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If you’re looking to compete in some upcoming dressage competitions, don’t miss these tips to help ensure an effective dressage warm-up and allow both you and your horse to feel calm and ready for your dressage test.

  • When schooling your horse at home note how long your warm-up takes and try to always stick to the same routine. This means that when you get to a competition you already have a good warm-up plan and know what time you need to mount before the class.
  • When you arrive at the venue find out where the warm-up area is and the route to get there from your lorry once mounted.
  • Make sure that you don’t get on too early… this can be tempting if you’re ready, but could jeopardize your performance. Listen to some music, have a chat to someone or go through your test in your head if you have time to kill.
  • Always check your tack before you get on. Even if someone else has tacked up for you, it’s your responsibility if you go on to have a tack malfunction.
  • Make sure that you’re dressed correctly. It is worth making sure that you look good, feel confident and are ready to present yourself with pride. If you have a helper, give them a copy of the test to take to the warm-up area in case you need it.
  • It is a good idea to allow an extra 10 minutes to warm-up, in case of any unexpected dramas. This also gives you some time to focus yourself before you go into the ring.
  • During your warm-up, picture yourself at home and force yourself to stick to your normal warming in routine. Be careful not to be distracted, or compare yourself to the other competitors around you.
  • If your horse is happy to be out, or feels different in any way, just relax and deal with it as you would if you were not in a competition environment.
  • 15 minutes before your test have a break from warming up and find out which arena you are in.
  • It is now a good idea to visualise yourself doing your whole test in that arena, including where you are going to prepare for each movement. Note any places where your horse might spook and decide in advance how you would deal with it – above all make sure that you’re doing the right test; you could read it aloud to someone with a hard copy.
  • This is also a good time to take off your boots or drop your whip. You now have a little bit of time before you are sent into the ring to complete the final bit of your warm-up.
  • It’s important to know how your horse is inclined to go in the ring, for example if he raises his head, keep him low during the last bit of your warm-up. Alternatively, if your horse curls into himself, encourage a more open frame. If he doesn’t change, now is the time to get into your competition outline.
  • Use the time outside the white boards to show your horse any potential spooky things and also show off a little to the judge – lateral work is a good idea, or even a bit of medium trot. Remember to acknowledge the judge with a smile and “Good morning/afternoon”.
  • When the bell goes you normally have 45 seconds to enter the ring; this is long enough not to rush or panic… so don’t! Take a deep breath, pat your horse and give yourself enough room to enter straight. Also, remember to smile at the judge!
  • Remember to stay focused on your job, however there is always the potential for something to go wrong, so it’s important that you just do your best and most importantly enjoy it.

Tune in next week for some top tips to ensure an effective showjumping warm-up. Now that you perfected your dressage warm-up why not enter some upcoming events near you?