A good warm up routine is valuable, whether you are about to school your horse for your latest test in Western Dressage, or are just heading out for a trail ride. Your horse needs a pre-exercise warm-up routine to help loosen and limber up his muscles. A warm-up also prepares the horse’s mind for the work you will be asking him to do–whether it is schooling, trail riding, pleasure riding, or showing.
Start the warm-up by letting your horse walk on a loose rein. The warm-up pattern should include very large circles, large turns, and straight lines. The horse should be moving forward but in a relaxed manner. After warming up at the walk, ask the horse for the trot or jog. The trot is the best gait to limber up the horse.
At this point, the rider should not be worried about the horse being “on the bit.” Instead, he should be allowed to move forward on a loose rein with the rider guiding him to stay on the circle, large turn, or the straight line. Spend equal time going in both directions. Change directions often to loosen up both sides and to keep the horse’s interest during the warm-up.
Post when trotting/jogging during the warm-up period, whether you are using an English or Western saddle. This gives the rider an opportunity to warm up and to use her own muscles. As the rider begins to loosen up, she will notice that her muscles respond better and her coordination improves while her thinking slows. The rider begins to relax as her warmed-up body allows her to better follow the horse’s movement.
As part of the warm-up, the rider may try taking her feet out of the stirrups to get down in the saddle and closer to her horse. As her body loosens up, she will find she is able to follow the horse’s movement and stay in balance even without stirrups.
There is no set amount of time for a warm-up routine. Usually, the colder the weather is, the longer and slower the warm-up should be to loosen up cold muscles and joints. It must be long enough to physically and mentally warm up the horse, but it is not intended to wear him out or bore him. Enough time should be spent in the warm-up so that both sides of the horse are equally loosened up.
A good gauge for the rider is that she should feel the same balance and relaxation without stirrups as she feels with them. She also should feel her mind slow down and focus, and she should feel positive about the upcoming riding session. Once this has been achieved, it’s time to proceed from warm up to the actual lesson, training period, or pleasure ride.
We would love to have you come ride with us. We love to share our dressage backgrounds and knowledge with you. You can join us at our Ocala, Florida farm or at one of our Ride Well Clinics on our USA Tour at a location near you.
For more information on these training materials and more, as well as clinics, please visit www.lynnpalm.com or call us at 800-503-2824.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 1