Thursday, August 28, 2014

warm up routine?

My dressage trainer tells me that the warm up is the most critical part of the ride - particularly if you're warming up for a test at a show. She says that a good warm up sets the stage for the 'meat' of the ride.

Since I only see her every 2-4 weeks, she likes to get up-to-date with our progress by silently watching my latest warm up routine.

This is, uh, a little challenging (perhaps even nerve-wracking?) for me.


does this count as stretching??

I've tried a few different approaches (more or less in the following order):

  • Briefly walk trot canter on loose reins to 'install' forward, then slowly reel in the reins to get a better contact. Then start working at steady contact at the walk, progressing up through trot and eventually to canter. This usually entailed traveling around the arena about 10 feet inside the rail - with the intention of not using the rail as a crutch
  • Get straight to work at the walk after everything is adjusted - usually after a lap or so around the arena. Walk walk walk, with lots of circles and meandering around the arena, perhaps with some changes of direction thrown in. Repeat at the trot, and trot trot trot - constantly seeking steady contact and a swinging, forward trot.
  • Walk + trot on loose-ish reins for a lap or two in each direction before drawing in the contact at the walk. Focus on immediately getting a nice swinging walk, using circles and bend as needed. Start upward and downward transitions - walk to trot, trot to walk, walk to halt... trying not to pick too much at the upward transitions and really organizing and preparing for the downwards. Gradually extend trot sets between downward transitions and focus on swinging, relaxed forward movement with steady contact.

right leg *must* stretch down, & get hands out of lap!!!

Obviously the plan gets more complex with each iteration, but I'm still not really sure what's 'working,' or what success should even look like at this point. Our whole objective for now is to achieve steady contact, rather than just snapping right into it and moving on to other cool movements (or practicing tests, which is actually a decent idea, now that I think about it...). 

So my questions for you are: What does your warm-up routine look like? 
-Do you have different game plans when you're schooling v. when you're at a show? 
-Does it change if you are introducing new ideas in the ride v. when you're working on refinement?

Really, any ideas or insights are helpful at this point!!

17 comments:

  1. My warm up routine is basically the same for both of my horses; it just varies in duration. Gina is much stiffer than Moe, so she gets more time to loosen up. He likes to get to work sooner or he gets restless.

    It goes something like: walk 10 minutes on long rein. Start by making a few laps of arena, then incorporate circles and serpentines. Trot 5 minutes on loose rein, with lots of circles, serpentines, and figure 8s. Gradually take up contact.

    I find giving my two lots of time to get physically and mentally loosened up helps a lot!

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    1. thanks! Isabel usually falls into the 'restless' category - she likes having a job. but your post has me wondering if i'm rushing her through the warm up...

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  2. My whole routine revolves around getting my stiff and lazy horse in front of my leg and loosened up in the neck and shoulder. So, I start off with one lap around the ring at a marching walk on a loose rein. Only one lap. Maybe less. (My horse is on 24/7 turnout, so doesn't need a long walk to start out) Then, I pick up the reins and ask him to walk into contact. I focus and make sure he's holding his own walk rhythm and actually walking forward into the contact. If he isn't, we'll do a few small trot transitions. Any stiffness is flexed out, and we will often do a lot of short overflexed leg yields to open up his shoulder. Any bracing of the neck on his part is met by flexing and asking for forward on my part. Once he is coming through nicely and keeping his neck soft, we move on to our work. This used to take upwards of 20 minutes, now it takes us between 5-10 (depending on his mood).

    Yes, my warm up is almost entirely at the walk. Before a show situation I would obviously work the trot and canter some, but for a lesson and daily schooling I only really use those gaits to create forward via transitions into/out of and to insist on looseness in those transitions.

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  3. For the green mare I work with, her warm up is totally focused on rhythm and developing a half halt. So, we work at the walk and do some leg yielding and loosening her shoulders (also a tough spot for her), but do a lot more transitions to the walk and trot on a 20 meter circle. She has no problems working through or coming into contact so I don't really work those at all. Everything is about transitioning down on the seat and not bracing in a transition. Once she gets that and is listening to the rhythm I'm dictating, we move on to work.

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    1. thanks Austen - your comments are really helpful. i particularly like the idea of walking *into* the contact and focusing on rhythm, and 'developing the half halt' (which is needed more for me than for the mare). transitions on a circle (rather than just, ya know, wherever) also sound like a nice refinement to my current plan

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  4. My plan is meh. It's not a strength of mine. At home I do lots of loose/active walk, and then a few laps of trotting with a loose rein before getting to work. At shows, we stroll around the property and then I work on simple listening skills and getting over all the jumps.

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    1. thanks! that's pretty much been my exact routine for the past, oh, decade or so lol, and it's worked out pretty well so far! but i suspect we'll need to up the ante for our upcoming dressage tests.. tho getting those 'listening skills' in gear is always a priority haha

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  5. I do the same routine for warm-up, and a slightly abbreviated version for shows:
    - Flex neck at walk
    - Trot on loose rein 1 lap each direction, focusing on forward
    - Canter loose rein 1 lap each direction, asking for a "gallop" on the long sides
    Begin work!

    I do this to help loosen Miles up, and get him moving forward.

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    1. nice - i love the simplicity! haven't really done much with the idea of 'flexing' but perhaps it's worth exploring?

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  6. With me it really depends on the horse and how they are mentally and physically that day. I just go with what I feel they need at the time and adjust from there. So, I don't necessarily think it's having a strict routine that matters, sometimes that can cause problems because it can make you force an issue too much, but just being as in tune with your horse as much as possible and adapting to what they need.

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    1. Great points - I am so guilty of sticking to a 'plan' hard core way beyond the point of when I should have given it up. Some might say I'm stubborn lol.

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  7. hello! I came across your blog via a blog hop, saw this post and thought I'd reply to it since it's something I've recently kind of figured out for myself and my horse.
    The most important part is that I give him at least 8-10 minutes of free walk before warm-up patterns. This gives us both time to breathe, relax, think and stretch. Then we walk 10 meter circles, shallow loops, and leg yields along the rail. We also do a round of trot and canter in a light seat going both directions, with gallops along the long side. I find that afterward he is forward, soft and responsive. It has worked so well for us! Hope this helps!

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    1. Thanks! I started playing around with some of these ideas last night and think most of your points will actually work nicely for us. I'm learning that the key is keeping her FORWARD and not getting stuck/tense in the neck

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    2. np ^.^ I cannot take credit - these are tips I found from http://www.krowchukdressage.com There are gifs that illustrate patterns so it's super helpful. I have the same issue with tenseness in the neck and you are right, forward is the key.

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    3. ooh thanks for sharing that link!

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  8. I don't change my game plan for warming up at a show- except for giving myself EXTRA time. My thing is, if pony is relaxed and we need a short warm up, cool, walking 15 extra minutes isn't going to hurt. But if he's crazy and needs even longer, great!

    But then I found its really different for every horse and you have to just see what works... like Wiz actually does best if I give him a long time to walk and make sure it's a marching walk and that I ask him to stretch. Then I trot him on a long rein if he's wanting to be a stretch pony, or go right into bending if he's wanting to be a giraffe (when he's wanting to be a giraffe, usually because there's tension, so bending and asking for him to go deep into the bridle actually helps him loosen up)- but I don't ask for any hard moves or too much onto the bit until we've done walk/trot/canter and he's loosened up.

    But good luck figuring out what works for you- it really is trial and error, and may even change daily on your horse. the same warm up doesn't work every time :)

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    1. thanks! the extra time at the show is something i'll need to keep in mind. i tend to be very systematic and rigid about schedules, and that's frequently to the detriment of my pony friends. but i like the idea of really riding based on how the horse is in that current moment instead of sticking to a 'routine' just because it sounds good

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