Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Slacker's Guide to Warm Ups

Warming up a horse is undeniably the most important part of the ride.  It's also the most difficult.

It's hard to figure out just exactly how to warm up.  Horses are all different, riders are all different.  Really, with horses, every day is different.  Every trainer I've ever known has a different "system" for warm-ups.  I'm not clever enough to come up with a system, though.  I suppose that's why I'm not a trainer!  I just cheat.... I let the horse tell me how to warm up.

Generally, I like to start off every ride with a brisk walk on a loose rein with many changes of direction and a couple leg yields.  This walk gives me time to establish the idea of "forward" while still stretching the horse.  It also gives me time to stretch my own muscles, establish my proper position and ponder what I want to work on in this ride.  Most importantly, it gives me time to assess what my horse feels like.

If he's feeling sluggish, we start our work with many quick walk-trot transisitions to get him fired up.  If he feels stiff, we stay at walk and focus on leg yields and turns on the forehand before moving on to trot work.  If he feels tense, we usually do some canter before trotting (this works well at shows, too).  And then there are days like we've been having......

It has been cold here.  I mean cold cold.  And windy.  In the cold and wind, my horse turns into a fire breathing dragon.  It's a combination of tense, stiff and psychotic with a helping of way too much energy on the side.  So, the warm up has changed a bit.  Rather than a brisk walk on a loose rein, we start in a brisk trot with contact.  Rather than transitions, we do many changes of direction.  We continue in this manner until I feel his energy start to lag, then I put him to work.  I end the ride with stretching trot and a brisk walk on a loose rein. 

Some days, his energy never lags. I call those "cardio days".  On cardio days, we trot around until my energy lags, then call it a day. 

With the way the wind is blowing out there today, I suspect it's going to be another "cardio day". 


  1. I don't think there's anything wrong with your warm up at all. You do have a plan. A plan for every different Spider you might ride lol. I'm glad he's enjoying the cold weather. :)

  2. I warm up much the same way. But on "cardio days" -- I free longe in the arena. I basically stand in the middle and watch the fireworks. The only rule is no stopping. They can walk, trot, canter, gallop, buck -- but no stopping for 20 minutes. A fun (and safe for me) workout.

  3. Sounds like a good plan to me!

  4. Good heavens, you've been riding in "This???" OK, OK, I have an excuse with two replaced knees not too happy in the cold yet, but even when I was sound, I'm not sure I would have braved some of the weather we've had this last week--of course I am in "Central" Jersey, not the "balmy" south of the state. *G*

    Actually, your warm up plan of letting the horse dictate just what he needs is right on target. Some days lots of walking works. Other days, some good trots and, for Thoroughbreds especially, the canter can make the perfect warm up gait.

    Well done and well thought out.

    I'm snuggling up under a warm blanket myself. *G*

  5. I have been riding too. It is bloomin' cold *sobbing*
    Teena was sriff and complete lack of impulsion. so yesterday we went straight for a hack. She DID perked up after 10 minutes, she head-shook her head, and started to trot.
    so we went into the indoor school :-D
    Teh ground is frozen hard, too hard to trot on, plus i worried to slide on hidden ice patch.
    But at least I have found something to get her going ^-^


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