Your Show Warm-Up Strategy

Care to share a dressage show warm-up tip?  I know there’ll be many that’d like to read it!

For Valiosa’s warmup after two earlier days of rushed, spooky and more stressed out warm up, my only goal was to have her go on the aids without too much tension before going in the ring.

canter on the forehand

Super pleased with her for pulling off a sort of “blah” canter, despite multiple other horses in the arena, announcers, and audience.  Success!

relaxing a horse in the warm up at a show

My goal was to have her reasonably attentive and when there were more than 7 horses in there we did several walk-trot transitions instead of trying to fight for space.

Some trainers like to warm up their student’s horses really forward and deep.  Really proud of Valiosa for doing her thing just with me, even when some ponies came close and large horses breathed heavily down her hind.

trainers warming up horses for riders at shows

Have a warm-up tip, below Fourth Level? We’re all ears!!

focused warm up before dressage show
Madame Muffin Cup, keepin’ it together beautifully for a minute.

10 thoughts on “Your Show Warm-Up Strategy

  1. No tips that apply to every horse, except to see what you’re riding on any particular day and ride THAT. Best plan is to try various things to see what works most consistently for your horse at home, then make that a habit and stick to it so that the warm-up at the show is just like the warm-up at home…i.e., create a familiar routine.

    A side note for the casual observer…”thumbs down” to the gal on the palomino cranking her horse’s head back to its chest. 😢 Forward and down, or long and low, not down and back…unless you practice stressage instead of dressage. Or are actively aiming for a downhill ride maybe?

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    1. Seems that my warmup changes a little bit each time…
      Yes, and for the other rider, I feel a little bad for posting that picture. Not wanting to point fingers or anything. It’s just what they had going on… And I was proud of Valiosa for not caring 🙂

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  2. I know a photo is just a moment in time, so judging someone’s riding off of one still photograph is not at all fair…but yeah, that was a yucky moment for that Palomino. If that *was* how that gal rode through the whole warmup, that is a major shame. But, again, don’t want to judge to harshly based off of one single unfortunate moment.

    My warmup strategy is to get Clay forward and sensitive to the aids, because he tends to be a little shut-down at shows (the upside is that he is bombproof in chaotic settings!) So I do a lot of stretchy walk and trot, and then I canter around in my half-seat if it’s not too crowded, to really loosen him up and light the fire under his ponybutt. After a good warm-up canter, he usually feels great and is ready to begin running through some of the parts of our test(s). I don’t want to tire him out so I don’t run and run and run the tests, but I want him in that ready-for-anything state where he is really tuned in and a little keyed up. If I can ask for a canter-walk at any moment and he’s right there with me, then we’re ready. Attention and energy, those are the two things I try my best to achieve in warmup.

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      1. Yay! She felt so good that day. I almost didn’t care about the rest of the show performance – I was just so stoked she was fully with me in the warm-up after a prior day of complete mayhem 🙂

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    1. Great approach to your warmup, I like it!!
      Reliable walk-canter transitions – life goal for us! 🙂
      I really don’t know this trainer, and hate to put anyone on the spot with unflattering pictures. But. I’m glad I’m aiming for something different.

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  3. The toughest part of warm up is all the other riders, isn’t it? I used to stress so much about that, especially when riding a super reactive mare. So, I usually just try to find “a corner” or spot and claim my space. I work on a small circle as much as I can to get focus and relaxation, then if possible, try and use the entire arena. It’s never fun. And to be honest, always worse at the lower levels where horses and people are less experienced and there are more of them in the divisions!

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    1. Yes, lower levels usually more challenging. I’ve been hiding in corners and quiet spots too much. Doesn’t work when the arena is just about filled! Claiming more space now, and it’s working 😁😁

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  4. I really had to figure out what my warm up should be when I showed Irish- he would be so tight in his topline that it was like riding a pogo stick. What I finally figured out was that schooling the ‘moves’ was a bad idea- for him and Carmen. Instead I try to focus on getting a horse that is relaxed and on the aids. With Irish I would get on him and walk for at least 20 minutes just trying to get his brain to stop fizzing. Once that happened I pick up a soft trot and canter and go from there. At this level the moves are there is the brain is there and the back is soft. So that’s all I focus on.

    this is a great reminder for me because our first show is next week. eek.

    and yes- poor Palomino. I hope it was just a moment.

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    1. Yeah, I’ve mostly been getting the pogo stick too, just like you… That’s why I was over the top with her at the end of this warmup. We could have just gone straight to the barn all beaming, skipping the test 😉 Soft back is key to all, like you say!
      Don’t like to pick on anyone else’s riding, ever, but yes, Palomino got himself a deep warmup.

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