Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Warm Up Plans Revised

Things are clicking along around here. I scratched the Hunt Club HT last weekend (with much sadness) because it was pouring buckets and I have a green horse who needs to be lunged before I get on him. And I hate getting stuck in muddy parking lots. And if my horse felt like he was sliding around on XC and lost confidence, I'd be pretty pissed at myself.

Instead, he got Saturday off to eat hay and chill while I took a similarly relaxing day off. On Sunday, I took him to my friend's hunter farm (because the tack was clean and the trailer was ready to go so why not). He was a total delight. I didn't lunge him at all (because he's been there a few times and if things went awry I'd have plenty of help and lovely footing to fall into). He honestly acted like an old pro. Before I got on, I was explaining to a lady who was watching (there's a big time pro stationed at the barn all summer and people come watch him work) that my horse is green and can be kinda silly sometimes. Man, did he make me look dumb for saying that.

You look dumb because you ARE dumb.

That day, and the couple of rides before, I'd begun to figure out something about his warmup that I'm interested in further exploring: while I agree with Jane Savoie that a horse needs to be 100% in front of your leg at all times and anything less than that isn't enough, that doesn't seem to quite work for Mo. He hates pressure. So what seems to be working, and what I experimented with a bit at the hunter farm, was letting him walk on a long rein for quite awhile. And then when I asked for the trot, I didn't insist on a lovely transition the first time, and I let him puke around in a really gross shuffle-step trot for awhile, only minimally touching the reins.

Then, magically, the horse starts to roll himself up into a bigger step. Being the "don't mess with it" type, I still keep any rein use minimal until it feels like he's seeking some contact. Then the inside leg comes on, the reins get shorter, and the frame gets rounder, and then it's a real ride. And here's the other thing that happens now: he asks to canter, just kind of steps into it. And unlike our Fail Canter, it's super great on whichever lead he's on. He manages to stretch while still feeling uphill. I've just been using a little inside leg, a little outside rein, and floating the inside rein to him as much as I can while trying to ensure that every stride is the same with my seat. It's glorious, like a grown up horse. One could jump anything out of that.

So anyway, I got off him at the hunter farm and the lady watching said, "I thought he was green?" And I was like, "Yeah, he's pretty green, still figuring out his job." And she said, "He doesn't look green. And we were all standing here wishing our horses had that uphill canter."

I just about died. I told her how much that meant to me considering how hard we've been working--on the canter and in general--and thanked her profusely. Let it be known: a horse person who was a stranger to another horse person at a hunter farm paid the stranger a genuine, meaningful compliment. Sometimes the stereotypes aren't true!

On Monday I rode him at home while M was teaching a lesson. When I went past her in the pukey trot she was clucking at me and bugging me to kick him but fortunately she was busy with her student. When she looked back over a few minutes later, his trot was phenomenal. And when we cantered, M was like, "woah, I've never seen him look that good."

Oh yeah, and we switched to the figure-8, which he loves.
After my ride and the lesson, when M and I were down in the barn, we had this conversation:

Me: I have a new warmup plan for him and you're not gonna like it.
M: Tell me anyway.
Me: [Explains about disgusting trot at first]
M: Okay, you have a system and I'm fine with that. Just know that when you trot past me in that horrible trot, I'll be like "WHAT KIND OF TROT IS THAT" and then you can ignore me like I'm the teacher from Charlie Brown.
Me: I'll try to do it when you're not looking.
M: Deal.

I love her.

So that's the current plan, because it makes him happier and then produces MUCH better work in the end.

What's your plan? How has it changed over time?


  1. Simon likes casually warming up like that too. If you get on and immediately ask for all business, he gets anxious. I try to slowly get him more forward at the trot, but give him a lap or two of bleh trot before things need to get serious.

  2. Courage HATES pressure. Right now, we do lots of walking on a long rein intermixed with lots of itty bitty circles with inside leg/rein only to encourage him to stretch through his back to the outside (and it's not much inside rein and it's really long). I basically just have to get his back loose and moving both directions, then trot a few laps on a long rein...

    And then either he's ready to go to work or we need to call it a hacking day.

  3. cool that your trainer trusts your judgement and system (and even cooler that your system is producing that phenomenal canter!). my plan has changed over time as i attempt to become more educated and figure out what i'm doing. still not totally sure if what we do works... but it's a lap or so of loose rein speed walk (my mare's choice, not mine) before drawing it in and pushing the horse in front of my leg. that's the plan at least - not always how it actually goes down...

  4. I used to do a similar no pressure warm up for both. Nancy still gets this warm up but Kika used the long relaxed rein as an excuse to act the maggot and spook at imaginary things so she now goes straight to work with some sort of contact to engage her brain.
    Note: i always hand-walking a couple of laps with her first and these days she h's usually spun in the walker the time it takes me to ride & sort Nancy - she K is not going to work "cold", she has had a considerable pre-warm up

  5. Honestly, Riesling does the best for this as well. My trainer hates it. But if I do a little no pressure warm up and then ask a little at a time he can go SO much farther in a ride.

  6. You know, my warmup plan is constantly evolving. But what I have noticed is that Miles needs a chance to "warm up" before... warming up. We do a similar routine of basically 'do whatever you want' walk, trot, canter before I start our program of bending correctly, going on the bit and good transitions.

    Seems to help Miles!