For any athletic sport it's common sense to warm up the muscles.
A runner going for a one hour run wouldn't think of just walking
out and running with out a slight warmup. Basketball and football
players warmup, as do many rodeo riders.
Yet for the average rider we throw the saddle on, bridle
up, climb on and BOOM! right to training. A warm up allows
for several things - it allows the muscles to prepare for
the exercise, it allows the mind to prepare for work, it allows
to do a check of horse and rider.
Skipping this or rushing it can mean an accident. For example,
your normally cooperative horse was a little testy during
grooming, you saddle up and in the warmup phase you notice
he's resisting circling to the right. A tight circle shows
a slight limp...what you may not have seen was he was kicked
by another horse the night before and the shoulder is sore,
not enough to be lame, but enough to be irritated. So the
horse is irritated and you ask him to run a barrel pattern
- and he blows wide, rushes and generally misbehaves every
way short of bucking. "He's sour, he needs more time." Maybe
he doesn't - maybe YOU need to listen to what he's really
Don't be too quick to blame - or eliminate - the horse. Like
us they have good days and bad days. Before mounting up do
some stretches of the legs - use a fence or gate or whatever
you have available. Stretch up high and twist each way a few
times...losen those muscles! This doesn't take but a couple
Once in the saddle give your horse the same opportunity -
circle him at a walk each direction. Bend his head around,
do a sidepass or some other small test. This asks him "are
you ready" - and listen to the answer. If he's resisting make
sure his mouth is 'happy'. Make sure there's nothing twisted
that is pinching. When he's calm and relaxed do some trotting
- a slower jog trot then as he warms up a minute or so at
the extended trot.
Once both are warmed up it's much easier to work together.
Ease into the work - as you are best familiar with your horse
you know his signals when he's ready to work. A proper warmup
can drasticly reduce the chances of azoturia. For anyone who
has seen this it's something you won't soon forget. The horse
may begin acting "off", dragging the rear legs, being reluctant
to move. Often he'll lower his head and stretch his head out
as the cramps take hold. It is important to not move a horse
that is "tying up" - the situation is critical and needs immediate
attention. Ideally have a squirt bottle with a mix of Absorbine
linament and Bigeloil - this can be used on a daily basis
after works. If a horse begins to show signs of azoturia remove
the saddle and spray him down especially over the back and
rump. Cover him with blankets, if you have banamine call your
vet and be ready to administer banamine as soon as possible.
Do not move the horse until the attack has subsided, and then
keep him in a stall for a few days. Be aware that once affected
he is more prone to having another attack.
For those with a rigorous exercise program, along with a
warmup take five or so minutes to ride at a walk, relaxed,
at the end of the session. Let his breathing return to normal,
let him relax and just being with him without expecting or
asking much of him. This wind down and warm up time is a chance
to just "be" with your horse, as a means of accepting each
other despite the differences in our worlds.
A proper warmup can make a big difference in attitude of
both horse and rider.
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in southern Idaho with horses and
the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares
through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the
links below. Amazing
Equine Network System