I can only think of two reasons for warming up your horse before you ride. One is for physical stress reduction because cold joints aren't good for peak physical activity. The other reason is for checking in with the mental and emotional status of your horse because an unfocused or nervous horses is unsafe to ride.
But I've noticed over the decades of teaching horsemanship that many horse owners have devised a third reason for warming up their horse. This reason has nothing to do with the horse however, and everything to do with their own insecurity.
A woman named X and her horse named Y are a perfect example of this. For years X has been doing the same warm up before riding. Which mostly consists of circles, changes of direction, walk, trot, and canter transitions and maintaining gate, sideways, standing on the pedestal, pushing the ball, swinging the stick back and forth in some kind of friendly fashion for ten minutes, then, if and only if, the horse is perfect, X gets on her horse and they ride together in a safe place with the guidance of an instructor or the absence of annoying others.
The secret X doesn't know about however, is that her horse has been learning a series of exercises that have nothing to do with riding. Sure they're fun to do on the ground if you're trying to progress toward passing a Parelli level or something like that but they don't teach the horse to be a great riding horse, they teach the horse to be a better ground horse. Do you want to know what makes a great riding horse?
But X is afraid of riding without proper preparation and that's why she spends all that extra time to make sure the horse is safe. So why does one trainer prove the horse rideable in two minutes and the other in twenty minutes? You guessed it... Insecurity or fear. And of course, the quality of the tests being done.
So one real question is... how does X become less fearful? And that question leads us to another horsemanship secret. Horses have windows of ride-ability. In other words you could warmup for twenty minutes and still only get two minutes of total focus from your horse and you could warm up for two minutes and get twenty minutes of focus from your horse. If X could just read "rideability" in her own horse she would know she doesn't have to do every exercise and still be hoping that her horse is okay by the end of it all. X could become less fearful by becoming better at reading her horse. I have entire courses devoted to this. You can watch them as part of our Horse Mastery Group.
In short, what does a rideable horse look like? That's easy enough to answer for anyone. Just ask yourself these questions before you get on:
The point is, your warmup for riding can be diminished with simple effective tests that prove ride-ability instantly. That's the last secret advanced riders know about.
In other words, when I'm starting a colt, the first week consists of long, hard warmups just to pass the tests and then short sweet rides. The next week consists of medium warmups and medium rides, and the last week consists of short warmups because he's acing all the tests and long rides. By diminishing the warmup time the horse learns to be mentally and emotionally ready sooner. But prolonging the warmup day after day and week after week causes a situation where the horse never learns the importance of instant readiness.
When people get stuck doing the same long warmup they inadvertently develop a belief about how the horse gets mentally ready and that belief may be limiting their riding experience. So one key to success is to consciously and creatively figure out how to diminish your warm ups to the point of no warm up at all. Your horse comes out mentally ready and all you have to do is make sure you take things slow enough not to injure their muscles or joints as you prepare for peak performance.
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Want to watch a video of how I warm up a horse with those three simple questions listed earlier? Post a comment below and share this article and I'll send the video to your email for free. Thanks for reading.