National Anthem Etiquette for Rodeo and Equestrian Events

national anthem

Photo Credit: WT Bruce

Did you know the average length of time for a National Anthem performance is a minute and half? Just 90 seconds. As we approach the 4th of July we see the American flag displayed more than any other time of the year, especially in the rodeo arena.

For those that compete in rodeo, or any other equestrian sport, can you recall the last time you heard the National Anthem before your event, and saw an American flag hanging in the arena, with your right hand over your heart and your reins in the other?

The first time I heard the National Anthem while horseback was at a barrel race in California. I was in the warm up pen right next to the arena. I instinctively stopped, removed my hat and placed my hand over my heart.

While the Anthem plays, I like to take those few moments to reflect on the things I am grateful for and those we’ve lost.

But I had a hard time focusing on that particular day. As people walked, talked on their cell phones and continued to ride around the warm up arena, I was distracted. I’ll admit, that day the anthem seemed longer than usual as I considered getting off my horse and throwing a dirt clod at the girl talking loudly on her cell phone the entire time. Just kidding…kind of.

I realized that not only was it strange for me to see so many people ignoring the Anthem after living in a military community my whole adult life, it was also odd that this was the first time I had heard the National Anthem at a barrel race.

Today the National Anthem is performed before the beginning of all MLB, NFL, NBA, MLS, NHL games and every NASCAR race. So why is this not happening in equestrian sports? Nearly all professional rodeos do play the anthem and many honor our military with powerful tributes.  Even so, I had a hard time finding any example pictures of professional rodeo athletes during the Anthem online.

I started to speak up after that first race and reminded people firmly, but politely, that the national anthem was playing and they always quickly stopped what they were doing.

That was another “a-ha” moment. I realized someone needed to set the example. I was more than willing to do that and I knew other people were, too.

No one around me at that first race knew I was a Navy Veteran or my late husband was a Navy SEAL, but I thought surely I couldn’t be the only person who had military ties and felt strongly about respecting our National Anthem. In fact, I have met a few other Veteran barrel racers since then.

All of this inspired me to begin a movement called “Salute From the Saddle.” More people than I realized are just not familiar with Anthem etiquette today. If they see other people ignoring it, they just follow their example. I think this is especially important to address for our youth, the next generation of equestrian athletes.

I plan to eventually have Ambassadors across the U.S. that are willing to be the example and encourage arenas, event producers and their chosen sport as a whole, to hang an American Flag in as many arenas across the US as possible, and play the National Anthem before the start of every event. Of course the Ambassadors would also set the example for their fellow riders, share their knowledge of flag etiquette and remind fellow competitors, if necessary, to show respect during the anthem.

If you are at a barrel race or rodeo, you might see me on my horse Super Gigi in her red, white and blue tack. I hope you will come say hello and salute from the saddle with me during the Star-Spangled Banner. I’d sure be proud to shake your hand afterwards.

Here are some general guidelines for National Anthem etiquette:

  • If you cannot see the flag but can hear the anthem, you should stop and face the direction from where the music is coming from. That means in the warm up arena, at the stalls, etc. If you can hear it then you should salute it!


  • Salute properly. Civilians should have their hand over their heart, active duty military should salute, veterans can now choose either one.


  •  If talking on the phone hang up.


  • Men remove their hats during the Anthem and hold it over your left shoulder with your hand over your heart. Women can remove their hats too, although not required to. Personally, I think it is the most respectful thing to do. If your hat is not pinned on like a rodeo queen, I would recommend removing it during the anthem.


  • If on horseback, stop, face the music or flag, and salute properly. If your horse will not allow you to salute properly, dismount.

national anthem etiquette

For complete official guidelines reference United States Code, 1958 ED., Title 36, Ch 10, Sections 170-178.

I think there are plenty of reasons to show respect and properly salute when our national anthem is played, but if nothing else, think of all your blessings and freedoms that have been protected by those that have served in our military and those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. In closing I leave you with the following quote, “Our flag does not wave because the wind blows it; It flies with the last breath of every soldier who died defending it”.

Never Give Up,

Chelsey Stimson

chelsey stimsonChelsey Stimson is a Veteran of the United States Navy and a Gold Star Wife. She currently lives in Nevada and spends most of her free time barrel racing on her two horses, Lynx and Super Gigi. You can learn more about her on her blog or on her Facebook page. Click to learn more about Salute from the Saddle. And you can listen to her interview on the podcast here.


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Tami davis

    Also, according to military protocol, the American flag is NOT to be moving during the national anthem…
    I see way to many horses loping around the arena carrying the American flag while the national anthem. This just erks my soul and I want to just go out there and stop their horse.
    I wish producers would know and understand flag etiquette as well.
    33 years active duty, army veteran

    1. Linda Noyes

      Thank you. This just what I need. I have to give a talk on patriotism. Perfect for what I need.

    2. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      Tami, thank you for your service. I have had some questions about that particular protocol but haven’t been able to find it in the U.S. Flag code. If you happen to know where I can find it, I would love to link to it!

    3. April

      Where did you find the information about the flag NOT being able to move during the National Anthem? I have never heard of this before.

  2. Donna

    I feel the same way, where is it written as for as proper etiquette, that would allow me to send the general public to read this?

  3. Treasa Vander Hart

    I show my horses on a regular basis at horse shows. Both clubs I attend display and play the National Anthem proudly. I have a brother in the service and it bothers me when people don’t respect it and I let people know how I feel about it. I also carry our flag and anthem with me to other shows, incase that don’t think about it. I feel every event should display our flag proudly. Thanks for your service. Thank your spouse for their service. God bless from Iowa.

  4. Jill Kraut

    The protocol of a flag remaining still during the Anthem I believe comes from military protocol not the U.S. Flag Code. The Flag Code does not address mounted flag protocol so most of it derives from the cavalry and/or military history and protocol. Basically if a flag is in motion people would have to be tracking it and having people moving while saluting is not proper. People should be at attention and focused on the American Flag in one spot. Many times during grand entries I have seen a flag circle the arena passing behind riders during the Anthem. Lope around the arena to God Bless America or another patriotic song but post up for the Anthem.

  5. Dana Bernhardt

    I’m not sure what the real protocol is during a grand entry, but here are a few things I remember from my rodeo days:

    1. Rodeo royalty had their own kind of “salute”. Hands were held flat across their chests with their elbows sticking out straight to the right. Eyes on the flag the entire time.

    2. The rider with the flag was at least a few steps forward of all the other riders.

    3. The other flags in the arena were tipped forward while the US flag was held upright.

    1. Kat

      Ii was always told the American flag is suppose to be stationsry during nation anthem and can. Ot be moving around the arena.

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