Tip #7 - Warm Up Routine

Black Horse Tips Erin Funk Warm Up Routine

Create a regular warm up routine that you can use on competition day.

One of the most stressful parts of competition for me was trying to figure out the perfect amount of time to allow for the warm up. What if he's fresh today and needs 45 minutes? What if he's tired and only needs 20 minutes?  It was a variable I felt I had little control over and the guessing made me incredibly nervous. It always felt like I was gambling on how long to allow, and that guessing made me anxious, preventing me from focusing on what
my horse needed.

I'd be sitting on my horse, riding around the warm up ring wishing I had gotten on 10 minutes earlier and that was all I could think about, when I should have been focusing on my ride. Since I began training with Thomas Geissler, every day we go through the same warm up routine a home.

Over time the warm up has become shorter as Hector becomes more familiar with what is expected, relaxing quicker mentally and physically. Every ride we make a mental note of how long the loosening phase takes. We then know from experience it takes about 10 minutes to tune him into the higher collected work, ready to ride a test. By having a consistent warm up routine at home and working out the average amount of time it takes before your horse is ready to commence the test work, you can take your allocated test time and work backwards to create a competition schedule. This will help take the guess work out of when to saddle up, get on, warm up and be ready for your test. There's nothing quite as stressful than having to enter the ring on a tired horse from too much warm up or a super fresh horse from not enough!

A fun way to practice your warm up routine in preparation for a test is to do a mock run through at home.  Create a mock time to ride a test of your choice. Make sure the selected test is one you and your horse can do easily. To score
very well in competition you need to be riding a test you can easily do with 110% perfection at home, every single time. That way it will be fun and 0% stress for you and your horse.

Your warm up should take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete the loosening phase.  In this phase the aim is to get the horse mentally and physically ready to do the higher movements (also called losgelassenheit). Ideally we would give the horse a short break of walking on a loose rein
for a few minutes. This allows him to relax mentally and physically and also gives you a moment to run through the test in your mind.

The final part of the warm up is the 'pump up' and 'fine tuning' phase. Allow five to ten minutes to really fine tune your horse, get him mentally and physically pumped up, so he is at maximum potential for the test ahead. The test is our moment to shine and show off, so we want to be riding the fine line of brilliance without pushing too far!

Hopefully, you have nailed your timing down to the minute, and you can then ride around the arena ready to enter. If you have got your timing correct, your horse should still have at least 65% energy in the tank purely for the test. Any less and you run the risk of him being tired and flat by the end. The test is around 5 minutes of full powered energy for the horse, so we want lots of energy left after the warm up to put into the movements.

One more note I want to mention, is to allow around 5-10 minutes more time to the first warm up phase in a new environment. Most horses need a bit more time to settle and relax at a new venue. Factoring this in will give you a buffer in case
he's super excited by his new surrounding. If you know you have a horse sensitive to a new environment, sometimes having a pre-ride early in the day or the day before can help him settle into the new environment.

Next tip: Competition Simulation - coming next week.