4 Keys to a Good Warmup

 The warmup is a vital part of training that is too often overlooked. Sometimes you see riders walking their horses in the warmup letting them get strung out and lazy. Their reasoning is that they want to give the horse a chance to relax and get in the mindset to work. The thought behind this theory is good, but it doesn’t work very well for horses.If you remember our article last month on 3 Secrets to Improve Your Riding, we discussed how you are either training or untraining. There is no middle ground. This applies to the warmup as well.

#Tipoftheday You are either training or untraining. There is no middle ground, even in the warmup pen. share

To humans, “just walking around” does no damage. But horses work differently. A horse in western tack is carrying

40 to 50 pounds of tack in addition to 100 to 200 pounds of rider. “Just walking around” for a horse is work. The horse must engage all those core and topline muscles to keep everything together. If you let your horse just slouch around the warmup pen with paying attention to how he is carrying himself, there is a good chance he’s not using those muscle properly. Every time he uses those muscles, he is developing them – be it for better or for worse. So, every time you allow your horse to slouch around the warmup pen, you are sabotaging your own hard work to build up the correct muscles.


As your horse moves forward, he should have rhythm to his gait. The tempo will vary from horse to horse, but once the rhythm is established, it should be maintained and stay consistent throughout the gait. The horse should never be constantly speeding up and slowing down within the gait. This creates tension and stiffness.


Your horse should be relaxed throughout his entire body. Relaxation is the key to establishing rhythm. It is especially key to make sure that your horse relaxed through his poll as the this is a pivotal point in the body. If the poll is stiff, the horse cannot truly relax. A relaxed poll is the key to lateral movements, collection, and pretty much everything else.


Throughout the warmup, your horse should be driving from behind and stepping up under himself. His weight should be rocked back on his hocks so he is not heavy on the forehand. This is a big mistake you see a lot in the warmup pen. Some riders don’t pay attention and their horses are allowed to get lazy and fall on the forehand. This create a bad habit. Your horse should be tracking up under himself (his back hoof should be landing in or in front of the print that his front hoof just left).


Never should your horse be allowed to get lazy and start dropping their shoulders, getting squirrely in the ribcage, or cutting corners through the turns. He should be expected to keep good posture and forward motion at all times. He should be light and responsive and focused on his job rather than lollygagging about.

straightness is 1 of the 4 keys to a good warmup

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