I’m a big believer in warming up my horse properly, mind and body. Now this wasn’t always the case’ I used to pay very little attention to my warm up technique and a quick walk, trot and canter on both reins seemed sufficient. It wasn’t until one of my instructors highlighted the fact that my warm up process was rubbish (or words to that effect), that I really began to change the way I thought about the warm up. Rather than just doing enough to get the horse’s heart rate up, I began to pay more attention to what I wanted to achieve. So here are my thoughts:
What is the point of the warm up?
Clearly at a basic level, the purpose of the warm up is to ‘get the horse’s body ready to do work’. However, the warm up is so much more than that!
- It’s a chance for the horse to become accustomed to his environment
- It’s a chance for the rider to check their own position, balance & suppleness
- It’s a chance to work the horse through walk, trot and canter on both reins, in order to assess how the paces feel and to identify potential issues
- It’s a chance for the horse’s muscles to become warm, elastic & to function correctly
- It’s a chance to encourage the horse to focus on the rider & to become mentally ready for the work the rider would like to do in that session
- It’s a chance to encourage the rider to focus on the horse & to become mentally prepared for the session
- It’s a chance to create forward, rhythmical paces
- It’s a chance to develop the horse’s suppleness
- It’s a chance for the rider to assess the horse & to decide on whether their plan for the session is appropriate or needs to be adjusted
- It’s a chance for both horse & rider to re-establish their relationship and communication channels
For me, the warm up should be a gradual, planned and progressive process. I hate seeing riders get on their horse & straight away expect a perfect, established way of going from their horse; this never works and often results in arguments between horse and rider. Elite riders never get on their horses and expect perfection straight away; any rider worth their salt will spend time engaging their horse quietly and through the use of appropriate exercises.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you allow yourself and your horse sufficient time to warm up thoroughly? Or do you expect too much, too soon? What process do you use to warm up your horse? Over to you…