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Getting your horse warmed up before a ride or event is one of the most important things you can do to prevent injury. It will also help your horse perform his best.

A warmup brings up your horse’s temperature, gradually increases his heart rate and breathing, and gets blood flowing to his muscles. Warming up can also help avoid a build-up of lactic acid and metabolic wastes that lead to premature fatigue.

Here are some tried-and-tested tips for getting your horse warmed up safely.

Start out with gentle walking.

Start by walking to loosen up your horse and get his muscles warm. Work in extra-large circles in your arena or equine walker to avoid putting too much stress on your horse’s joints and ligaments. Aim for 5 to 10 minutes but allow more time if your horse has been stalled or traveling. Also allow more time if your horse is older, as it takes longer to get blood flowing and the muscles and tendons ready to work in older animals.

Ease into trotting/loping.

After your horse has had a nice walk, get his blood flowing and heart rate up even more by easing into a trot. Using your whole arena or horse exerciser, have your horse trot for a few minutes in large circles, then advance to a forward-moving lope.

Move on to suppling.

The leg of the rider in the stirrup, riding on a brown horse.

After your horse is sufficiently warmed up you can start moving into bending movements to stretch and supple his muscles. Have him trot in smaller circles, figure-8s, or serpentines. Make sure to work both sides equally. Also try leg-yield on a straight line and shoulder fore, keeping the angles shallow. Don’t force your horse to do moves if he is showing signs of struggling; this can lead to injury. Try a simpler movement first and come back to the more challenging move later.

Once your horse is sufficiently warmed up it’s safe to move into your normal training or exercise routine.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Choose the right exercises for your horse’s discipline. The exercises you choose will depend on whether you’re warming up a dressage, jumper, racehorse, or reining horse. But all warm-ups—regardless of discipline—should include relaxation, suppleness, and activity.
  • Make the most of your pre-show routine. Practice riding with other horses at home to avoid your horse getting spooked at a crowded arena and get to the show site early to ensure you have plenty of time to warm up. Work on your warm-up routine at home so your horse knows what work is expected of him before the event. At the event site, be considerate of other riders—know the warm-up etiquette of the region or country where the event is being held.

Invest in the Right Equipment

A horse exerciser is a trusted tool used by equestrians around the world. It helps you easily and effectively warm up and cool down your horse before and after training, and allows you to exercise several horses at once. Vitafloor USA is a leader in horse walkers and other quality equine supplies. Browse our online shop to see our complete line of quality products.