Effective Warm-up Techniques for Performance Horses 

Warming up is an important part of any performance horse’s routine, as it helps prepare their bodies and minds for the demands of training and competition. There are various components that should be considered in a warm-up routine. 

Stretching: The role of stretching in warm-up has certainly grown in popularity of late. Stretching can be done even before the rider mounts or the bridle is on! Often treats such as carrots are used as an incentive, as the horse is asked to stretch his/her neck down low, and to both sides. Stretching can help to loosen neck, shoulder, and back muscles. 

Loosening Exercises: When commencing a warm-up, a horse should be encouraged to stretch across their back and neck with a ‘loose rein’ which directs the horses contact to a ‘long and low’ position. This move is practiced in introductory level dressage as a display of the horses’ balance and bend. Loosening exercises both at Walk and Trot get our horses muscles and joints moving, and beings to increase blood flow. 

Lengthening and Shortening: Lengthening and Shortening exercises, both of the pace and the contact, can help not only to warm up their muscles, but also improve balance and coordination. Transitions between paces can similarly stimulate coordination and responsiveness. Collection can be introduced at this time. 

Discipline Specific Exercises: Depending on the specific demands of the training or competition you are about to undertake, the intensity of the warm-up can be increased to include relevant exercises. This may include introducing a jump(s) ahead of completing a cross country or showjumping round, or for dressage/show horses, lateral movements such as leg yielding.  

Mental Preparation: In addition to physical preparation, it is also important to focus on your horse’s mental well-being during a warm-up. Positive reinforcement, rewards, and reassurance can help them to stay focused and confident.  

It is important to customise your warm-up routine to the needs of your horse and the demands of the work about to be undertaken. Be sure to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity as your horse becomes more supple and responsive. By following an effective warm-up routine, which very well may be unique to each horse, you lay the foundations for them to deliver their best performance in the arena.  


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