View Full Version : How do you most effectively warm up?

Uno, The Great Escape
May. 12, 2012, 06:40 PM
I posted this in the eventing section as well, since that is our primary discipline, but I figured I should ask those who do it best, too :)

My 11 yo OTTB gelding and I have been working diligently this winter on our dressage, and while the quality of his gaits are much improved, our trot to canter transitions are still iffy and I'm at a loss as to what will work. My trainer and I have tried lots of different techniques... lots of thigh + slight outside bend, no spurs (I usually ride with small 1/4" ones for the occasional "Hello there!"), using just a calf squeeze, etc., but after the first 2, maybe 3 transitions, he gets so excited and they get very... expressive. Sometimes it's just a little rushed, but other times there's a kick like he's offended by the small amount of spur I have.

Though of course if you have any tips for working on those without getting him so worked up about them, I was wondering what I should do for dressage warm-up at our first event of the season. How awful would it be if I didn't canter until the test? Just do lots of relaxed trot work, get him nice and loose, but no canter? What other techniques are there to go into dressage nice and relaxed for hopefully relaxed transitions?

Any and all tips are appreciated :)

May. 12, 2012, 06:53 PM
Leg yield into the canter is a great exercise. Start on a 20 meter until you have a nice relaxed trot then bring your circle in a bit, leg yield into your canter transition back to your 20 meter circle.

I used to never canter in my dressage warm-up but always ran the risk of her bucking in my test. Now I usually canter at least once during warm up since if she is going to buck it will only be once so I would rather get it over with in warm up.

Also if my pony gets rushy at the canter I always go back to trot work and/or lateral work. When she calms down then we might go back to canter work. I always end my sessions with trot work. She used to always rush after canter work but she is much improved now.

Uno, The Great Escape
May. 12, 2012, 07:35 PM
Thank you for the ideas! I did add in some lateral work today to put his mind to other work so we through in some shoulder-ins and leg yields. That exercise sounds like it could definitely work for us, thank you!

May. 12, 2012, 08:47 PM
go here and leanr how to do the half halt stride
the half halt is a stride that tells the horse via direct signal something going to change
if how ever you have trainer helping you and they havent or dont know what it is or how to explain or show you change your trainer as they arnt worth spit and especially in dressage as this is one the basic strides a horse should learn

and its a freind of a pace the same as trot is and is used in all displines

read page 1 and all links
how to do half is on there explained by me

Uno, The Great Escape
May. 12, 2012, 10:27 PM
Oh we employ half halts all the time, do not fear! I'm working on finer-tuning them on the flat, but usually the issue with doing one right before a transition is that he's already wound so part 1 of the problem is that it's too subtle to be effective or part 2; it's effective, but it results in a tensing through the back. I do my best to push him through back to front, and we're working on a rubber-covered D-ring snaffle, so I don't believe I'm being too heavy on the bit. Thank you for the link, though! Great suggestion.

May. 13, 2012, 07:35 AM
Have you tried very frequent transitions, every 20m or so? In my experience this is generally the most helpful exercise for hotter types. Mix it up between trot-walk, trot-canter, etc. For the warm-up, you can avoid the canter if necessary but even a little bit tends to help the quality of the gait in the arena. I've had two mares that just wound themselves up if asked to canter in the warm-up, so I substituted that with lots of stretching, suppling and getting them very on the aids. I did gradually work canter into their warm-ups as they matured, but in the very early days they cantered better before having a chance to get excited about it.

May. 13, 2012, 07:41 AM
I start with lots of stretching before riding - particularly the shoulders and hind legs, and a heating pad on his back to help loosen him up. When prepared like this for the ride, he seems more ready to go when he gets in the arena, there is less stiffness in warm up, and in all the work - including transitions - he shows more relaxation and willingness to just do it. Not sure if this will help you, but it's made a difference for my young prince.

May. 13, 2012, 08:24 AM
Since, from your description, the transitions between gaits get him excited, I'd work on transitions WITHIN the gaits.

I'd startt at the trot. What does your horse want to do? Rush forward? Then start with your regular working trot, and ask the horse to go slower, smaller, ask with your seat and core - not with restricting reins, a little reaction is enough. Hold the smaller trot then relax and let the horse trot back to working. (If the horse is behind your leg start with working trot and go a little bigger)

Once this goes well the try a little forward and back. Then the same transitions within the canter.

I'd work on the canter transitions on the lunge line, so that he can canter from your voice, then use your voice while you ride him.

As for your coming show - you honestly don't sound like you can reliably do a good dressage test at this time. That is fine, just do the best you can and then have fun with the jumping.

May. 13, 2012, 11:02 AM
As for your coming show - you honestly don't sound like you can reliably do a good dressage test at this time. That is fine, just do the best you can and then have fun with the jumping.

Also avoid negative thinking like the above! Remember that your trot-canter transitions are probably only two scores out of the entire test, with no coefficients. Concentrate on what you DO do well, and make it beautiful. A minor mishap in an otherwise polished test isn't a deal-breaker at this level... so tune out the judgemental voices. ;)

Uno, The Great Escape
May. 13, 2012, 01:14 PM
I definitely like the idea of transitions every 20m or so. With Uno that would be a great way for him to stay active brain-wise without getting too worked up, and that will also help us stay light on our forehand.

Transitions within the gait could definitely be beneficial as well, I never really considered that!

And I know that we are less than "reliable" when it comes to dressage. We scored a 39 doing BN at Catalpa. For those of you who know the grass arenas: a combo of no studs + windy day in the corn field = zero concentration! But who could blame him? Then at the August Silverwood this past year we scored (and proceeded to win on) a 28 doing Novice after an awful hack Friday evening.

Thank you, Lost_at_C, for the encouraging words :) That's exactly how I've been looking at it!

May. 13, 2012, 01:43 PM
Tb rider here :) wound up at the canter Ill do spiral in and out of circles. Then cantering straight I ask for a tiny yeild sideways in and then out. My trainer reminded me you dont actually have to move in and out as mich as I just have to feel the horse start to or think about softening and doing the movement.

Most horses ask to yeild at canter will run out of steam very quick if dome quietly and with a relaxed seat and leg. Mine will suddenly stretch down and I let her go down and sit very still showin her that is where I want her ... Relaxed and loose. :)

Uno, The Great Escape
May. 13, 2012, 05:28 PM
Good ideas, definitely will give that a try. I need to remind myself to stop fussing sometimes at the canter so I allow him to be loose instead of just expecting him to be loose. Thanks!

May. 13, 2012, 05:59 PM
I also agree with the transitions within the gaits...speed up and slow down the trot and canter so that the two of you can warm-up and be more in sync with the larger transitions. It will not only greatly improve your feel and timing but will strengthen the balance of the horse.

May. 13, 2012, 06:43 PM
I had a trainer who made the canter not so exciting by just cantering the horse until the horse didn't want to, anymore.

Not in a bad way, but he'd keep the canter the horse offered at first and then the horse cantered until the trainer felt that the horse WANTED to slow down/transition. One more circle and then the trainer allowed the transition.

After the horse realized that canter was going to be a lot more work that he really wanted, the whole transition and quality changed and canter because much more of a non-issue with the TB.

Another idea to add...


May. 13, 2012, 10:09 PM
Do you sit the trot for the transition or do you post? In the olden days with my OTTB, I had to at first ride them while posting as a) I wasn't able to sit anyone's trot properly and b) he didn't exactly make it easy to stay balanced. But he was/is (retired now ;)) sensitive and smart, and when I got a nice forward trot just moving my inside leg a little forward and think canter would do the trick. And then do as many transitions as you can given your horse's temperament.

As for show warm up, do whatever works. It's not "horrible" not to canter, especially if it just makes them hot, but you ultimately want to figure this out.

Uno, The Great Escape
May. 13, 2012, 11:32 PM
So today's ride was a little improved. I used "thinking canter" and changing my seat for the first 2 transitions and got very light, non-explosive responses. Very good. But he still got wound up when I asked for any more beyond that, so I went to leg-yielding into the transition. This was our best bet, though not consistently. I got pretty frustrated because I could tell he wasn't even really "with me", but I decided to just run through the test and he decided it wasn't worth the hassle to get excited about it, and we had two very 7-deserving transitions. Nothing beautiful, but much better than they have been.

NJR, I did use that technique today and it seemed to help a little bit. I just need to find the balance between a steady and floating contact to make this canter work not so heavy on my hands.

And I agree, this is something I definitely want to figure out completely, I just want to minimize our stress this weekend :)