Have you ever thought about how you move after you have been sitting still for a long time. (hopefully reading all the interesting tips on this Horse Scout Bog!) Everything is just a little bit stiff and can be a little bit cold. (well certainly this is true at my age); but that aside any muscles which have been inactive are in a state of stasis and need waking up before you ask them questions.
Our horses are the same and by adding 20 minutes to your work time by warming your horse up effectively will reap its rewards in training progress and avoidance of injury. Warm downs should also become an integral part of your routine too.
To understand why you need to warm your horse up before asking him to work in an outline or jump is simple. Test out why yourself. Put on some suitable footware and open your front door and start running (be aware of traffic and stay safe). Result?
Yes you can run a fair way; and then what happens? Running is good for you but don’t approach your own fitness this way. You will get out of breath first, then you will feel tired. If you continue to run you will get a build up of lactic acid in your muscles and they will cramp of become overly tired. If you don’t stretch afterwards you will have sore stiff muscles within a couple of hours.
This is exactly what happens to your horse.
However, there are some things you can do from the ground and Gillian Higgins, who is a sports and remedial therapist, BHS Senior Coach, anatomist, and founder of Horses Inside Out, has some brilliant graphics on her website using her painted horses to demonstrate exactly how effective a warm up routine is.
She says “Your warm-up is so important for a number of different reasons,”. “First and foremost are the physiological reasons. Warming up your horse’s skeleton, joints and muscles is crucial to ensure he avoids injury and can perform to the best of his ability. Then, secondly are the behavioural and
psychological elements that get your horse switched on and listening to your aids. A good warm-up programme will help to tackle all of the above.”
To get your horse properly warmed up follow Gillian’s six step essential warm-up plan, covering how to:
1. Start with groundwork
2. Loosen him up
3. Get his blood flowing
4. Move his joints
5. Work his core
6. Get him listening