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Warming up your horse...

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  • Warming up your horse...

    I know this might sound like a silly question to ask, but I was just curious what people do.

    How do you warm up your horse?

    Do you let them just walk around for a bit on a loose rein (ie. on the buckle) for a few minutes and then immediately go into "work" (bending, contact, etc) at the w/t/c. Or after a loose rein walk, do you just let them w/t/c a little bit to loosen up for another 5-10 minutes and it doesn't matter what they do before getting down to "work"?

    If you don't go immediately into "work", how do you think this affects your training/riding?

    Last edited by LSM1212; Jun. 10, 2010, 12:22 PM.

  • #2
    I got an entirely new perspective on "warming up" from clinician Jeff Ashton Moore.
    His POV:
    "Do ballet dancers warm up by trudging around the stage?"
    They do not.

    So my warmup now consists of horse trotting with me asking for some bending, leg yield & general suppling.
    Sometimes my entire ride is warmup work, sometimes I am motivated to move on to more work, sometimes not.
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
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    • #3
      Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
      I got an entirely new perspective on "warming up" from clinician Jeff Ashton Moore.
      His POV:
      "Do ballet dancers warm up by trudging around the stage?"
      They do not.

      So my warmup now consists of horse trotting with me asking for some bending, leg yield & general suppling.
      Sometimes my entire ride is warmup work, sometimes I am motivated to move on to more work, sometimes not.
      True, but do ballet dancers spend all day cooped up in a stall? That analogy probably works better if your horse is in pasture board. My horse is in a stall most of the day, so I don't think it's fair to pull her out of the stall and then go right to work. I think walking around for about ten minutes is important to help her warm up a bit.


      • #4
        Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
        I got an entirely new perspective on "warming up" from clinician Jeff Ashton Moore.
        His POV:
        "Do ballet dancers warm up by trudging around the stage?"
        They do not.

        So my warmup now consists of horse trotting with me asking for some bending, leg yield & general suppling.
        Sometimes my entire ride is warmup work, sometimes I am motivated to move on to more work, sometimes not.
        Yeah, except Ballet dancers are in charge of what they're doing and are not animals. I like to walk on the buckle to let my horse relax and not feel tense the moment me get in the ring. If we go straight to work she tenses up. If I let her trudge around the arena a few time in both directions and trot for a bit on the buckle she is way more relaxed and ready to focus.


        • #5
          I start with 10 minutes of walking on a loose rein. Then I spend another 10 - 15 minutes flexing, bending and moving body parts around (hindquarters, sidepass and front end). I then trot for 5-10 minutes. When that is completed I lope around on a loose rein and then I consider my horse warmed up.

          I have a big pet peeve of people not warming horses up properly. I remember when I used be a runner. If I didn't warm up I felt terrible. I imagine horses feel the same way as I did.
          RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
          May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
          RIP San Lena Peppy
          May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


          • #6
            my horse needs to be suppled to be warmed up, he has a very strong underneck and is very "bracy" so I spend at least 10m at the walk doing figures, then I move to trot and gradually ask for more bend. THis horse takes a good 20m to really become connected back to front. I don't canter for the warmup as its hard for this horse and introduces tension so we wait till other things are going well.


            • #7
              I was taught long ago to give the horse a chance to warm up before asking for anything serious. The variation of the ballet/ cooped up in a stall analogy I learned was, well, you don't jump out of bed in the morning and immediately do 100 pushups, do you?

              I follow the 'walk the first and last mile' whether on the trail or in the arena. I do also let them trot a few minutes on no contact to light contact to get 'em mentally and physically prepared for flexing, bending, and etc. It does bug me when I see people hop on a horse and immediately move off with the horse 'cranked in a frame,' and start trotting less than halfway around the first lap of the arena. I will add, while I'm thinking about it, that I have the same peeve for longeing and round pen work- people just 'start' by shooing the horse into a trot. Walk first, it's the most important gait!

              Young and strong horses typically need less time before you start working in earnest, in my opinion. One old trooper I showed til he was 19 or 20, from about age 15 on, I simply trotted him in the warmup arena with floppy reins until I could feel that his muscles and joints were ready for the serious stuff. Got some sneers from folks going around with their horses' noses cranked to the chest, at least until we came out of the class placed ahead of them.


              • Original Poster

                Just to clarify, I think we all know that horses need to be warmed up before you start really working.

                What I was asking about is... after you have walked around for about 5-10 minutes (depending on your preference) on a relatively loose rein (buckle or near that)... and they have loosened up a bit... do you go straight into suppling, bending, contact work at the walk, then trot, and then canter? Or after your loose rein walk, do you just kinda trot and canter around on a looser but not at the buckle rein and it doesn't matter if they are counter-bent around the corners and are just bopping around for another 5-10 minutes before you do ask for contact, bending, etc?

                And is it confusing to the horse to let them warm-up that way and then ask for the real work.


                • #9
                  I walk on a loose rein for about 5 min then make sure the horse is in a more correct, but relaxed position/frame for the continuation of the warm up (W/T). I don't allow the counter-bending and or "bopping around" at all during warm up.

                  Like another poster said, as a once-runner I didn't like to just start running and get into the nitty-gritty of training. It was actually painful on my joints that way.


                  • #10
                    Depends if the horse has been turned out before I ride...

                    I get on, walk around on a loose rein, tighten the girth, walk around a bit more.

                    I pick up the trot on a loose rein..couple of loops around or until I feel his back soften and he stretches. Will pick up contact and work on inside/outside rein/leg (corners, turning on the quarter line, straightness, etc.). I want him straight, listening to my leg, using the corners. Pick up the canter, ask for contact, circle, maybe pop a few changes across the center, lengthening and shortening down the long side. May trot or canter some poles to see if my (and his) eye is working, he's listening and my pace is good. Total warm up prior to jumping? Maybe 20 minutes, tops.

                    I had a dressage trainer tell me that you should spend as much time cooling down as you did warming up. I believe it...just hard to do. I try...


                    • #11
                      If my horse was in his stall when I went to go get him to ride, he gets a longer warm-up time. If he was already in turnout (turned out in a large dry lot with a couple of other geldings during the day), then he still gets some warm-up time. Just not as much, because he's already been out there running and playing with the others.
                      Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.


                      • #12
                        My horse is 16 and I am 57. His warm up consists of him wandering around while I try and get my hips moving smoothly, when I finally feel that the creaky bits of my body are moving smoothly, I ask for more work. This is when I usually find another part of my body that is not warmed up so I work on that. The upshot is that his warm up is less than mine so by the time I am finally able to ask him - he is also ready.


                        • #13
                          I wish I COULD warm up on a lose rein with Jawhari. If I tried that, we would be in another county in seconds...

                          Warming up with him is a tough balance. He needs to burn off a little energy so he can concentrate (and longing doesn't do it for him). We start out walking - but never on a long rein. Move into a working trot and do some circles and such and then a few leg yields, and then we really start working. I can let him cool down on a longer rein, but no warming up on a long rein...
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                          • #14
                            individual and by day

                            I warm up in the walk with exercises for myself and my horse, including loosely swinging my lower leg in the rhythm of her walk that helps us relax. I'm right behind SkyKing in years and a good bit of the warmup is getting me in tune with the mare.

                            In the walk we do progressively more work - start on loose rein with me doing my exercises for flexibility. Then I pick up the reins and ask for flexing on circles, quietly, both ways, and this helps keep the mare's concentration if we are at a show or clinic. Ask her to move off my leg on the circle and maybe some leg yields if appropriate, but still in the mode of relaxed and gentle work.

                            Then pick up the trot with contact but not in a frame per se, just want to not be inverted. I use circles and moving off my leg to supple her and have her 'carry' better - often we start off in kind of a stiff trot but after 2 circles it is smooth and rhythmic. I use the exercises to help her balance, and included 'forward and back' in the trot as part of the warmup. Then the same in canter.

                            It is really critical that the horse be forward from the leg before trying to go on the bit, so I use the warmup to work on 'relaxed and forward'.

                            If you look at the Stephen Peters video of Ravel warmup, you see that he works first in a lower, longer neck and then asks for him to be more up in the bridle. I think that if it is done deliberately, with clear aids the horse understands and can move in self carriage, the horse can change the balance to more collection during the session.

                            For me a lot of the next phase, after the first walk/trot/canter is getting the horse on the aids, and us in sync, so a series of transitions and lateral work, but I have to be warmed up myself to do it and so does the mare.
                            Forward...go forward


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks everybody... very interesting insights!


                              • #16
                                Its a good 5-10 minute walk from my horses stall to the arena, so we do that every day.

                                After that I was jumping in to doing some simple bending and counterbending as we trotted around. Lately though, I've been spending 10-15 minutes trotting and cantering around on the buckle and just focusing on lenghtening everything before starting to work on bending. It doesn't seem to make a difference on our flatwork, but I think we're moving more freeley on our approach to fences. I don't know if its helping him loosen up, or if its helping me think/ride differently, but its working, so I'll stick with it.


                                • #17
                                  My warm-up has evolved as my horse has matured. Used to be the worried, frazzled jig into working trot circles until she started to relax. Then we could go back to walk work and start using the whole arena. Now we have a more relaxed warmup, plod around for 3-5 minutes on the buckle with big circles and serpentines from seat/leg pressure only. Then I take up some contact and ask for more walk energy with a few steps of lateral work while staying in a long frame. Probably do that for about 5 minutes then start with maybe 5 minutes of long but energetic trot work. If she's not moving off energetically I'll canter her about ten strides then go back to our long frame trotwork. That's about it for warmup. Sometimes I'll keep her in the long huntery frame to work, other times I'll ask her to get a bit more dressagey. For a jump school we have 15-20 minutes of huntery warmup then start jumping.
                                  "Beware the hobby that eats."
                                  Benjamin Franklin


                                  • #18
                                    I start with 5-10 minutes of walk on the buckle. Then 10-15 minutes of trot on a longish rein, not asking for much in the way of bending or flexing. After that is 5 minutes loping around both directions on a longer rein, and that's it.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      For those of you who don't ask for alot of bending, etc. in the beginning... is your horse still straight and not counter-bent? Even around the corners?


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by LSM1212 View Post
                                        Or after your loose rein walk, do you just kinda trot and canter around on a looser but not at the buckle rein and it doesn't matter if they are counter-bent around the corners and are just bopping around for another 5-10 minutes before you do ask for contact, bending, etc?

                                        And is it confusing to the horse to let them warm-up that way and then ask for the real work.
                                        Well, being counter-bent around the corners, or otherwise off balance, is a different thing, and a no-no. A well schooled horse should be moving in a balanced manner even with the reins thrown away- increased contact is for increased collection/connection, not for correcting heavy on the forehand, for example. Being in 'relaxed warmup' mode is not letting the horse plop around aimlessly.

                                        No, in my experience it's not confusing to the horse. They know to be responsive to aids- it's just a question of when/how/to what degree you start making requests. They don't break if you ask for little moments of flexing, bending etc during that warmup period- but it's not nice to hop on, immediately ask for a grand prix level of contact and frame and provide no relief from that for tens of minutes.