The Warm Up: Where the Test Is Won Or Lost

The warm up is the most crucial part of any competition. It's where the test is won or lost.
Too much warm up and your horse may be dull and less reactive to your aids.
Too little warm up and your horse may be more "exuberant" than you anticipate.

In this weeks installment I've listed exactly what you need to do in order to take the mistery out of the warm up.You never know how your horse will react to new settings until you expose him to them.

Don't wait until the day of the show to find out what his reaction will be. With a little planning ahead on your part you can gather all the information you need to get you down centerline with confidence and clarity.

1.) Visit other facilities and ride in a busy arena. I've seen the test ride lost in the warm up numerous times simply because the student was overwhelmed with navigating the traffic of a busy arena.

Most professionals will allow you to schedule ‘arena time’ if you call ahead and make an appointment, and are willing to sign a release form, bring a copy of the coggins, and bring your trainer with you.

Make sure you explain to them the purpose is to expose your horse to a new environment with other horses working in the same arena. That way they can give you a time when the arena has some traffic in it.

2.) If the facility has two arena’s (often there is a covered arena and an outdoor arena) go ahead and WARM UP in one arena and then move to the other arena and RIDE YOUR TEST. Just like you would at a show.

3.) Here is what you want to know:
Does my horse have any separation anxiety leaving the warm up arena, and horses, and moving to the show arena?

Or sometimes it is just the opposite. Does my horse become more settled once he has left the busy arena and goes to the empty arena?

Is he educated enough yet to leave his home surroundings and come to a new place and focus on the work at hand?

Or does he come unglued and need 20 minutes of lunging before ever putting a foot in the stirrup?

4.)Keep a good eye on your watch.
You want to know exactly how much time it takes to warm up.
When you feel you and your horse are warmed up, go and ride through your test in the other arena.

Were you and your horse warmed up enough,or did you find out you needed extra time?
Take note of what the actual warm up time should be.

5.) If You Plan On Riding More Than One Test At The Show:

The general rule of thumb is it takes half as much time to warm up for the second test as it did for the first.

Once you've figured out exactly how much time you need to warm up for the first test,go ahead and give your horse a break just like you would at the show.

Generally there will be at least an hour and forty minutes in between tests.

Untack your horse,let him cool down,give him a drink and either tie him at the trailer (if he's comfortable with that) or make arrangements ahead of time to have a day stall at the facility you are practicing at.

Then tack him up again and go warm up for your second test. Start with half as much time and see if it's going to hold true for your horse. It's just a place to start so you can make your assessments and fine tune the warm up.

One last recommendation is that you braid your horse for the practice. Once in a while you'll have a horse that takes offense to the braids and will shake his head intermittently, disturbing the entire ride.

Bottom line is,leave no question unanswered.

Colette Sossaman
"Riding Lessons to Go"--the ONLY Dressage training product that lets you download professional lessons to your portable MP3 player so you can listen in REAL TIME as you ride--and bring your lessons with you any time, any place

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Comment by Barbara F. on November 12, 2009 at 8:37am
Great advice, Colette!
Comment by Catherine Chamberlain on November 10, 2009 at 7:26pm
Thanks for posting! Very helpful tips. :)

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