The Ten Minute Warm-up; A Quick Safety Check Before Riding, By Steve Lantvit
When a horse comes in for training by me it’s pretty common that the rider mentions to me that they want a horse that they could pull out of a stall, saddle and go. I respond, “That’s great if your horse was a scooter. But it’s not. This horse is a living, breathing creature with feelings.” I personally like to check out what side of the stall my equine partner woke up on that morning. Before I ride any horse, I do a ten minute warm up to do a safety check of all the horse’s body parts and his mental attitude that goes along with it.
I start by grooming and saddling my horse like I would do every day. But, before I bridle, I go into the arena and go through the three main commandments of control. I create movement, I redirect movement, and I inhibit movement. What I mean is that I just don’t lunge mindlessly for ten minutes in hopes of tiring my horse out. Instead, I am working my horse’s mind not just his body. Contrary to popular opinion, he is never too tired to buck. With a rope halter I will send him around me a few times, stop the horse and change direction, and then send him forward again. Every time I create movement, redirect movement, and inhibit movement, I am putting myself in the alpha position. Just a few minutes of this exercise is all that it takes. If your horse has his own plan for the day this is when it will start to appear, and if need be, you can change it. Remember, it’s not about the time but about the attitude of the horse that we are after. Take your time and do a good job.
After a few minutes of sending exercises I will go ahead and bridle my horse. After I mount, I make sure to stand still for a minute or two. This brief pause helps to relax my horse and again reinforces the point of him waiting on me. I am the alpha. During the standing I will start with lateral flexion to encourage my horse to follow a feel. After I am satisfied with him standing patiently, I will ask him to walk forward on a loose rein while encouraging him to lower his head and relax. A relaxed horse will learn and is safe to ride.
From this point you are ready to go and begin your ride. Your horse should now be prepared and listening to you. Warming up by trotting on a loose rein is probably my favorite way to start any ride and it works well on any level of horse.
So remember to warm up your horse’s mind and not just his body the next time you get ready to train so you can Enjoy the Ride.
Steve Lantvit is a professional trainer/clinician whose goal is to contribute to the betterment of the relationships between man/woman and horse. Steve’s focus on training is that of all around Horsemanship and the creation of the versatile horse. He is an active competitor with the American Ranch Horse Association where he has earned World Champion and Multiple Reserve Champion Titles. Steve takes his skills to the equine world through his appearances at equine expos, clinics, and his television series, “Sure in the Saddle” airing on Rural TV/FamilyNet on Saturdays at 3:30 cdt.