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Warming up prior to your test. 

Tips from Petplan Ambassador Amy Tiltson

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For more about Amy click here

Warming up correctly is such an important part of any discipline – just as important as learning your test and remembering your hat. Here, Petplan Equine Ambassador and dressage rider and trainer, Amy Tilston, shares her advice for warming up your horse, whether that be at home ahead of your Dressage Online competition or when you are out and about at a venue.

Amy’s warm up


“I always aim to warm my horses up for approx. 20 minutes,” explains Amy.

This includes:

  • 10 minutes minimum of walk; I like to start on a long rein and have the horses really stepping through and lose in the body.

  • Lateral work is also a fantastic way to get your horse to step through and under and quicker off the leg before moving up a gear - some easy leg yield or shoulder-in/fore is a great way to speed up reactions if required.

  • Once I have the desired reactivity, I bring them up to trot. I like to work on long and low, really thinking about rhythm and relaxation.

  • When the horse is positively stretching into the bit, supple and reactive I know they are ready to collect a little more.

  • Once warmed up I like to practice parts of the test where the horse needs to know what is coming, perhaps some simple changes or medium canter


Warming up at a competition:

Your warm-up shouldn’t really differ depending on whether you are warming up at home or at a competition. However, the most important thing to remember when in a warm-up arena at an event is to keep it easy. Remember you are trying to build your horses confidence and not destroy it. Nothing new is ever learned in a warm-up and things can’t be learnt on the day. Your job was to train prior to the competition and you are just presenting that on the day.


Calming your nerves in the warm-up:

Many of us feel most nervous in the warm-up arena, as we start to become apprehensive about the test ahead. Amy suggests a few coping mechanisms to help riders ahead of their competition. “If you suffer badly with nerves you need to have a plan in place to deal with them before they get the better of you. I do find now that I generally don’t get nervous because I am so focussed on the task in-hand, my set warm-up and how to ride every step of the test, that there isn’t time to be,” adds Amy.  

“However, having said that, my beautiful horse Tico, who is sadly no longer with us, could be a handful at a big Championship show so I had to learn how to handle it. I found arriving early and getting ready slowly really helped and where possible having a sleep or time to myself in the lorry before tacking up also did wonders.”


Amy’s Warm-up Top Tips:

  • Getting back out after lockdown - A lot of horses haven’t been competing and have been enjoying a quieter life at home. I would allow extra time for your warm-up in case you find your horse is a little more excitable than usual. Maybe think about picking an easier test to the level you were at pre-lock down, just to get out and have a really positive, confident experience.

  • Top tip for any warm-up – Remember to relax and keep it positive!

  • Handling nerves before a warm-up – If you suffer with nerves, try and keep warm before getting on. If you get cold or your nerves make you feel cold, your body will tighten making you tense in the warm-up and before your test. You could also bring a portable radio with you as this might keep your mind busy and may even relax your horse.  

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