Warm Up To Them- Tips To Properly Warm Up
Everyone has their own routine when it comes to riding, but one thing should be a consistent part of everyone’s: properly warming up your horse. Whether it’s 20 degrees or 80 degrees, it’s important to set aside enough time to make sure your horse is both physically and mentally ready for the task at hand. It might be easy for some to want to just jump into the “meat” of their ride, but not prepping your horse’s body and mind can have serious implications.
While your exact warmup routine may very, an adequate warm up plan will include the following elements.
Walk This Way
While it may seem obvious or insignificant, the walk is the first area where you can really assess your horse. Not only is it the first step to loosening up your horse’s muscles and other soft tissues, it’s where you can begin to mentally prep him for the workout and look for any stiffness or hesitation in his gait. Be sure to make note of any “guarding patterns” your horse may exhibit as it could be a sign of something bothering him that could lead to a larger problem down the road. It may be easy to brush something off as being “unwilling,” but sometimes, there’s a chance that it’s “unable.” Walking should just be limited to staying on the rail. Do a variety of circles, serpentines, and figure 8′s to change it up and further asses your horse.
Hot To Trot
Jogging and long trotting your horse is good for them in so many ways. Not only is it a “balanced,” two-beat gate that does wonders for conditioning (particularly a working trot), the trot is where most problems will first pop up. Some horses may seem fine at the walk, but exhibit stiffness or soreness moving into the trot. Make sure to go both directions, and just as at the walk, throw in a few basic maneuvers to add to the routine. A horse that is ready to move onto the next phase of the warmup and then onto work, will be soft and supple, exhibiting an even gait and free flowing movement. If your horse is exhibiting resistance or hesitation in the trot, it’s important to take a step back and determine the cause before before moving on.
Ease Into the Canter
It’s easy when you feel something off with your horse to just brush it aside as paranoia or sweep it under the rug all together (after all, no one likes the thought of something being physically wrong with their horse). However, rushing into the canter because it masks the feel of an underlying problem, is not the answer. If your horse feels soft, responsive, and mentally ready to move on, go ahead and ease into the canter or lope. Make sure to go both directions as what may feel right one way of the ring may feel different on the other lead.
Timing Is Everything
Every horse, environment, and situation is different so there is no set time limit for what constitutes a good warm-up. There are so many variables that can change from day to day depending on the horse. As a general rule of thumb, you should spend AT LEAST 10-15 minutes warming up your horse, and a little extra time is better than not enough. There are several factors to take into consideration when making sure you spend an adequate amount of time on warm up. First, what is the weather like? Is it cold? Rainy? Just like the cold can make us stiff when getting out of bed in the morning, horses are also feeling the impact of the chill in the air and will need a few minutes to get their muscles loose and the blood flowing. While we may able to have an extra cup of coffee on dreary mornings to get us mentally ready for the challenges of today, the extra riding time can get your horse in the right frame of mind to put his attention on your ride. The physical condition your horse is in plays a roll as well. Those recovering from being laid off with injuries or just starting a training curriculum will also benefit from a few more warm-up laps. Have they just had a long trailer ride to a show? Being confined can make the the muscles, tendons, and ligaments tight and stiff and a longer warm-up will help work out those kinks. Age also plays a factor, as most of us know kiddos can bounce back from things much easier than us adults can and the same goes for horses. Even older horses in good physical condition will still need some added warm-up time compared to the youngsters.
There are several products on the market that can help give your warm-ups a boost, even though they are no substitute for what’s outlined above. To get those tendons and ligaments loose and circulation flowing, Back On Track’s Royal Quick Wraps are an easy way both protect your horses legs in addition to giving the soft tissues of the lower leg a little extra support. Made with their special ceramic powder-infused Welltex fabric, these actually reflect your horse’s own body heat back into the leg increasing circulation which helps decrease swelling and tightness. These have even been shown to reduce wind puffs that can be caused by factors like poor conditioning programs. On extra chilly days, your horse probably wouldn’t complain if you threw a therapeutic exercise sheet, like the one offered from Back On Track. Not only does the sheet keep off a the crisp air and brisk wind, it uses the same state-of-the-art fabric to help reflect body heat back into the horse’s back muscles and help soothe inflammation and loosen tightness with increased circulation to the area.
It can be easy to overlook a good warm-up routine, especially if you’re pressed for time or eager to get to work on the more “fun” aspects of your ride. However, you’re doing both your horse and yourself a huge disservice by skipping this crucial step. You may be missing your opportunity to uncover soreness or a sign that could lead to a major problem in the long run. It’s also your chance to get your horse in a good mental state where he will be focused on what you want him to do and make your time in the saddle that much more efficient. Just like you wouldn’t want to roll out of bed and walk straight into the office, your horse needs some time to make that transition as well.
This post was sponsored by Back On Track USA, but all opinions are those of Pleasurehorse.com.