Maximise your warm up
Set yourself up for success with BE-accredited performance coach Linda De Matteo’s top tips to get the most of your warm up
The warm up is an often overlooked but critical element of any competition. Making the most of the time you have available with a clear plan will ensure your day gets off to the best possible start.
The working in area can be one of the scariest places to be and it’s all too easy for both horse and rider to get tense. However, getting your warm-up right not only warms up the muscles but also helps to prepare both you and your horse mentally for the challenge that lies ahead.
The success of your warm up will vary depending on a variety of factors such as the discipline, type of working-in area, the experience and behaviour of your horse and of course, your own experience and confidence as a rider.
Follow Linda’s guide to maximising your warm up and gearing yourself up for the best possible results:
Plan your day and factor in enough time for packing, loading and travelling to the event. Make sure you have sufficient time to get ready once there, declare yourself to stewards and include all elements of your routine. Ignore other people and their plans and focus on what works for you and your horse.
Create a plan for your warm up
Think about how long it takes to warm up your horse on the flat by practicing at home. Many horses and riders benefit from walking and relaxing before the warm up begins. Having a well-trodden system helps both horse and rider by adding security to the routine, even in a new environment or when things change unexpectedly.
Know what works for you
Some horses require lots of loosening cantering to warm up while others need to be calm and focused. Tailor your warm up to your horse’s needs – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A good coach will help you to create a set of exercises that suit you and your horse.
Don’t overdo it
It is easy to over jump horses in the collecting ring in order to build your confidence but have faith in your training and ability. The hard work is already done, so don’t be tempted to train during your warm up. A maximum of 6-8 fences should be adequate, especially on hard/soft ground.
Manage your mindset
Declare yourself to stewards on arrival and find out if they’re running to time and how many riders there are ahead of you. This will help you to stay focused and relaxed.
Staying calm is key so identify any areas that are likely to cause you anxiety ahead of competitions. Horses will pick up on tension from the rider and the wider atmosphere at events so take a deep breath, give them reassurance and focus on what you want to achieve before you go into the ring. Remember, you’re a team and you need to work together.
Look around you
Take some time to observe the dressage test or show jumping course which will help you to identify anything unusual. Watch other riders in the ring as it can increase your confidence and provide reassurance that you too can complete the course. Don’t be intimidated by other riders – while they may look cool and calm, they’re likely to be as nervous as you.
Remember warm-up etiquette
- Left hand to left hand/faster pace has the outside track. The only time this can change is during jumping working in when riders tend to walk on the outside track which allows those at a faster pace and jumping to have the inside track to approach fences.
- Keep looking ahead. This will allow you to plan where you are riding and see where other riders are going – watch their eyeline.
- Be careful when stopping, either leave the track or stay away from the working in fences.
- Do not stop to talk to friends as this will impede others’ warm up.
- Make sure you know which way fences should be jumped. Red on the right, white on the left! It is always helpful for others working in to jump if you shout which fence you are approaching, such as cross pole/vertical/spread. If you’re not sure, ask.
- If you think a rider or pedestrian has not seen you are about to jump, call out and name the fence.
- Always be pleasant and polite to others in the ring.
Remember, for BE80(T) competitions, coaches are always available at the show jumping warm up (and sometimes in the dressage and cross country phases). We’re here to help so ask if you need any assistance – it can be difficult for coaches to identify those who need help so make sure you ask, even if it’s just to change fences or watch you over a fence.
If things go wrong
Don’t panic, stay calm and breathe deeply. Even the world’s most accomplished riders have less-than-perfect warm ups. Focus on riding positively and don’t let your mistakes become your focus.
Once warmed up, embrace the moment. This is it – this is what you’ve been working for, so go out and enjoy every moment.
This feature was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of British Eventing Life