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WARMING UP YOUR HORSE

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The aim of the warm-up is to physically prepare your horse for the session you are about to do. This phase is incredibly important, particularly if your horse lives in a stable, and shouldn't be neglected. It gets both horse and rider in peak condition.

 

The warm-up also gives you a chance to see what state of mind your horse is in. It's a chance to spend time connecting with your horse. And if you've never ridden before, it's the ideal time to get to know one another and find the right buttons.

 

In terms of length, the warm-up should be about one third of the full session. There are two main parts: waking up the muscles and warming up.

 

1.     Waking up the muscles

 

You should wake up your horse's muscles by walking him on long reins in big circles. 10 minutes is the minimum but I would generally go for 15.

 

>>> If you have enough time, you could do this section outdoors. This will clear your mind before you begin the session. It also lets you walk for longer because you'll want to begin trotting on the way back to the schooling yard.

 

Once you've spent enough time waking up your horse's muscles, you can switch to a faster pace.

 

>>> Feel free to start trotting, without asking too much to begin with.

 

 

2.     Warming up

 

Once your horse has moved about a bit at all three paces and shown his willingness to train, you can start the warm-up. Now is a good time to start working on impulsion and moving in circles. To do so, you need to seek a bit more contact. Gradually you can do:

 

·    Transitions into and out of each gait

·    Circles of varying tightness as well as straight lines to warm up your horse's posture.

 

Do this at all three paces. Once your horse is receptive and warmed up while still being relaxed, he's ready to work.

 

Of course, there's no strict formula you have to stick to. Each horse will have different needs depending on their temperament, age, lifestyle and the season. This is why I'm not giving you a standard warm-up to do.

 

Here are a few things to explore if you want to make sure your horse is completely ready to go:

 

·    For excited horses or those that have trouble relaxing their backs, you may want to start at a gallop instead of a trot. This doesn't mean letting him do whatever he likes - everything should be controlled.

 

·    If your horse is having trouble focusing, you may be forcing him to work too quickly. To make sure you don't overwork his muscles and joints, it's important to stay at a walk, but ask him to straighten up so that he understands that he needs to concentrate.

 

·    If you want to get the most out of your leg aids, you could remove your stirrups so your legs fall more naturally during the walking phase. You could even go into the 2-point position, which is very effective.

 

·    To keep your horse as relaxed as possible, it's important to start at the pace where he feels most comfortable. This is why some riders gallop before trotting.

 

·    You can also lunge your horse or walk him in hand before riding him. I don't necessarily recommend this for excited horses, but it can be good for horses with weaker backs that need to be properly warmed up before being ridden.

 

Don't forget to read our tips if you are riding a very excited or very calm horse.

 

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