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Warm-up - the basics of everyday trainings

Published: 2015-09-11 15:08:04 Categories: Guides Rss feed

Warm-up - the basics of everyday trainings background source:


Warm-up is supposed to prepare the organism before we start the proper part of a training, so it should prepare both the horse and the rider to increased attention and physical effort. We ought to warm-up, stretch, relax, calm down, concentrate and mobilise to work. Only then you can go on to the scheduled exercises.


From the biological side, warm-up is a warming up of the muscles, tendons and joints before effort, which prevents from possible injuries and overloads. Additionally its aim is to improve the functioning of musculoskeletal system, meaning - make the training more effective.

Increased temperature in tendons and muscles makes them much more elastic (it happens even when the warm-up is passive, for example with the use of solarium). It's a collagen from which the muscle fibres are built and it becomes more flexible. That process makes the muscle fibres less vulnerable to tearing (microtraumas). A good picture of that would be comparing the horse's muscles to plasticine - when it's cold it's not elastic, it breaks and crumbles, and when it's warm it's bendable.

The warmed-up muscles have increased ability to quicker and stronger straining, due to which the body movements are more efficient and the generated power is greater. It contributes to boosting blood circulation and improves breathing. It is essentially important, as improved breathing means more oxygen in the blood. The oxygen with blood gets to the muscles, where it plays a very important role - it helps in combusting glucose, which is a fuel for the organism. In this combustion process releases energy, which means enhanced efficiency, which means that the body is able to work longer without getting tired.

Warm-up for the horse

Before starting a ride, it's worth to plan not only its proper part but also the warm-up. If you have problems with patience, planning particular tasks will even more help us stick to the general outline of the training and its realisation.

It's good to split the warm-up into few stages, gradually increasing needments, both these regarding the horse's physicality and these regarding his ability to concentrate.

General plan of the horse's warm-up

Introduction - dynamic, active walk on a long rein, so the horse could move with his head lowered. In the same position, ride to the trot in straight lines and mild circles. We should care for the rhythm and beat of the gaits.

Trot on a long rein Trot on a long rein with the horse's lowered neck, source:

Stretching exercises - work on gradually shortening rein, shifting to trot-walk, walk-trot, stopping, circles and switchback. 

Preparing exercises - we prepare to effort these parts of muscles which will be making the increased labour, in respect to what would be are proper work - whether dressage or jumping exercises (e.g. for jumping - shortening and lengthening the steps on ground poles, for dressage - working on figure of eight or switchback).

Sticking to this general plan, you will be able to easily chose the right exercises to each stage of the warm-up. Below, we present you with a set of preparing exercises, which will be perfect both for jump and dressage riders.

Examples of preparing exercises

Passage of ground poles on an figure of eight

Passage of ground poles on an figure of eight

How to practice

Perform this exercise in a trot, remembering to star on the big circles gradually lessening them. The most important in this exercise is the moment of straightening the horse for 3-4 steps between the poles. The horse has to have its neck straight, and our means of aid have to work equally. It's worth to start this exercise with making only one circle in the so-called "better" horse's direction, repeating it 3-4 times, taking care of the picture. Next, you can perform a circle in the "worse" direction, but less number of times, so for example 2-3 times. Then, you can combine it into one, ie. ride alternatively, once to the right, once to the left, making the figure of eight. It's good not to make it a habit, making the circles twice to the left and once to the right or in some other combinations, so the horse would never be able to predict in which direction he should go, at the same time staying more focused and sensitive to our signals. This exercise might be performed both in ride to the trot (for the less experienced riders) and in the full seat. Let's remember that during ride to the trot we have to change a leg between the poles, because riding once to the left, once to the right - we change directions. Additionally, you can add a stop from a trot between the poles.

Pay attention

  • are both the circles, forming the figure of eight, equal?
  • do you plan your way with your sight?
  • is your horse straight riding between the poles?
  • do you gradually lessen the circles' size, at the same time minding their picture?
  • is your horse properly bend on the circle, making one line from his nose to the tail?

Poles on the figure of eight

Poles on the figure of eight

circles of 10 - 12 m diameter

How to practice

Just like the previous exercise - it's worth to start with making only one circle. Focus primarily on keeping the rhythm on the poles, but also on riding on them in the middle. Let's remember about not looking at the pole through which we are currently riding - our horse will do it for us, and we - we should see the next one already. When we're ready, we can ride in the figure of eight, making circles, riding twice to the left and once to the right. Once in a while, so the training will be more diverse, make one circles few times in a row, so the horse doesn't get used to it and be equally focused the whole time. This exercise should be performed in ride to the trot, or in jumping position.

Pay attention

  • are you planning your way with your sight?
  • does your horse keep equal rhythm?
  • are you looking down at the pole you're currently above? or maybe properly - you're looking at the next one?

W letter

litera W W letter

How to practice

Another exercise which will make your horse more elastic, and at the same time will force you to make a habit of planning the route, which is a very basic condition in jumping over the obstacles. The W letter might be performed both in ride to the trot, jumping position and the training pace, while - obviously - the full seat is the most difficult one and it's fill the bill only for advanced riders.

Pay attention

  • are you planning your route with your site?
  • are you jumping through the middle of the poles?
  • is your horse keeping equal rhythm?
  • is your horse straight while riding over the poles?
  • are you looking down at the pole you're currently above? or maybe properly - you're looking at the next one?

Poles on the route - free combinations

Poles on the route - free combinations

How to practice 

This exercise is perfect for a warm-up before jumping. We prepare to riding from a parkour, with emphasis on planning the route, keeping equal rhythm and straight approach to the obstacles - here, poles. It's worth to ride first in the jumping position in a trot, and then in gallop. It's good to try riding the longer and shorter version of the route, shortening the way or making wide turns. Remember that fluency is the secret of good ride on a parkour.

Pay attention

  • are you planning your route with your sight?
  • are you approaching the poles in the middle?
  • is your horse keeping equal rhythm?
  • are you visualising the route and next jumps?

Warm-up for the rider

We already know that training should start with a warm-up - warming up the muscles and flexing the horse. After finishing that, the horse is ready to start the proper work. What about us?

That's the main problem you might experience - the rider, after 30 minutes of making the same, repeatable exercises is not warmed-up at all. For the prepared horse, this kind of stiffen "load" on the back becomes a burden. It's us, who very often, are the cause of the horse's problems with relaxing.

The warm-up is very important, both for the rider and for the horse. Unfortunately, the warming-up and stretching rider before a training is a very rare view in the equestrian facilities. Horse riding is a sport, so analogically, each of us sitting in the saddle is a sportsman. Has any of you ever seen a volleyball player or a athlete, who hadn't preluded his or her competition or a regular training with a warm-up? Even is schools, there is a big emphasis for the PE classes to be conducted in the proper order - warm-up, proper exercises and final stretching.

Horse riding entrants

In horse back riding, unfortunately, nobody follows the proper order. Usually we focus only on the steed. That's why it's worth to point out, especially in case of the entrants to horse riding. Don't made the entrant sit "by the book" when he or she is not warmed-up yet. There's no possibility of sitting properly when we have cold muscles, twisted tendons and joint that are not warmed-up. Our physical skills will simply not allow us to do so. Thus, start riding from a warm-up, if not on the ground, then with a set of exercises that aim to stretch and engage various parts of muscles, and do not aim to keep the proper position. Of course, stretching exercises in the saddle have their additional advantages - for example they improve balance, but it's important to perform them with cool head, so that during performing them the lunging horse won't get hurt.

It's worth to help the entrants realise that it's not until the very end of a ride when we sit properly, best feel the horse's movements, and at the same time, we make the smallest amount of mistakes. It's exactly when we're prepared for training and to learn. Our muscles are warmed-up and stretched. Then, we should make it easier for them to get the balanced seat by the proper warm-up on the ground, conducted right before training.

To sum up, warm-up is the essence and basic of our trainings. Properly planned and conducted will contribute to improve physical and mental condition, both of the horse and the rider. It will also prevent from the unnecessary overloads and injuries.

We, who do the horse riding, are sportsmen, shouldn't feel obliged to resign from a warm-up, concentrating only on our steed. If we want to require something from our horse, we have to start with requiring something from ourselves.