Do you struggle with warming up effectively? The warm up arena is often an intimidating space, so here are some tips for keeping your warm up fun and relaxing.
Stick to routine
Many people ride differently at shows compared to at home, however it’s important to realise if you do this. Try and warm up the same way you do at home; this helps to relax both you and your horse as you’re not rushing and doing anything new.
Talk to your horse
Many horses become tense in the warm up arena and focus on all of the commotion. Talking to your horse can help to keep him calm and subsequently regain focus. It also helps to regulate your breathing to stop you from becoming too tense.
Warm up before you get on
Schedule in some time to warm yourself up, as well as your horse. Try some stretches before you get on – this helps to relieve any tension and get your blood flowing. Stretching your horse before you get on can also help if he’s feeling a little tense.
The warm up area is a communal place and although it can be hard to focus on others when you’re in the zone, you need to stay very aware of where you’re riding and how. Accidents can happen quickly and it’s our job as riders to keep the warm up as safe and sensible as possible. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, it happens to everyone, just make sure that you apologise and keep it in mind for next time.
Don’t do too much
The warm up is about giving your horse (and yourself) confidence before entering the ring. Don’t work in so hard that the both of you are tired and losing focus by the time you enter the arena. Keep your warm up relaxed and learn what is required for both you and your horse.
Make sure you keep both yourself and your horse warm – it stops cramping and keeps you alert and ready. It defeats the object of warming up if you stand still for 10 minutes in the cold before you go in. If the warm up is too busy you can always walk around the venue or car park. Keep your horse walking and remember to remove you exercise sheet just before you go in.
Know the rules
This may sound silly, but many people don’t know the rules associated with the warm up ring, or even what is meant by a red tail ribbon. Brush up on your knowledge before you go to a competition so you know the correct etiquette.
Keep your horse thinking
There are many potential distractions within the warm up arena. It’s important to keep your horse focused on you by asking him to work correctly. Try including lots of transitions, lateral work and change the rein regularly. This keeps your horse thinking, active and listening for his next command, rather than looking at that pretty mare in the corner.
Don’t show off
Sometimes you may feel a bit of peer pressure whilst warming up, however its important to focus on yourself and your horse rather than what anyone else is thinking. Stick to your comfort zone and what you need for your class, rather than trying a new dressage move or jumping the top of the wings. It doesn’t help anyone, especially not your horse!
Practice practice practice
The only way to learn how your horse goes at a competition is to get out there and compete. As we always say at Equo, practice makes perfect. Why not enter a fun event with your horse with a view to really focusing on your warm up for once? The warm-up can too easily be overlooked, with all the excitement of a show, but you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to how your horse performs in competition. Search events near you now.