Advanced Warm Ups

I have been teaching more advanced riders lately, so I have been thinking about more advanced warm ups.

Initially, warm ups for riders with disabilities focus on preparing them to learn a riding skill, prepare their body to work, help them transition, and establish balance. Typically exercises are done for both upper and lower body, in multiple repetitions, and in both directions. (For more about these warm ups see the Warm Ups post).

But at some point a rider needs to learn how to warm up their body and horse to prepare for riding in a lesson, or if they want to have their own horse, to identify where their horse is that day and if anything needs work before moving on in their ride.

To introduce the concept of warming up their horse too, I’ve started introducing “Warm ups for you” and “Warm ups for your horse”. Here is an example:

  • Warm ups for you (with leader)
    • Backward arm circles
    • Shoulder twists
    • 2 point
    • both directions
  • Warm ups for your horse (with assistance as needed, progress in independence from with leader to no leader)
    • Halt and Walk on 2x
      • “Check the brakes and gas”
      • if they’re sticky, repeat until improvement
    • Circle 2x
      • “Check the steering”
      • if it needs work, repeat until improvement
      • it may help to pick an object to circle around (cone, barrel, etc)
    • Fast walk and/or trot 1 lap
      • “Establish forward movement”
    • Do everything both directions
    • Adapt to the horse – for example, if he’s slow and prone to stop, don’t worry about the halt but work on the fast walk to wake him up

At some point I progress to combining them, usually when the rider no longer needs a leader and therefore cannot let go of the reins for their warm ups. For example:

  • Pre-riding Warm ups
    • Lead horse 1-2 laps
      • observe horse body language for how he is doing today, as this will tell us what kind of horse we’re riding and prepare us to know how to ride him
      • work on picking up your own energy
      • if he is not responsive to your cues, address them on the ground first
  • Warm ups for you and your horse
    • Walk 1 lap
      • for your horse to see the arena
      • for you to check your own posture, balance, and relaxation. Release areas of tension in your body. Establish breathing.
    • Halt and Walk on
      • 2x or until responsive to leg
    • Circle
      • 2x or until responsive to rein and leg
    • 2 point
      • stretch your leg, establish balance and good leg position
    • Fast walk and/or trot
      • 1 lap or until responsive to leg
      • until moving with even rhythm, relaxed manner, and paying attention
    • both directions
    • adapt to horse

Conveniently this past weekend I read a section from the book Equestrian Instruction by Jill K. Hassler-Scoop that has some more great suggestions:

  • Initially provide a plan for the warm up for new riders
    • progress to slowly having them do it on their own
    • progress to having them warm up before their lesson starts, then report to you on how it went
  • Have the rider warm up on their own while you observe
    • casually observe them to get a feel for how they are doing today, their state of mind, and identify areas to work on. Get involved if they are having trouble in an area but try to give them space to settle in.
    • for advanced riders that are new to you, tell them to warm up as they usually would at home. This gives you time to learn about how they are used to doing things and identify areas to work on.
  • Do a warm up review
    • Ask the rider how they think the warm up went
      • How did your horse feel? (Stiffer on one side, not responsive to leg, uneven, etc.) Is there something we should work on today?
      • How did your horse feel compared to last week? Is there something that shows up every week we need to address?
    • Discuss their observations and confirm or make corrections, always explaining why.
    • Add your own observations.
    • Together arrive at a few goals for the day’s lesson based on the warm up.

I love the idea of working toward the rider mounting and warming up on their own before the lesson. Some of my rec riders do this when we have a break before their lesson, so by the time their lesson actually starts they are all ready to go. We discuss how warm up went and work on any issues that came up before working on what I’d planned, or sometimes we don’t make it to what I’d planned because a better learning opportunity came up!

What do you do to progress your more advanced riders in warming up their horses?

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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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