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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar. 23, 2006

    Question What is a proper warm up?

    Simple question but judging by barnmates' answers loaded with many answers!

    It's cold. What is the proper warm up for a young horse?

    At the risk of drawing ire, I confess that I get on, walk a couple of laps on zero contact, canter a bit on zero contact and once horse is moving its time to transition to real 'work' at the trot etc. in contact. I feel this routine gets him 'thinking forward' and more willing to then do proper work instead of me having to push/nag him into it.

    Others I've observed do the walk in contact, then trot in contact and off they go to work on whatever they decide.

    Am I dooming myself to failure and publicly revealing myself as lazy? What do you all do to get your horse ready for work?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
    Triangle Area, NC


    for a young green horse that's pretty spot on what you're doing.
    on a loose rein, walk wanderingly for a lap, then ask for longer and shorter strides while seeking contact using your seat. ask for a wee bit of leg yield to the wall.
    then canter on a seeking rein, same routine as walk
    then trot, same routine as walk
    then I'd so a few yoyo's (go from stretchy to raised, and back down to stretchy)

    then I'd give breaks every 10 minutes roughly during raised shape riding.
    finish in stretchy trot
    walk out on a loose rein
    chaque pas est fait ensemble

    3 members found this post helpful.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct. 13, 2006


    I was thinking about this JUST today.

    On a green one I think big steps on a loose rein or gentle contact is great. I do straight lines feeling both sides swinging under. Sometimes I do one handed to really focus on my swinging with the walk and warming up too.

    I ask the horse to go to the rein after a bit trying to feel them go from the rear into both sides evenly.

    Then I add bending (inside leg to outside). Then I add some more contact and take it up to trot and so on.

    Some wont start out that way being hotter but eventually I like them all to know how to start the same way like this.
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 13, 2008


    Warm up at the walk for ten minutes. I feel guilty if I only do five. Most of the instructors I had over the years have kind of stuck with that as a basic.

    Bending with one rein only, changing sides and using the inside leg on the girth to begin bending through the body. Then I ad the outside aids.

    Figure eights, serpentines, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, leg yield, shoulder-in.

    Walk then trot and then transitions up and down and halts.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 19, 2003
    Round Hill, VA


    I am similar to the OP, though I do keep some contact and ask for stretchy/low frame (more because if my horse is left to his own devices on a loopy rein for too long in the beginning, he gets silly). Lots of walking, some canter until the "hump" goes away, and then lots of stretchy, loose trot, big circles, with lots of changes of directions. My horse HATES the cold, and can be quite tight in his back at first. Doing this work for about 15-20 minutes is the only way to get to the point where we can be productive!

    1 members found this post helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec. 12, 2004


    Quote Originally Posted by BaroquePony View Post
    Warm up at the walk for ten minutes. I feel guilty if I only do five. Most of the instructors I had over the years have kind of stuck with that as a basic.
    If I tried walking for ten minutes, my gelding would dump my butt on the ground.

    If I'm at home, we usually start and end the ride with a 10-15 min hack through the fields/back roads. The beginning hack is done at a brisk forward trot, after the minute it takes to get to a safe spot to begin trotting after mounting up. If he wants to canter, I let him, and just stay up off his back. He gets back to the ring ready to work. The end hack is done at a forward walk (he doesn't know the meaning of a plod!) and cools/relaxes him. If we are boarding somewhere without trails, I try to walk around whatever property there is before confining him to a ring. Or we find an empty paddock to ride in.

    My 4yo TB filly is just as hot as my gelding, but add some nervousness in. Her warmup will vary from day to day. Sometimes she is content to walk around the ring right from the start on a loose rein, bending and serpentines and what not. Other days she is at that point where the second I'm on she's going to try to slither out of her skin. Those days it's best to just get her trotting forward: a good forward working trot is her favorite gait and the one that she most easily relaxes and soothes herself in.

    So, a proper warmup is the one that is appropriate for the individual creature that you're mounted on....and it could vary day by day!

    1 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct. 30, 2009


    Is the horse coming right from a stall or is he turned out? Does he tend to be lazy or hot? does he get a "vigorous" grooming? Is the weather really cold or really hot? Are there others using the arena and how advanced are they? All questions to consider.

    I like to let the horse walk on a loose rein a bit to look around and then, depending on the horse I may ask for contact to do stretching exercises at walk or trot, canter on a loose rein. Like most things with horses, it depends.

    1 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 26, 2008


    I was thinking of your question as I rode over the past few days. My conclusion is that a proper warm up is the amount of time and movements required to get the horse's body and brain ready to work for the rider.

    Some of mine need 10-30mins of walking/suppling/lateral in the walk on long rein, others a round or two of loose rein walk/trot, then there are some greenies that still need a few minutes on the lunge to walk/trot their brains into calmness and work mode. And to add to the "fun" - the proper warm up is not the same for each horse day to day. They have different days, just like humans seem to.
    Horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar. 23, 2006


    Thanks everyone for their replies. The horse is green, usually coming straight from his stall after all day turnout (I ride in evenings) and tends to be efficiently minded - i.e. work as little as he can get away with without getting into trouble.

    After thinking about the issue I also came across the following excerpt in Walter Zettl's Dressage in Harmony book. Interesting how his approach supports many of your comments:

    5.11 Warm-Up Procedure
    When the horse first comes from the stable, the rider should ride a good free walk on long reins, going on both reins two or three times around the arena. The rider must remember that the horse needs time to become accustomed to the rider's weight and to find his balance again, carrying a rider.

    After the free walk, the rider shortens the reins, taking light contact and starts with the working trot rising at a good, energetic tempo. The tempo must be exactly suitable for the horse. One horse requires a fresher tempo; the other a quieter one. With the stronger horses the rider will need to stay longer on a 20 meter circle. The lazier horse does better ridden straight ahead. The rider should change the rein frequently and make several transitions to the working canter from the trot. This trot and canter will take approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the horse's needs.

    The length of time required to relax and supple the horse and to beging to soften and lighten the tight and heavy side depends on the individual. Young horses and heavier horses need a little longer. The rider shouldn't work with a lazy horse too long and on circles. It is better to ride briefer exercises and more straight lines with such horses.
    Last edited by Mouse&Bay; Dec. 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM. Reason: typos!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug. 14, 2004


    warm-ups and the work in general for a young horse, should focus on forward/rhythm/regularity and suppleness. however you achieve that will be different for each horse - but until you reach all the above in satisfactory amounts, the horse is not ready to do more serious work.

    i am adding: for a horse that has been stalled or paddocked they need to walk for a full 10 minutes before starting more vigorous work. the walk should be marching with the goal being the horse takes long strides that swings thru the body to help loosen the body and get the joint fluids going. if you are going to lunge, then hand walk - its good for the rider too!

    the contact will be different for each horse.

    once you have achieved this then on to the real work and again the contact will be whatever is needed to facilitate the goal.
    Last edited by mbm; Dec. 26, 2012 at 12:06 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec. 9, 2012


    I warm up much like the described excerpt, as my horse is pretty textbook under saddle (on the lazy side though).

    My only difference: I do all walking bundled up in a cooler covering my horse and I . I also find it helpful to ride in a quarter sheet, even if my horse gets a tad more sweaty by the end of the ride. I would rather have her back nicely warmed up from the start and spend an extra 5 minutes walking out in a cooler at the end then to start with a colder back.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan. 27, 2002
    Arlington, VA US


    they can get stiff if stuck in stall for awhile, so walking can help. Many horses go better after some canter, which warms up their backs (rider in 2 pt). If its is chilly, a quarter sheet is helpful, or a cooler while walking. My guy, once young, is now 25+ yrs young, so I need to ensure his joints are warmed up well. Fortunately he is on 24x7 turn out.
    Appy Trails,
    Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
    member VADANoVA

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