Friday, June 5, 2015

Warm-up your horse

Horse trainer Troy Griffith writes about The Vital Role of the Warm-up for horses at all levels and ages.

"It’s easy to recognize the necessity of preparing the young horse before each training session, but the benefits of a regular warm-up routine are just as vital to the finished horse. Just like the highest level of human athlete, the upper level equine athlete actually requires more time warming up—the more advanced they are the more vital it is to warm-up in order to avoid injury. Fact is, every ridden horse, regardless of level, benefits physically from being properly prepared for each ride. Most benefit mentally as well."

I have always put a lot of time into warming up the horses that I ride. Not only is it easier for the horse to move when the muscles have been warmed up, but it is also safer when you have built a bit of a connection from the ground and some of the excess energy is already dealt with before you jump into the saddle.

Griffith talks about longeing, in-hand work and work done under saddle. I use longeing a lot and if there are good winters I really like longeing horses out on the fields in deep snow where they not only get warmed up very well but build the muscles necessary for better balance and self-carriage.

What Griffith doesn't mention but I really love using as a warm-up is walking or jogging together with the horse before you start your ride. We sometimes do an hour trail-ride either from the ground or under saddle and not only is it a lot of fun but the horse and the rider are both warmed up before getting into the arena.

And remember that no amount of warm-up or riding compensates the fact that horses are highly social herd animals that move 5-10 kilometres per day out on the field (Hampson et al. 2010) . So what the horses do for the rest of the 23 hours when you are not with them is what matters the most.

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