Warming up your horse

During the course of filming, we have made some excellent videos on many and varied methods of warming-up for dressage and jumping. We never know exactly what we are going to film on the day until the rider brings out their horses, who are often different to the ones we had discussed. Also, to make filming as real as possible on Horse Hero, we take what the rider is genuinely working on with that horse. Even then, what they plan to work on often changes once they are on board and feel how the horse is. However, in all of this, the common denominator is the warm-up.

Sometimes, the whole session is a warm-up and other times the warm-up leads to more advanced work. Most training videos have some warm-up at the beginning but in the following selection, we have chosen sessions that are specifically focused on this theme. What’s fascinating is that there is nothing set in stone and no right way of warming-up your horse. Of course, there is the ‘scales of training’ but each horse is different in their size and shape, what they find easy or difficult and how they come out on the day. It seems to me that the best riders have a range of techniques coupled by a great feel for their horse and work accordingly. You will find some great ideas in this video collection to help you get the most out of your horse!

There are more videos on this subject in the Library. Alternatively, try a video search on the Home Page (or in the Video Library) if you are looking for something specific.

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Laura Bechtolshiemer's warm-up with 5 year old Joey Laura Bechtolshiemer's warm-up with 5 year old Joey
A year on from the first video of Joey, top British dressage rider Laura works on the 5 year old's warmup in preparation for simple changes and more collection. Joey can be a little tricky to begin with so he determines the length of the warmup. Laura demonstrates exercises to get him to relax and 'let go', including riding walk-trot transitions with some bend. She also gives some tips on straightness. Laura creates hind leg activity from the start as she says this is a prerequisite for a good connection later. Frequent walk breaks are vital, and walking on a free rein encourages over-tracking. Laura provides a great explanation of her aids.

Natalie Allen warms-up the talented dressage mare Casual Natalie Allen warms-up the talented dressage mare Casual
Grand Prix dressage rider Natalie Allen warms-up the talented 8 year old Advanced Medium mare Casual, who was successful in Swedish young horse classes. "The walk and trot are established but the canter is large and needs work," says Natalie. Riding in a long, low frame gives the huge mare time to soften her back and begin to swing. The aim is 'perfect harmony' in the trot-canter transitions and in canter, Natalie sits still and deep so as not to disturb Casual's balance. Moving forwards and back in the canter helps to shorten the mare's stride while still in a long frame, which allows Natalie to sit deeper and use her weight aids more effectively.

Pammy Hutton works with Charlie and Titanic on the warm-up Pammy Hutton works with Charlie and Titanic on the warm-up
Pammy Hutton and son Charlie explain their warm-up with the 12 year old Blue Chip Titanic, who has begun competing at Grand Prix. Charlie asks the 18hh giant to relax over his back and work in a long frame, while he focuses on the scales of training. "The warm-up is also a time for the rider to think about their position" says Pammy. Charlie works on speed control and 'perfect' transitions which must be smooth and round. Pammy asks Charlie to ride a 'twirl' (a large turn on the forehand) before working in canter on lengthening and shortening the frame. Charlie provides an excellent commentary of his aids. (Grand Prix work follows in another video.)

Vicki Thompson-Winfield warms-up the 8 yr old stallion Beltoni Vicki Thompson-Winfield warms-up the 8 yr old stallion Beltoni
Beltoni, who was 5 year old National Champion, is a big moving horse who needs variety in his work. "The warm-up is primarily about controlling the energy and ensuring he is sensitised to the aids," says Vicki. "He must respond to weight aids so that the leg can be used for corrections." Moving forwards and back in the canter keeps the stallion thinking forwards and Vicki builds the collection. "Life in the hips in the downwards transition means the trot is active straight away." The lateral work must be forwards and active with rhythm. On a free moving horse, Vicki says her job is to select a gear and not get in the way! (Advanced work follows in another video).

Olympic eventer Aoife Clark improves 7 yr old Paddy Junior's trot Olympic eventer Aoife Clark improves 7 yr old Paddy Junior's trot
Top Irish eventer Aoife Clark (7th London 2012) demonstrates her dressage warm-up for 7 year old Paddy Junior, who is still developing strength. Paddy starts tight in the neck and a bit overbent, with short trot strides. Aoife asks him to stretch as low as he will go. Keeping the work simple, she says "the base of the neck needs to come below the withers, so Paddy can open his shoulder and take bigger steps." After doing the same in canter, Aoife picks up the outline. A 10m loop on the long side gets Paddy moving away from the outside leg, and a little leg-yield supples him. By the end of the session, Paddy's trot is balanced, soft, rhythmic and straight.

Susanne Miesner trains Lesley and Garuda on the warm-up Susanne Miesner trains Lesley and Garuda on the warm-up
Classical German dressage trainer Susanne Miesner says "the aim in the warm-up is for the horse to stretch his back, be steady in the contact and move off the leg'". Susanne asks Lesley Peyton-Gilbert to start her 10 year old Prix St Georges stallion Garuda in a hacking walk. "If the horse comes too early to the contact, he will never properly stretch his back" she says. Riding between a working and a mediocre trot engages the hind leg. "The horse must be infront of the driving aids before you can bring him back" says Susanne. Lesley drops his nose so it's level with the shoulder joint, which helps Garuda swing along and allows the aids through.

Susanne Miesner helps eventer Vittoria Panizzon get Pennyz connected Susanne Miesner helps eventer Vittoria Panizzon get Pennyz connected

Italian team eventer Vittoria Panizzon has a lesson for the first time with German dressage trainer Susanne Miesner on the 3* mare Pennyz, who is qualified for the Olympics. Vittoria warms-up in preparation for practising a test but Pennyz can be 'mareish'. She isn't easy in the contact and doesn't always work through. Susanne stresses the importance of the walk. "If the walk is not relaxed, you can't have a relaxed trot or canter." Susanne helps Vittoria establish a connection before asking for trot. "Looseness must not be confused with suppleness. Suppleness means the nervous horse gets quiet and the lazy horse gets energetic."


Emile Faurie's working-in routine: Part 2 Emile Faurie's working-in routine: Part 1

The talented six year old Ebony came to GB team rider Emile as a problem horse. As Ebony has become stronger and has a greater understanding of the aids, his behaviour has improved. Using the same working-in process for all his horses, Emile says, "a technically correct basic way of going is vitally important, as is maintaining enthusiasm for the work." Starting with a relaxed walk on a half-long neck, Emile progresses to a trot which is rhythmic and swinging through the back. In canter, the horse must reach for the bridle. Counter canter, transitions and lateral work follow, while Emile focuses on being totally balanced and still in his body.


Emile Faurie's working-in routine: Part 1 Emile Faurie's working-in routine: Part 2

In part 1, Emile focused on rhythm and suppleness with the 6 year old Ebony. Now he works on collection and engagement of the hind leg in shoulder in and travers. "It's vital not to the lose the quality of the trot in the lateral work" says Emile, who also explains how he deals with resistance when asking Ebony for more. "Working within the horse's capability but also challenging him, is a fine line and down to judgement as a horseman. The training must be clear and logical so the horse can't fail to understand what is required of him," says Emile. "Also, the wind-down is an equally important part of the session and determines how he comes out the next day."


Olympic eventer Aoife Clarke works on straightness for jumping: Part 1 Olympic eventer Aoife Clarke works on straightness for jumping: Part 1

Irish Olympic eventer Aoife Clark (7th, London 2012) warms-up the 7 year old Pikey, who is in his first season eventing. The focus is on straightness and suppleness for jumping. Starting long and low, Aoife asks Pikey to stretch but maintain rhythm and improve his ground cover. It's hard work as Pikey is still developing strength but improvement is noticeable after a canter. Aoife adds exercises such as working on a diamond to get Pikey to push off both hind legs, a loop on the long side and transitions on the three quarter line. "Crookedness comes from tightness and not pushing evenly behind" says Aoife. (In Part 2 moves on to jumping.)


Eventer Alex Peternell trains the talented and challenging Lando Eventer Alex Peternell trains the talented and challenging Lando
Olympian Alex Peternell warms-up the tall and leggy Lando, who is aiming at 3*. "His exuberant movement makes it difficult for him to take the weight behind and he can be spooky", says Alex. Keeping his balance while stretching down is also challenging due to his size but his back must be soft before he can engage. Transitions help with self-carriage, as Lando must push from the hind leg to move up a gait. Canter transitions on a circle engage the hind-quarters and counter-canter improves the contact. Shoulder-in and half-pass both help maintain rhythm. Finally, Alex works on flying changes which are still a work in progress.

Dr Bechtolsheimer teaches Lara on the 5 year old Pammy: Part 1 Dr Bechtolsheimer teaches Lara on the 5 year old Pammy: Part 1
Dr Bechtolsheimer teaches yard rider Lara on the 5 year old homebred mare Pammy, sister to Horse Hero star Teddy. After the warm-up, Dr B works with the pair on a circle in both trot and canter. He says, "rhythm is the most important thing for a young horse to learn". He explains this must be established before moving on to more difficult lateral work. Lara works on correcting the flexion before doing transitions. Careful preparation and clear body language from Lara ensure perfect rhythm and balance moving Pammy forwards and back within the pace. Dr B says, "Pammy's rhythm must be like the pendulum of a Swiss clock!"

4* eventer Emily Llewellyn works on collection with Junior: Part 1 4* eventer Emily Llewellyn works on collection with Junior: Part 1
Eventer Emily Llewellyn (prolific medal winner on GB youth teams) trains 12 year old Junior for dressage. Junior was filmed at the start of his career and is now aiming at 4*. Emily says "his main issue is taking the weight behind, while maintaining activity in the hind leg and keeping the shoulder up". Junior is cheeky and looks for ways out of the work, which he finds difficult, including going behind the leg, against the inside rein, lifting his back and tucking his chin in. Emily's corrections are quick, clever and sympathetic and she provides a superb narration of the process from warm-up to self-carriage. (Part 1 of 2)

Emily Llewellyn's jumping warm-up Emily Llewellyn's jumping warm-up
Emily Llewellyn won double gold at the Young Rider European Championships '08. She is only 19 but her horsemanship has a maturity far beyond her years. Emily rides her up and coming horse, Junior, who is slightly nervy and a little spooked by our umbrella! He is a 7 year old warmblood who, having evented for only one season, has completed an Intermediate and a 1*. As he tends to be a bit downhill, Emily works on balance and elasticity in the canter to give her the adjustment she needs when approaching a fence and she uses trot poles to help with elevation and energy.

Jessica Mendoza makes the warm-up work for Saorsie Jessica Mendoza makes the warm-up work for Saorsie
Top British junior show jumper Jessica Mendoza tailor makes the warm-up to get the best out the seven year old mare Saorsie, who starts off a little stiff on the flat and lazy over a fence. Jessica works on rhythm in the trot and varies the pace of the canter, before she starts to jump. Beginning with an upright, she alternates her approach by going deep and standing off. Jumping a short double also creates more energy in the canter and power off the ground. "The aim of the warm-up is to make Saorsie like a rubber ball", says Jessica. The work pays off and the pony looks very different jumping a course, which requires a strong pace!

Laura B prepares Teddy for a Medium test: Part 1 Laura B prepares Teddy for a Medium test: Part 1
Six year old Teddy (Polar Bear) is enormous and still growing. "His size dictates the speed of his progress", says to Dr B, who narrates the session while Laura works Teddy in a double bridle. Teddy has a lovely clear rhythm and the focus is on more collection in trot (without force), and transitions. "In a Medium test regularity coupled with relaxation are the most important things", says Dr B. Teddy's size makes small circles difficult but Laura gradually works towards accuracy and uses her position to help Teddy in the lateral work. Dr B explains that Laura's riding must be "full of sympathy as well as consequence!" (Canter work follows in Part 2.)

Laura B works on test preparation with 6 year old Joey Laura B works on test preparation with 6 year old Joey
Laura Bectholsheimer prepares six year old Joey for an Elementary test in a few days time, while trainer Dr B narrates the session. In the warm-up the aim is a steady rhythm, a loose back and a longer and rounder outline, working towards a little collection. In the walk-canter transitions "an engaged walk creates an engaged canter", says Dr B and frequent breaks allow Joey to stretch his back and build more muscle. Pin point accuracy is required for test moves as well as correctness of the movement. Laura works on half circles, counter canter and medium trot and Dr Bechtolsheimer stresses the importance rhythm throughout the movement.

Nikki Crisp prepares Grand Prix mare Pasoa for competition: Part 1 Nikki Crisp prepares Grand Prix mare Pasoa for competition: Part 1
GB dressage rider Nikki Crisp prepares 11 year old Pasoa for her first competition of the season. Starting in a long frame in walk, Nikki ensures 'P' is responsive and has the right amount of energy in her body before asking for trot. "Her conformation means she tends to pull herself along rather than push", says Nikki. "She also holds herself initially, so small flexions left and right help to release the tension and soften her neck". Moving away from Nikki's leg supples P's ribcage and enables her to lift her tummy and engage her back, so the neck can come up. In canter, Nikki works on balancing P from her seat aids. (Part 1 of 3)

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