The warm up is the most important part of your horses exercise regime and it is something that should never be overlooked. An effective warm up helps to prevent injury and should help encourage your horse to switch on and listen to your aids, which in turn should mean a better, more productive training session. Each horse is different and make take different types of exercises and lengths of time, but as a general rule you should take 20 minutes to effectively warm up your horse. Here's our top tips for a happier, warmer horse!
Tip No. 1: Grooming's goooooood! A good groom can kick start your horses circulation nicely, paying particular attention to your horses back. Don't forget to use your hands too, firm strokes help massively, plus it warms your hands up as well! Every little helps!
Tip No. 2: An active walk is essential! This should be done from the ground before you get on and also once you're on board too. But, don't let your horse 'mosey' around, make him march! You can't warm up by walking at a snail's pace, so neither can your horse. Make sure it's on a loose rein, encouraging him to stretch in a long, low outline. Make things interesting by asking for some simple figures of eight, this should help get him listening to your aids. I usually stay in walk for a minimum 10 minutes.
Tip No. 3: Slow steady trot work keeps things easy! It's so important that we don't over complicate things in the warm up, the last thing we want to do is to make him tense, worried and unwilling. Trot work can be quite hard for some horses, make things simple and encourage a slow steady trot in the same long, low outline. Some horses do tend to loosen up better in the canter, so sometimes the trot work needs to be re-visited afterwards. Still encourage the low outline in the canter, this should allow his back muscles to loosen up and improve his topline. I tend to find the trot is looser after canter work and it generates more 'swing'.
Tip No. 4: Lateral work such as shoulder-in, leg yield and travers are great to help him become more supple, as is riding in small circles. Perform these in walk first before you up the tempo to help him understand what is being asked of him.
Tip No. 5: Make time! The warm up is so important and rushing it is a big no, no! Check before you start that you have enough time to warm up and cool down properly. At least 30 minutes (20 mins warm up, 10 mins cool down) of your riding time should be on the warm up and cool down, that's before you even think about the core training.