Annie’s Warm Ups and Exercises

Recently a coworker lent me her master’s project from a few years ago, a binder full of Therapeutic Riding Exercises and Activities and Equine Facilitated Learning Activities, to use as a resource for this blog!

First I want to share her warm ups and stretching exercises, which include the “how” and the “why” for each one. When I learned how to teach a TR lesson, they stressed the importance of using “how’s” and “why’s” during the lesson, but it didn’t occur to me to use them in warm ups too. But it’s just as important! So this is a great resource for those “how’s” and “why’s” to use when teaching warm ups. and when choosing which warm ups would be best for a particular student.

Therapeutic Riding Warm Up/Stretching Exercises

  • Ankle Circles – several in each direction, one foot at a time = encourages flexibility of the ankle joint so heel can more easily be pressed down and maintain proper position in stirrups
  • Ankle Circle – both feet at the same time = also encourages coordinating movements between opposing limbs
  • Ankle Circles – both feet in opposite directions = also an added challenge
  • Arms Out – two arms out in shape of T = begins to establish balance without holding on, encourages opening of chest and tall posture
  • Arms Out – one arm straight out = allows security of holding saddle while still participating in the activity
  • Arms Out – two arms out and twist at the waist, exhaling into the twist = additional lower back stretch and engages the abdominals
  • Arms Up – both arms straight up = establish a sense of balance without holding on, encourages tall posture, helps slouchy riders drop their shoulder blade
  • Arms Up – one arm up = allows security of holding saddle while still participating in the activity
  • Arms Up – both arms up then gently bend slightly backward as exhale = additional stretch of spine and back muscles
  • Chest Expansion – interlace fingers behind back and push away until feel chest stretch = draws shoulder blades together expanding chest and upper body
  • Chest Expansion with forward bend = more intense stretch, further encourages shoulder release
  • Cross Touch Knee – touch hand to opposite knee as twist at waist= engages lower back and abdominals, reinforces right vs left
  • Cross Touch Toes – touch hand to opposite toe = challenge, additional stretch of lower back
  • Dog – no stirrups, one leg at a time, lift thighs away from saddle with legs stretched out to side (like arms straight out but with leg) = encourages finding the center of the saddle, correct position, and not gripping with the thighs
  • Dog On The Move – Dog but at the walk = additional challenge, body awareness, and balance
  • Elbow Touch – place fingers on top of shoulders or back of head then bring elbows together in front while rounding the upper back = stretches upper back
  • Elbow Touch with one arm – same but with one arm = allows security of holding saddle while still participating in the activity
  • Frog – no stirrups, one leg at a time, draw knee up near pommel then push down and back = helps rider find the middle of the saddle and remain in the correct position using balance and seat
  • Frog Two Legs – same with both legs simultaneously, at the halt or while walking = additional challenge, body awareness, and balance
  • Hands on Helmet – both hands touch top or helmet = encourages sitting tall and straight, establish balance without holding on
  • Hands on Helmet – one hand at a time = allows security of holding saddle while still participating in the activity
  • Mane Touch – reach forward with both hands and touch the horse’s mane = stretches upper back muscles, teaches horse part
  • Mane Touch – with one hand = allows security of holding saddle while still participating in the activity
  • Mane Touch Extension – with  both hands extended as far up neck as possible without bearing weight on the horse’s neck = additional challenge, improve stretch quality
  • Quad Stretch – no stirrups, hold ankle with hand pointing knee at ground, making sure to keep knee aligned with pelvis = stretches quadriceps muscle, tilt pelvis forward for increased stretch
  • Tail Touch – twist at waist reaching back with hand toward horse’s dock = encourages spine twist, and spine and back flexibility, teaches horse part
  • Tail Touch Holding Stretch – hold for several breaths = additional challenge, encourages deeper stretch
  • Trunk Twists – hands on hips and rotate from wait right and left = encourages lower back muscles to warm up and stretch
  • Trunk Twists Arms Outstretched = can help achieve greater twist, helps some riders identify twisting motion more clearly
  • Wing Victory – hold grab strap or reins, stand up straight in the stirrups and maintain balance, at the walk = helps rider find center/balance and establishes correct leg position (since the leg must be perfectly under the hip to stay balanced), encourages deep stretch into heel
  • Wing Victory No Hands – wing victory with arms straight out = added challenge, encourages even better balance


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

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