You will often hear the term ‘warm-up’ when you learn horse riding. It applies to both dressage and jumping riders, and it’s useful to know what it means and how it affects you.
Purpose of Warm-Up
The equine athlete needs to warm up his muscles before strenuous exercise in the same way as a human athlete.
Horses are big animals and we don’t think of them as being prone to muscle ache or tendon pulls. But they get hurt as easily as humans and it takes many months (and expensive vet bills) to bring a horse back into work when it’s pulled a tendon, ligament or suspensory.
How the Beginner Rider Can Warm Up a Horse
As you become a more advanced rider, your warm-up techniques will become more sophisticated. But there are many things you can do to warm-up your horse even when you first learn horse riding.
1. In an earlier blog I explained how to stretch your horse easily before riding. No matter what your current level of riding is, you can do this.
Before putting the bridle on your horse (or if he’s tacked up already, make sure he can open his mouth easily) ask him to follow your hand, holding a treat, as you move it towards his girth area. Give him the treat when he’s bent his head as far as is comfortable for him. Make sure he bends his head and neck and doesn’t swivel his body round! Repeat this on the other side.
Then see how far he can bend his head and neck between his legs to get another treat.
Older, more arthritic horses will not be able to bend very far, so be considerate of your horse’s comfort zone.
2. When you have mounted and adjusted your girth and stirrups, ask your horse to walk forwards on a light contact. Move him round the arena, then ask for large circles in both directions. The horse should walk energetically for about ten minutes to get rid of any stiffness and accustom him to your weight, before you ask him for trot.
Two Extra Riding Tips
1. Always give your horse ‘breathers’ in walk between vigorous work sessions.
2. When you’ve finished working your horse, allow him to cool down with ten minutes of walk on a long rein.
If you follow these guidelines as you learn horse riding, you’ll help your horse avoid injury while creating a fair and comfortable environment for him to work in.