14 tips for the horse show warm up ring. Part 1

The horse show warm up ring is a sea of horses and riders, in degrees of green to experienced, each in their own head, under some degree of pressure….
Time pressure, peer pressure and pressure to succeed.

Here are 1-7 of 15 tips I shared in an article for Horse Canada.

Before wading into the warm up ring, here’s what you’ll need in order to go with the flow and avoid interrupting it:

1. Embrace the busiest times in your home arena. Don’t avoid your fellow riders; find creative ways around them. Enlist friends to ride beside you, in front of and behind you. I recall a coach’s hyperbole to her student, frustrated with the lack of space to prepare in the Coliseum schooling ring at the Royal Winter Fair. “Girl, you’ve got to train that horse so you can lope in the tack room!”

2. Well-established aids, transitions and lateral skills will override the distraction of an unfamiliar environment when you leave your home arena.

3. Is your horse mentally ready to enter the warm up ring? Test his energy on a lunge line in a separate ring. Explosions on the lead shank or under saddle will set off other horses in the practice ring.

4. Decide which components of your pattern, course or test you intend to rehearse, and don’t avoid the tough stuff. Ask your horse the specific questions – lines, turns or tricky transitions required in your upcoming class.

5. Avoid drilling movements over and over. Cantering around that same circle or jumping that fence over and over only logs miles on your horse’s odometer down the road to burnout. While you may gain confidence from time in the practice ring, efficient sessions with commercial breaks keep your horse sound and sane.

6. Expect the unexpected. In the bustling horse show environment, your horse may “forget” acquired skills. Unwanted habits may resurface. If you encounter a roadblock, avoid making an issue of it for your horse and a hazard for others. Moreover, horses don’t learn when tense – try another approach or reshape the skill in simpler steps

7. Active vision is the key to a collision-free warm up. Defensive driving instructs us to lift our focus from the car’s hood ornament and steer to the destination point ahead. Traffic imagination considers “Where is that rider going to be” and shifts to an alternative path without interrupting the rhythm. Read the energy of the horses around you. Cut the corner to avoid animated or ear pinning individuals..