What would happen to your riding if you began to put a little more effort and intention into each warm up? Many riders are literally setting a timer for each warm up. 5 minutes of walking, followed by some trotting and maybe a canter or three…
Your warm up is a way to set the tone of the whole conversation with your horse. Whether that is a groundwork session, a lunging session, a ride in the arena, or a ride on the trail.
By setting an intention and then tweaking your actions based on the results, you can literally change the whole ride. Here is how I suggest getting started with creating a better warm-up in your riding.
1. Have a Clear Intention for the Session
Riding for the sake of riding doesn’t work. It may be fun in the short term. However, over time, that excitement and fun will wane. This is where having an intention for each ride becomes so important. If you are feeling a little lost about this, use this FREE PLANNER to help you.
Once you know what the desired outcome is for the session or ride, you can begin to tailor a warm up that will help to support that.
2. Set the Tone for the Conversation
Different goals or intentions require different energy levels and rhythms. I am a firm believer in using every part of the interaction to grow and develop the conversation.
Your conversation begins with your horse as soon as you become aware of each other. Use this time as an opportunity to set the tone.
Think about what it is you want to achieve in your ride. What sort of energy and rhythm would support this? Be intentional with every action you take in order to create a rhythm that will work for you. Your actions while grooming, your breathing. Also, remember to be consistent with your voice and tone. All will help to set the next part up in the ride.
If you fail to be intentional here, very often you will find yourself aligning with your horse’s energy. And, sometimes, this is not the energy we want for the conversation!
3. Your Warm Up
Riding for 10 minutes on a loose rein is not really warming up. Yes, things are moving and blood is flowing… However, it is not really working towards anything. In fact, just riding a specific number of laps or circles in a certain gait while warming up will usually result in the first 10 minutes of ‘work’ being the real warm up!
Think about what your desired outcome is for the ride or session. What can you do in those first 10 or 15 minutes to help get you and your horse working together?
Now, I am not saying that it is wrong to ride four 20m circles on the right rein; and then repeat on the left… However, I am suggesting having a very specific reason for riding those 4 circles. Maybe it is to develop forwardness? Or it could be to work on responsiveness. Coordination (whether it be the horse, the rider, or both) is also a helpful focus.
Your warm up is where you and your horse tune things so that you can really ‘play together’ when the actual work begins. The question is, what will be the most beneficial element of the conversation to tune-up?
4. Keeping Track of your Warm Up
Finally, in order to see what is really working for you and your horse, you need to record your warm up. I am hoping that you are keeping a riding journal? If not, HERE’S why you should! But assuming you are, you can begin to see what is helpful, and what’s not.
Knowing what works for you and your horse will allow you the ability to create a routine. The routine is great to begin helping both of you focus on the upcoming session or work.
Be consistent with creating 3 or 4 different types of warm ups, with each leading to a different type of ride. Create a warm up for jumping. Or a warm up for flatwork. Lunging, hacking, groundwork, dressage, showjumping, cross country, trails, and all of the things can have different warm ups.
- The routine of a warm up that works, will help to focus and settle both of you. This is particularly helpful if you are in a strange place (competition, clinic, etc.) or if there is any excess tension present.
Play with What Works Best for Both of You
My final piece of advice is to be strategic with any changes you make once you have found something that works. Notice the result or outcome from each ‘change’. Anything that improves focus, intention, and overall movement is a bonus.
Your warm-ups have the potential to transform your rides or session with your horse. However, you have to first be intentional with what you are doing and asking.
I am going to challenge you, this week, to be thinking about each conversation with your horse. What can you change, become more consistent with, start doing, or stop doing to help improve your warm up?
- FREE PLANNER
- Keeping a Horse Riding Journal
- Why You Need to Start Your Horse Riding Journal Today
- Connection; the Online Membership for Equestrians
- Lunging for Riding – 4-week program that gets results
- Groundwork for Riding – 4-week program (no arena required ;) )
- Daily Strides Premium Newsletter
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Equestrian Virtual Lounge Online Community