Discover more top training tips for dressage

The warm-up is something you have to plan in advance — and something all riders should practise until they know what suits their horse.

Every horse is an individual and some need more work than others.

In general, most should start with at least 10-15min of simply walking around to loosen off and relax, especially if they’ve been travelling for an hour or more.

After an initial suppling stage, you may have particular movements from your test to run through.

If there’s something you find particularly beneficial in your schooling at home — for example, counter-flexions or counter-canter — then include this in your warm-up.

About 10min before my test, I allow my horse to have a breather while I put my jacket on and take off his boots.

When you go in the arena you want him to be absolutely peaking, and that’s not when he’s been standing around for several minutes, so allow time to get him “revved up” again.

If you’ve been working in a rounder outline, now is the time to establish the correct frame for the test.

Some horses get hotter and hotter the more you do. With them you might want to have a very quiet warm-up, focusing on loosening up the muscles without doing too many of the movements in the test.

Others may always go better in their second test — so you could try bringing your horse out, doing 20min or so, then putting him away again before bringing him out later and warming up as normal.

It gives the horse the chance to come out and see their surroundings, do a bit of work and to relax again before he has to perform.

For more advice on progressing to the next level in dressage, don’t miss the final part of our expert training series, out now in the current issue of Horse & Hound (9 December 2010)

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