How to nail the showjumping warm-up at a one-day event

  • Getting ready to tackle the coloured poles at a one-day event can be stressful for event riders. H&H asks the experts how to approach the second-phase warm-up

    The showjumping warm-up at one-day events can be the undoing of many riders as the pressure piles on. So how can you avoid ruining your competition in the collecting ring?

    1. Tailor your warm-up

    Every horse is different, so your approach to your warm-up should reflect their specific character and way of going. Izzy Taylor says: “On average I spend 15-20 minutes warming my horses up for the showjumping phase. I tend to do slightly longer warm-ups in the spring and autumn as temperatures are cooler, so your horse will take longer to warm their muscles up. How long ago you performed your dressage test will also affect the length of your warm-up — if it wasn’t very long ago, you will need to shorten the time you are in the collecting ring.”

    2. Don’t over-do it

    Izzy says: “It is easy for people to overdo their showjumping warm-up. People tend to forget that when you are jump schooling at home, they haven’t warmed up for and performed a dressage test beforehand. Therefore, if you warm up for the jumping at an event for the same length of time as you do at home, you will inevitably end up with a tired horse who is more likely to have fences down in the ring.”

    Piggy French agrees, saying: “A trot and canter round the collecting ring to familiarise them is fine.”

    British Eventing master coach Lizzel Winter encourages riders not to do too much in the warm-up: “Nerves and lower levels of self-confidence mean that a lot of riders tend to overjump their horses.”

    3. Don’t jump too big

    Izzy says that she doesn’t jump any bigger in the warm-up than the maximum height of fences in the ring. “I might open a horse up over an ascending oxer, but no more than that. It’s important, especially with event horses, to avoid jumping too big in the warm-up as they are then more prone to going into the ring and not respecting the smaller fences.”

    4. Confidence is key

    Izzy says that whether your horse is careful or not, confidence is key. “A particularly careful horse will tend to over-jump and become frightened, so I never jump a big fence in the warm-up, because I want to keep them confident and their jumping style natural. The same applies for a less careful horse.

    “Some people will try to encourage their horse to have a fence down in the warm-up to ‘make’ them careful but I think this is the wrong approach. If you warm up with generous groundlines and under maximum height, your less careful horse is more likely to go into the ring feeling proud and that they are capable of jumping a clear round.”

    5. Have a clear plan

    Lizzel stresses the importance of having a clear plan when warming up. “Have a routine that works for your horse, and make sure that your helper on the ground knows your plan too, to prevent any confusion. Stick to your routine — don’t look at what the professional riders are doing and think you should do the same — you should know what suits your horse.”

    6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

    Sometimes riders can find themselves without a helper on the ground to alter warm-up fences. In this instance Izzy says that riders should ask someone in the collecting ring on foot, even if they don’t know them, to give them a hand. “Most people will be more than happy to help. Don’t try and jump something you wouldn’t usually tackle just because you don’t have someone helping you,” she advises.

    7. Keep calm

    Riders might get bumped around on the board by the collecting ring steward as riders slot in, which can prove difficult with regards to keeping your horse on the boil. “It’s frustrating when this happens but the worst thing you can do is to get angry. It won’t do your riding any favours,” says Piggy. “Keep calm and continue working your horse to keep his brain and body active so he’s ready to jump when your slot comes. If you’ve had a long break then another jump or two might be necessary before you go in.”

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    8. Keep your horse moving

    Lizzel recommends that riders keep their horses moving. “Don’t drill your horse,” she says. “Communicate with the collecting ring steward and maybe pop one more fence before you go in. Either way, I like horses to have finished their jumping warm-up with two horses to go as this gives them a chance to catch their breath.”

    9. Respect the etiquette

    Collecting ring etiquette is important. Riders must always pass left-to-left to prevent head-on collisions and upsets, and you should also avoid circling around the immediate vicinity of the warm-up fences so that you don’t block the approach or landing areas. Izzy recommends riders “keep their heads up and open their eyes”. She adds: “Also make sure that you don’t chase the rider in front of you down to a warm-up fence. If they knock it down you will end up having to pull your horse up quickly, which isn’t pleasant.”

    This article was first published in 19 January 2017 issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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