to keep in mind when attending equestrian events!
1. Check the weather before you come
Many of our equine venues are outdoors and even covered arenas can still be susceptible to the elements. Ensure you are well prepared by checking the weather the night before, and check the venue/event website for any updates regarding how conditions may effect the scheduled events. Sunscreen is a must here in Central Florida– year-round sunny weather means year-round sunburn possibilities! And, as always, be sure to stay well-hydrated!
2. Silence electronic devices
Make sure whatever devices you have with you are silenced and if you must take a call, step away from the spectator area. This is a courtesy to not only your fellow spectators, but is a matter of safety for horses and riders too. Like most animals, horses don’t like sudden loud noises and nervousness can negatively impact their performance, or even lead to injury.
3. Practice situational awareness
At an equestrian event, horses may pass by you frequently to and from the arena. Be aware when horses are near and refrain from making sudden loud sounds or movements. Not only might a spooked horse be docked points in the arena, but they can also cause injury to riders, bystanders, and themselves. Avoid noisemakers, waving your arms, or opening umbrellas.
4. Cheer—in moderation!
Are you noticing a pattern with horses and noise? While loud cheering during a class is discouraged, it is acceptable to applaud when a rider has finished their course, when a class has lined up for their placings, and when your favorite competitor wins an award.
5. Keep an eye on small children AT ALL TIMES
Children are welcome at equestrian events, but it is imperative to their safety and the safety of horses and riders that they are carefully watched. It can be tempting at outdoor venues to let kids be kids and play and explore, but they can be easily injured if unsuspecting horses are nearby. Make sure they stay within the spectator area and accompany them if they want to move next to the arena for a closer look.
6. Keep dogs on a leash AT ALL TIMES
The same goes for your furry companions, too. Keep your pets on a close leash and keep them away from areas with high equine traffic. Even large dogs can be easily trampled under-hoof, and even tiny dogs can cause a horse to panic. If your pets are particularly rambunctious or antisocial, it might be a good idea to leave them at home.
7. Don’t litter
Help us keep our equestrian venues beautiful and dispose of all trash you may have accumulated throughout the event. Treat both indoor and outdoor venues as you would any other public space and leave it how you left it! If you are unsure where to dispose of your trash, ask venue staff.
8. Ask before you pet
Horses are cute! We will never deny this. But however irresistible it may be, refrain from petting any horses you may be lucky enough to meet at an equestrian event until you ask their rider. Horses at events have been meticulously groomed, styled, and dolled up for hours before the event and their rider might not want to risk them getting mussed right before showtime. And some horses, just like some cats and dogs, just aren’t very sociable and don’t like strangers. Avoid getting stomped and/or nipped, and ask before you pet!
There you have it! Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to have a blast at your next equestrian event. If you want to learn more about horse shows and other equine happenings in Ocala, contact us! Our team is deeply involved in the local equestrian community and would love to help you get in on the fun, too!