‘Most dressage tests are won in the warm-up’: how to get the edge

  • The perfect dressage warm-up can make or break your test — check out the expert advice from Michael Klimke and Ulf Möller at this year’s British Dressage National Convention (25-26 November 2017) to put yourself at an advantage before you’ve even entered the arena.

    1. “Most tests are won on the warm-up,” says renowned German rider and trainer Michael Klimke. “The training is one side of dressage but it’s a sport after all, and when you’re at a competition you are there to put on a show. The judge isn’t judging your feeling — they’re judging what you present to them, and the warm-up is key to be able to prepare the horse to present his best in the arena.”

    2. “Ride the same warm-up at a show as you do at home,” advises trainer and young horse specialist Ulf Möller. “It gives a horse security and confidence at a competition by using the same lines and exercises as he is used to at home.”

    3 “Get to know your horse and what he needs,” says Ulf, adding that a hot horse might need riding twice, even if he is just stretched the first time, then worked in for only a short time before the test. A lazy horse, on the other hand, may need one longer session to get him ‘hot’ enough to perform at his best.

    4. “If you have a hot horse running away with you, don’t do what many people do and take your legs off,” cautions Ulf. “Instead, remove your spurs and put your legs on, in order to give them confidence. If you don’t use your legs, the horse becomes unsure.”

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    5. “Doing something the first time is often the best time — don’t ride three grands prix before you go in!” says Ulf, with Michael adding: “It’s a sign that the rider is insecure and nervous before a test, when they try to train everything in the warm-up. The horse won’t learn anything new in the warm-up, so instead, just focus on trying to get the right feeling and throughness.”

    6. “The last five minutes before going into the arena are very important,” says Michael, who recommends working out exactly how strong a leg aid you need to be giving by sending the horse forwards for a few strides, then bringing him back for a few strides, and sending him on again, just before entering the arena.

    Why you won’t want to miss the H&H Festival of Dressage…

    The Horse & Hound Festival of Dressage is a three-day unaffiliated competition featuring championship classes from intro to medium level, as well as warm-up and evening freestyle competitions. It is being held at Sheepgate Equestrian, Lincs on 20-22 July. There will be a prize fund of about £1,000 per level, including winners’ rugs and top-quality prizes. And as well as the dressage, competitors are invited to a drinks reception on the Friday, a hog roast on the Saturday and more evening entertainment, giving all the buzz of a stay-away championship. Find out more >>

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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