Warmup Connor vs Work Connor

Having two trainers, plus me being a little more autonomous these days, is interesting.  Sometimes all three of us are approaching the same problem from different angles.  I am definitely interested to hear if I'm on the right track about this if any of you smart Dressage people have any ideas.

NK: "Something about the way you sit on him encourages him to power down instead of become more active.  Encourage activity behind."

Regular Trainer (RT): "You need to start asking for the canter out of a more active trot so we can avoid those sticky transitions."

Me: Why does my warmup take so long and at what point does it get better...  (Haha, I asked this same question a month ago, turns out it was my hands, now I'm asking the same question about a different warmup problem this month.)

I'm pretty sure all those things are related.  I videoed my lesson last week to try to pinpoint when he really came on my aids, and it helped.  The screenshots below are from that ride.

This is the beginning of a ride.  We are at this phase for...a long time...every ride.


Right now I'm trying to develop that relaxed feeling of him seeking the contact before I ask for anything that might induce tension, given our issues with tension in the past, but that means our warmup is super long, and I think a lot of that time isn't really productive.  I know what the feeling is in my body when riding the "shut down" sitting trot and the active one, but I don't want to ask for it too early - and I think I'm misjudging when the right time to ask for that is.

I think I need to find a way to get both forward and relaxed much earlier in the ride.  This is the same ride about 45 minutes later:


His long warmups are concerning to me, because I'm thinking about giving myself a 30th birthday present of a Jeremy Steinberg clinic the first weekend of November, and I want to spend the rides working on the horse in the second picture, not the first one.

We can get here, every ride, it just takes a while.  Also interesting to note the difference between my sitting trot (which I don't find hard, but am clearly doing something wrong in) and the posting trot.  This is posting trot.

This is probably also related to the fact that we can't let him switch off during a ride, be it a break mid-lesson or between the warm up ring and show ring.  He goes from being the horse in the "good" pictures above back to the horse in the first picture and we can't get him back.

I said we weren't going to work on the canter until after Championships, but that hasn't been entirely true.

So...is forward sooner the answer?  Or should I still be searching for that relaxed/seeking the bit/balanced feeling first before pushing for more?  Chicken or egg?

13 comments:

  1. What happens if you longe him for a few minutes before your ride to try to speed up your warm up? I have had a few that just a few minutes on the longe gets them stretching properly (MUCH FASTER THAN WITHOUT A RIDER) and then I can climb on and they are ready to go.

    Also, what if you roll into a canter faster? I think sometimes you need to get the juices moving going and pump the gas in order to do it. Sometimes our horses are training us on how to keep work easy for them.

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    1. Both of those make a lot of sense. Not sure why I never thought about lunging before, but I think I'll give them a try tonight. Cantering earlier, I'm so torn between wanting to do that and how bad Connor's un-warmed up canter is, lol. You're probably right though.

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    2. Simetimes that that is why I like them cantering in the longe first. They can get the uncoordinated out of the way! I find most of gaits get much better once they are stretched longitudinally and latitudinally. Some horses I need to get trotting and cantering immediately. Others older horses need 5-10 minutes of trot to line up before they are ready for ready for "real" warmup. And then I start doing some shoulder ins and leg yields to start softening the body. And get them moving around. Sometimes I need to be more aggressive with just a bit more neck and body flexions(not rollkur...) but otherwise my colder horses like to be stiff as a board through their short neck and body. Sometimes smaller circles help with this.

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    3. Lunging and ground work both help Murray get an idea for "oh we are working now, not playing/jumping". I lunge in side reins or a de gogue and they both are dressage legal, but more importantly are loose enough that he doesn't feel trapped while still encouraging him to reach for the bit. Though I will admit I don't do this every ride.

      In my warm up I like to take a long walk, then do specific figures at the walk and trot on a long-ish rein to get Murray thinking about stepping under and using his back. Like square serpentine and little circles and shoulder in on a circle or straight line. The nice thing about this is that it both develops the connection and feel, but also develops a pattern in our warm milk so that Murray knows work is coming soon!

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  2. the long warm up never really bothered me with izzy bc once she was *there*, she was *there.* with charlie tho, he has some of the same issues you write about above with having the horse 'switch off' after a break. it definitely requires a little more strategizing and calculating on my part! all the same tho i def think you should do the steinberg clinic!!

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  3. We have started lunging in side reins (set loosely) before each ride and it has made a huge difference in getting Fergie working more correctly from the start of our ride. I have found I need to canter her early - though the first canter is ugly - to get to work faster.

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  4. Fav and I have the same issue, so I'll be following this topic with interest. I can say for Gav the worst thing I can do is make it "too" easy. Transitions to get him on my aides, cantering earlier in the warmup, and then throwing in some circles and lateral work helps. Sometimes that warmup feels like a real challenge, but maybe that feeds into what Safin said about our horses training us to make their work easier.

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    1. It sounds crazy, but I want a lesson on what a good warmup should look like/feel like

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  5. I think there's some validity to a warm up just taking a long time - I'm reading the updated version of the German equestrian federation's "the principles of riding" and it advocates 15 minutes of walking, and 15 minutes of trotting on a light contact on large looping figures before the work phase.

    I, however, admit to not following my literature to the letter. When I need a horse to get a bit quicker behind, I find the best thing is a bunch of transitions where I insist the horse nearly leap forward off my leg (while still keeping the connection etc). Then I work to maintain that respect for the aids throughout the work so that when they back away from the increased connection I can send them right up there again.

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  6. So many good ideas here! I have a bit of a different animal, but the kiss of death for us is not getting forward in the warm up. Sure, it might be hideous and hollow and way over-tempo, but unless there is forward first, I have nothing to work with and shape later in the ride! So sometimes I gallop my pony around like a lunatic before we do dressage, and it helps.

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  7. One thing my GP trainer has instilled is that you don't sit the trot until you've cantered. I've discovered that cantering earlier in the ride makes a HUGE difference in how long the warmup is... I can trot for 30 mins or I can do a little canter each way and get the same horse. With a more tense and forward horse though, like a Haffie, transitions. All of them. And a lot of them. That way they don't get a chance to think about anything other than you, so they focus way faster. I also second the ground work concept... just 5 minutes in-hand can really help. Longing may work for some but for Paddy it just encouraged him to lean on the bit and then I'd spend my entire ride getting him off the forehand, so it just depends on the horse. Finding the right warmup is hard, and mine is constantly changing as we progress or he gets stronger doing certain things.

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  8. Do you regularly work him between frames? Long and low to correct working and medium, in all gaits and between movements? This can help stimulate them mentally but also keep their contact and neck supple. It's a good exercise that might help you get what you are looking for at any point in your ride.

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  9. I'm struggling with this a bit too, developing a good warm up for Emi. I find she has to be going forward before everything else falls into place.

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