The Dressage/Massage Warm-up.

What if an arena ride had the effect of a massage for a horse? Wouldn’t the rider feel great too? That was last week’s post and this week, I’ll share a recipe for that good ride.

Phase 1: Walk on the buckle 10 minutes, no contact, allowing the horse to look around and warm up the joints. No dawdling, this is a forward, swinging walk.

Phase 2: 10 minutes of stretching at the trot and canter, working 20 meter circles, with steady rhythm in transitions. Stay safe, but resist contact a while longer. Every snort or blow gets praise.

Phase 3: Take a walk break again, about 5 minutes, on a long rein. Remember release=reward.

Phase 4: The working phase is about 20 minutes. School at the level of your horse: Slowly pick up contact and start with transitions between gaits.  Don’t over drill, give lots of walk breaks so the horse can relax and think about what he is learning.

Phase 5: Cool down and stretch from a light posting trot down to a walk on the buckle- 10 minutes or so.

It’s a simple recipe.  I don’t think it has any ingredients that you wouldn’t already have in your cooking repertory. Actually, I borrowed the recipe from Dr. Reiner Klimke- it was his method for riding horses of any age or level. Then I added some spices of my own.

But that’s the point, most riding sounds simple. But simple is not the same thing as easy, and sometimes following the steps doesn’t get the same result for every cook using the same recipe.

 “Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.” -Chef Marcel Boulestin. (Just like riding.)

With that in mind-I will give you a few cooking tips for your ride.

First, remember you LOVE to cook. (Okay, this is all analogy, I hate to cook, but I do love to ride.) Attitude is everything for a successful ride, give positive cues and focus on the good parts. If you get into a routine of constantly correcting- that’s nagging, and you’ll be a giant, but dull pain on our horse’s back. So cook/ride with patience and love, nurture your horse and ride with a happy seat.

Use your timer, don’t guess when it’s done- in the oven or in the barn. Barn time is an altered state. Usually we lose time; we blink and hours have passed. Or we go too fast, meaning we rush ahead before our horse is fully warmed up. Go slow, literally look at a watch- 10 minutes is way longer than you think. If you ride to music, you can count songs, but discipline slowness. Let your horse tell you when he is ready.

Be creative. You might need to change things up. I am riding a young horse right now; she is energetic and can lose confidence on a long rein. So I negotiate with her, sometimes I need to cut the work into small bite-sized pieces so my horse can chew them thoroughly.

If it doesn’t turn out, try again. If your horse needs to be bullied into work, its time to reevaluate. Make sure he is sound, and then try a different approach. Resistance only trains resistance.

No substitutions. Forward is the answer. Balance, rhythm, and ultimately obedience, all come from fluid, forward movement.

You are what you eat. Fast food can be fun, but a gourmet meal is art that lifts the horse/rider senses and nourishes the soul. Ride deliciously.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

14 comments on “The Dressage/Massage Warm-up.

  1. Thank you Anna, a recipe to savour and digest at leisure :-) timely recommendations as I”ve just got back in the kitchen/saddle!

  2. Kris Kennedy says:

    Have been enjoying your blog – shared it with my niece. She is a stable hand, and dressage competitor. Always a good read.

    • Thanks, Kris. She is a stable hand first and competitor second? Perfect, I would like your niece. Good priorities. Thanks for reading, I appreciate your blog as well. It’s refreshing.

  3. Cathy Pierce says:

    love your blogs! I really like “every snort and blow gets praise” such an easy thing to forget, but so important.

  4. […] forward movement, valuing both ingredients equally. Begin with a conscious warm up, like this one (here) and take the time needed for you and your horse to become supple and […]

  5. […] forward movement, valuing both ingredients equally. Begin with a conscious warm up, like this one (here) and take the time needed for you and your horse to become supple and […]

  6. […] Nothing connects a horse and rider, mentally and physically, quicker than a conscious conversation at the walk. Dressage tests frequently have a double coefficient (2x score) for the walk, because it’s so important for your horse. The walk informs all the other work. Plus, starting slow gives the synovial fluid time to loosen his joints and he is more willing to work if he has warmed up correctly. (See Klimke warm-up here.) […]

  7. La Fiaba says:

    Hi, this is the first time I’ve seen your blog (found you from Haynet), just wanted to say great advice and looking forward to reading more =)

  8. […] Nothing connects a horse and rider, mentally and physically, quicker than a conscious conversation at the walk. Dressage tests frequently have a double coefficient (2x score) for the walk, because it’s so important for your horse. The walk informs all the other work. Plus, starting slow gives the synovial fluid time to loosen his joints and he is more willing to work if he has warmed up correctly. (See Klimke warm-up here.) […]

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