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warmup strategy

dressage, dressage lessons, natalie perry dressage, warmup strategy

A Different Kind of Warmup

This year’s record snow has made turn-out a sad state of affairs for the horses. When the snow was light and fluffy it wasn’t a big deal. Then it got deep. Only the most youthful horses frolicked in it. The older gentlemen preferred standing by the gate, sending telepathic messages to the barn in hopes of hay coming their way.

Frozen whiskers tell the tale of freezing temperatures, which make barn life a lot more work.


Now we’ve entered the thawing and freezing stage, which means treacherous, icy spots make moving about dangerous. As a result, our horses are doing a lot of standing around.
Micah, who is normally pretty easy to warmup at the trot, is feeling stiff and resistant as a result of this lack of activity. What was once easy began to feel like a fight. I’ve tried to get more loosening up at the walk but wasn’t happy with the results. Something needed to change.
In yesterday’s lesson I asked Natalie to help us adjust our warmup routine. As Micah’s canter work has improved I’ve had a gut feeling that he’s more comfortable in the canter these days, than in the trot. Natalie agreed.
“Let’s do just a little trot, then go straight to the canter,” she said. “But you have to make sure he’s listening and adjustable. That’s your responsibility.”
Bingo! After getting over the initial shock of moving to the canter so quickly, Micah settled in and was cantering nicely in a matter of minutes. When we then returned to the trot it was much more forward and fluid (although it’s taking a lot of leg and adjustments through the trot to keep Micah from slacking off).
I was really happy with our change of approach. The lesson proceeded nicely with Micah putting in good work. Thank goodness for my trainer and her input.
If your warmup routine isn’t working, ask for help. Warmup sets the tone for everything else.

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dressage, dressage showing, schooling shows, warmup strategy

Butterfly Brain: The Enemy of Dressage

Sunday was my second schooling show of the season. Those of you who show every weekend probably can’t relate to the experience of re-entering the show ring after 7 years off. But perhaps you have some wisdom you can impart. I am sorely in need of wisdom.

Happily, Micah is a Show Master. He understands that (at our level), he’ll need to work hard for five minutes, then receive lots of praise. He’s not too worried about the judge’s box, decorative floral arrangements, or horses falling to pieces in warm-up. Thank goodness.

My previous horses have needed show warm-ups focused on relaxation and staying in the arena. If Micah relaxes any further, he’ll be dozing. My new warm-up strategy needs to be about waking him up and asking him to respond promptly.

Of course, that’s Part B of the strategy. Part A is me embracing the new strategy and rising to the occasion. Easier said than done, given that showing is exhausting, physically and mentally. Just running  from trailer to show office to warm up to show ring wears me out. And, while I’m not actively freaking out, there’s an app running in the background of my brain, wondering if I’ll be able to rise to the occasion mentally.

My mind flits like a butterfly, from thought to though.

In the arena, my mind flits like a butterfly, from thought to thought.

Lest you think I’m a slacker, I try to stay fit. I ride a horse, a mountain bike, hike, lift small weights, and do abdominal crunches to keep something of a core. Come show day, you’d think I was a complete couch potato the way my stamina stutters and fades. Mentally, I’m equally flaccid. My focus comes and goes like a butterfly in a poppy field. My mind flits from moment to moment. Focus/fade. Focus/fade.

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