Optimising Your Rider Warm Up

Let me welcome you to my guest blogger Louise Towl from Ready to Ride who will be chatting about how to optimise your rider warm-up. You may remember Louise took part in my Equestrian Fitness blog post earlier this year. I invited Louise to come on the blog & share some top tips for riders warming up for competitions which I hope you all find valuable.

Louise competing Baz at Stockland Lovell BE Novice.
Louise competing Baz at Stockland Lovell BE Novice. Photo Fiona Crawford

For most riders, there is a limited time when it comes to warming themselves up before riding. However, especially if riding is squashed in amongst the rest of a busy day, or if you have driven hours to compete, warming up in some capacity is essential.

There are 3 parts I consider to be most important:

  1. Literally warming up by increasing circulation; this makes the body tissues more elastic, and also makes us feel more mobile (think how you want to move when you are too cold).
  2. Taking the body parts that will be needed during exercise through as much range of motion as possible; this helps to loosen any stiff areas, makes sure you are moving symmetrically and means that muscles don’t get a nasty shock if they are suddenly asked to work in a position they haven’t visited since yesterday.
  3. Priming muscle groups that are going to be required; this is particularly important with the gluteal group, but also the ‘core’ muscles in general. We know that if we wake these muscles up before we work them hard, they will work more effectively when the time comes.
Louise in action
Louise in action

For increasing circulation, keeping warm with clothing or simply having a brisk walk/sweep of the yard might be enough. Gauge what you need to do depending on the circumstances, and in warm weather, this probably won’t be necessary.

To loosen your body, keep it simple. Focus on the spine – perhaps separating out into neck and back – hips, knees, ankles and shoulders; basically, the joints (and therefore their associated soft tissues) are well moved.

To prime your key muscles groups, working them briefly but hard against resistance is the most effective method, but even running through simple exercises where you focus on working those groups will help. So, glutes work with a resistance band or against a wall, upper body work with or without a resistance band but focusing on combining with postural control, and balance reaction work on a wobble cushion are 3 great examples.

The key is to keep your warm-up specific to your needs. Focus on the areas you know are stiff or weak, or that need a bit of extra waking up before you work. Factor in your time limits, and it may be that you have a longer set for home and a shorter, more specific set for competitions.

Don’t forget that you can continue your warm-up once on the horse, including the ‘priming’ part. Whilst your horse is going through the initial phase of increasing circulation as you walk/trot/canter, you can run through a lot of postural muscle activation that is key for you. For example, running through shoulder blade positioning (gently back and down) and linking this with light and symmetrical hands, checking your weight is equal through both seat bones and feet are all good ways of setting your body up and tuning your brain into those body areas and associated muscles.  This early time in the saddle is also a good time for ensuring your spine and pelvis are moving freely with your horse and keeping your breathing relaxed.

Check out Ready to Ride YouTube channel for some helpful warm-up sessions:

And here’s all the places you can find Ready to Ride on social:

Thanks Louise for sharing your pearls of wisdom – & good luck to anyone out competing!


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