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Warming Up

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  • Warming Up

    I am very inconsistent with my warm up/start of my schooling and it does kind of frustrate me that I can't keep to a routine when I am sure that I should be.

    Some times I will lunge before riding, sometimes I will do alot of walk and various exercises in walk before asking for any trot at all, and then there are the days when I just do walk/trot/canter laps around the outside of the arena before coming back to start some schooling. In any of this, I still want a nice way of going though.

    Is there a right or wrong way? Are you consistent with what you do at the start of your ride? Or does it really all just depend on the day or how you or your horse is feeling?

  • #2
    I have a consistent approach; what varies on any given day is how the horse responds. My mare tends towards the lazy side, so from first step I ask for active, marching walk, toss in some circles and leg yields to check willingness to be supple. When satisfied, go to posting trot, w/ the expectation that she will be round, low and forward. Do serpentines, other directional changes. Then go to canter. If I feel that she is not forward, I toss in transitions to get her a bit brighter, if she's not off the leg laterally I do some more exercises for that, etc.
    Once I get all that, I move on to our work work. I'm not one to lunge, though I know others use it as a tool for various reasons.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


    • #3
      I am not always consistent in the way I warm up -- I like it that way. One day we may work on serpentines and straightness. Other days I may work on moving the shoulders around, or moving the haunches around. Sometimes I may even put out some groundpoles and practice over them.

      I use variety to keep my horses mentally sound. If I do the same thing over and over again they get bored and "itchy", as I call it. The more I can do mentally with them the more reward I will get back physically, as well as mentally later.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks 2tempe and Arabmare..you both make perfect sense and your replies have been very helpful!

        Did think I might have got a few more replies though!


        • #5
          Actually I'm surprised too. And if it wasn't clear in my earlier discussion, I don't do the same exercises each time, even though the goal is the same. IE at the walk, I want not just a marching feeling, but also softness thru the back and ribs. Sometimes the leg yield is done quarter line to rail. Sometimes 3 steps one way, then straight then steps other way. Sometimes I do it with serpentines, but I exaggerate the middle part so there is a more significant change of bend. (think ribbon candy...) If the walk is good and easy right away, I move on. If not I ask for more. The warm up for us is all about making sure that we are having a two way conversation!

          And actually when I read Arabmare's post, it sounds to me like she is talking about more than the warm up - rather what she chooses to work on in a given ride. And I don't disagree w/ that approach at all; our "work" is varied from day to day as well.
          We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


          • #6
            2Tempe - Totally know where you're coming from and what you're talking about. We just have a different way of describing it. But my post was just the warmup, I would do different things for the ride.

            Our views are pretty much the same though, I believe. Do what that the horse needs each day and keep it varied.


            • Original Poster

              I actually thought the same thing too! And really, it is very similar to what I am doing when I think about it....apart from the lunging, which I only usually do if I haven't ridden for a few days.

              So, thank you both again!


              • #8
                So for warm-up you have to ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish - and that will probably be different for each horse.
                In general my goal for warm-ups are too literally warm-up the body to loosen the muscles and to supple the top line....

                how I achieve that depends on the horse.

                Also, I do try to also have prompt response to the aids - however they can’t really respond promptly if they are stiff/cold.


                • #9
                  About the only thing that is consistent about my warm-ups is that I generally lunge a bit to see how the mare is feeling about that given day. Something like: can she go from trot to canter without bucking a couple of times. Until I can get that transition without a problem, we do not go on to saddle work. Once I am in the saddle, the first thing I test are the brakes, i.e. can I get a nice halt with the slightest of request. If that is a "yes," then things are good to go, mixing and changing. The only thing to remember is that all gaits must be utilized within the work, and never go for long in any one direction. None of this all the way around the ring routine! Many changes in direction and many changes between gaits, and never more than two or three attempts at any one movement before moving on to something else. You can come back to it later if results are not what you want, but don't drill it.


                  • #10
                    Hmm well I am pretty consistent in my warm-up. One huge reason is because I have a couple who are known to be rather tense at the shows. I have developed a routine in the hopes that they will develop more confidence and get to know their job without worrying. I am riding/competing 4 right now pretty regularly (head out to a schooling show tomorrow and a recognized show next weekend).

                    I start all warm-ups by just walking around on a long rein on my property. I want them stretching into the contact and moving forward at a decent marching walk. My property has a fairly large natural area (desert) in the front. My dogs have made paths through it that I use to ride the horses. There is a lot of bending and changes of direction on these paths so I can vary the direction and way I'm going day-to-day; so, it's not quite so monotonous. It also allows us to do some bending and moving off the leg during this time too.

                    Then I head to my arena and take whatever time is necessary to get them moving in all 3 gaits stretching over the back, getting them in front of my leg and moving off my legs and supple - so many changes of direction in all gaits, corrections if the responses are not fast enough (or too dull), and lateral work at the walk, etc. Once I feel that they are there (I have their back & they're listening to my seat) then I go to work. I do sometimes add cavallettis to this to break up the routine; but, all and all the warm-up is just a variation of the same. Sometimes this is all I do if one of my horses is particularly tense be it due to the weather, something new and different going on next door or on my property; so the length of time of warm-up is dictated by the horse.

                    I do get out on the trail with each horse about once a week. I also will haul out to other places. All to give variety to the work out and get them use to change. Away from home (if not a trail ride) I try to stick to the same overall routine - walk around on a longer rein, ride through all 3 paces doing a lot of stretching and bending to get them supple and then going to the exercises/work. I find my horses are more likely to relax if they have a dependable routine.
                    Ranch of Last Resort


                    • #11
                      My mare gets lunged before every ride for probably around 10-15min depending on how stiff she is. I don't use lunging to burn off excess energy, she is pretty cold backed/has hock issues, so she initially moves off very short/stiff. So it's just not fair or productive to ask her to carry a rider until her back warms up and loosens.

                      Once mounted we walk for a few minutes to let her adjust, I ask for a forward walk, relaxation/submission, the amount of suppleness depends on how she feels that day. After a few laps we go right into a rising trot, again with an emphasis on forward and looseness of her back. I do a lot of circle work, serpentines, leg yield, etc. What exercises I do depends entirely on how stiff she is that day and what will help her loosen up the most. After she is feeling good at the trot I move up into the canter and I aim to have her loose/soft and forward.

                      Overall my biggest focus is forward and soft in the back! Hopefully as she builds up strength she won't require lunging anymore and won't start as stiff!


                      • #12
                        Each horse has their thing and their age makes a huge difference

                        My mare I walk a bunch loose rein, then trot and canter straight and soft not a lot of contact. Usually at canter I start to ask for some movment around see what we are dealing with. At the walk and trot I then start to feel for softness in bend and then start to try and get the neck long while shortening a bit in the body. See how hard it is to respond to halfhalts and "stay".

                        Then canter I start a bit higher, and back to work at trot and walk until I can ride with my hands closer to the wither.
                        ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                        • #13
                          I have a checklist I run through, but nothing is really set in stone. I do walk quite a bit, both just ambling along and also stretching down into the bridle, pushing from behind. And I do canter before trot (horse's preferred method).

                          Other than that, I make sure we have forward, straight, and supple in all three gaits. I sit light in the canter at first, I only post until he is ready for me to sit (which can sometimes take awhile), and most of our early work is stretchy/long and low/deep.

                          Nice thing is, my horse is pretty easy for me to read and I can tell when it's time to ask for more and when we need a few more minutes.

                          The one thing I don't do is I do not hack out to warm up then come back to the ring. That is just asking for a grumpy horse. If we want to hack and school, we hack AFTER to cool down.

                          I almost never lunge him, but I am also very comfortable riding out shenanigans if we're going to have them (which is rare if we're working but not unheard of).


                          • #14
                            I have a fairly consistent warmup that got tweaked (to make it better) about a month ago and seems to be working quite well for my 19 year old gelding.

                            We start by walking one lap around the arena in hand. Then I get on and we walk one lap on a long rein. This progresses to ribbon candy serpentines at the walk. Then to "string of pearls" 10m circles each direction up the centerline.

                            Then we move to trot figure 8s, focusing on moving forward with good energy and stretching over his back. There isn't a time limit on this...it's however long it takes to start feeling good and may include some full circles before getting back to the figure 8...might include a spiral in/out, too. Then we move to 12m figure 8s, using one wall as a place I can push him toward, looking for him to start engaging his inside hind. Finally, we move to 10m connected circles...full circle, then change to a circle the other way, all the way down the wall. By the time we're done, he's usually carrying himself well and feels connected.

                            At the canter, I want him moving forward with energy, but also listening to my seat/half halts. We generally do some 20 and 15 m circles in both direction...sometimes a circle, straight line, another circle.

                            After a walk break, it's on to whatever "work" we're planning for the day.


                            • #15
                              I haven't lunged a horse in years. I prefer to do all of my work either in hand or mounted.

                              I start with a walk on a long rein asking my horse to move forward. I then ask for some lateral movement, usually on a very large circle, sometimes as part of a serpentine.

                              Generally I canter before I do any trot work and ask for my horse to stretch down into the bridle. I usually sit very lightly or post to the canter at the beginning.

                              After the canter work, I typically do some lateral work at the trot. It may take the form of large figure 8s where we do shoulder in along the tops of the circles and then leg yield across the diagonals.

                              Much of my work is done outside of the arena and I try to incorporate some hill work (sometimes it's on a gentle slope where I trot/canter, other times we do climbing. Really steep hills we walk down).

                              I hack a lot and some days I will just go for an hour walk on a loose rein and let the terrain do it's work.
                              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                              • Original Poster

                                Thank you everyone for you replies. It's been great to read them, very helpful and now I have one less thing to beat myself up about.

                                Bogie, would love to do more work like you as well. It's just impossible where I live, we have hardly any trail riding area at all, and what is there is well used by people on motorbikes. The most I can hope for is a quiet walk up and down the road when the traffic isn't busy, so try and make up for it with cavaletti work and the odd crossrail jump instead.


                                • #17
                                  what is the string of pearls exercise?


                                  • #18
                                    String of pearls exercise:
                                    Turn up the centerline (at the walk or trot...can do it at canter, too, but it involves changes of lead)
                                    At each letter do a 10m circle to the left and then a 10m circle to the right, ending up on the centerline. Continue straight to the next centerline letter and do another 10m circle to the left and then to the right. Continue this up the whole centerline.

                                    This helps my boy start to loosen up and also helps him to tune in to me.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by snbess View Post
                                      String of pearls exercise:
                                      Turn up the centerline (at the walk or trot...can do it at canter, too, but it involves changes of lead)
                                      At each letter do a 10m circle to the left and then a 10m circle to the right, ending up on the centerline. Continue straight to the next centerline letter and do another 10m circle to the left and then to the right. Continue this up the whole centerline.
                                      That sounds like a good one! I'm currently doing an informal version of this, walking the mare in and out amid the jumps and jump standards (everything is in the indoor now that it's cold, and I board at a mostly-jumpers barn.)

                                      Also... now that it's cold, I am finding that we really, really need 15-20 minutes of walking to start. I start on a very long rein, drop my stirrups and do *my* warm-up stretches as the mare walks along. Then I start picking up the reins and asking for more contact, but still keep things variable. When I'm happy with the walk I am getting, I do a bit of lateral work in the walk.
                                      You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                      1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                                      • #20
                                        I'm one who has changed warm-up strategies over time depending on the horse...and now, with my current mare, we change depending on the season (and sometimes depending on the day and the mood she's in).

                                        Walking for a while is a must...but she HAS to be forward and swinging from the moment I get on. She tends to get a little sucked back, particularly in the cooler weather, so I have to insist on forward, swingy, and stretching towards the bit (basically a big free walk). If I do too much lateral work or picking her up too soon, she'll suck back (and I mean SUCK BACK...stop, bounce up and down, back up, etc.). So, I move right into trot work...if she gets stuck at all, I keep sending her forward, which right now means she canters, which is fine by me. So, I sit light, canter her FORWARD for a bit, bring her back down to trot and she's MUCH more willing to stretch and swing in the trot.

                                        I do a ton of changes of direction in my warm-up...I rarely go all the way around the arena once in one direction. Once she's warm and we're actually working, I may go one direction for a while, but warm-up is lots o' changing to get lateral softness, engage both hinds, warm up both sides of her spine/shoulders/hips, etc.

                                        I used to have to do a very structured warm up that I would use at shows as well (as mentioned above), but she's chilled out a bit more now at shows, so I can wing it more.