Warm-up Exercises to Improve your Riding Performance & Fitness



Lesson 3: Warm-up!

In Part 1 of the Equestrian Athlete series I asked how often you physically prepare when you are schooling or competing; if you warm-up or go through any flexibility or mobility exercises before you get on your horse; and if you perform a cool-down to prevent excessive muscular soreness and stiffness after a long day of showing? The typical response is no to all of the above. Generally, we tack up our horses, mount, and get on with our ride. I am going to challenge you to get out of your ‘typical’ routine and start to treat yourself with the same principles you would apply to your horse. Let’s start with warming up before you head out for your ride.

Why is a warm-up important?

  • Similar to achieving suppleness in your horse, a proper warm-up stimulates blood flow to our working muscles and increases the suppleness of our muscles & tendons.

  • Our tissue temperature increases which also helps with decreasing the viscosity or thickness of the fluid in our joints.

  • Allows us to focus on the muscles and movement patterns that are required for our sport. This can enhance reaction time, development of force, strength, and power.

  • Decreases the risk of injury. The increase in muscle tissue temperature aids in increasing the elasticity (or suppleness mentioned above) which decreases the risk of strains, tears, or sprains.

  • Allows you to take the time to become mentally prepared for your upcoming ride. You can use the warm-up time to reflect on your goals of the training ride or competition, as well as create focus and clarity.

  • Enhances performance. There have been many studies across several different sports that shows a positive correlation between the physiological & psychological benefits of a warm-up and sport performance.

Components of a warm-up?

  • Your warm-up should progress gradually in intensity – moving from active slower speed, short range of motion patterns to more dynamic, faster speed, full range movements.

Try this warm-up the next time you are at the barn!

Walking high knees

  • Length of barn aisle OR 12 repetitions in stationary position

  • Start off with small movements and progress to bringing knee as high as possible by the last 2-3 repetitions

Walking butt kicks

  • Length of barn aisle OR 12 repetitions in stationary position

  • Start off with small movements and progress to trying to touch heel to butt by the last 2-3 repetitions

Walk 3 / Calf raise 3

  • Length of barn aisle OR 12 repetitions in stationary position

  • Walk 3 steps (or stationary high knees) then stand and raise up on toes (lift heels) 3 times - repeat (use wall/stall for balance if needed)

Tempo high knees

  • Length of barn aisle OR 15 repetitions in stationary position

  • Fast quick feet, bring knees as high as possible for the last 5 reps

Tempo butt kicks

  • Length of barn aisle OR 15 repetitions in stationary position

  • Fast quick feet, bring heels to butt

Walking toy soldiers


  • Length of barn aisle OR 10-15 repetitions in stationary position

  • Begin with short range, slower temp movements, then progress to full range, faster movement. Try to kick straight leg out in front of you to touch opposite hand.

Overhead walking lunge with quad stretch


  • Length of barn aisle OR 8 repetitions in stationary position

  • Reach arms overhead, lunge with L leg (3 second hold), stand up and grab R ankle/foot and bring heel to bum to stretch quad (3 second hold). Repeat with R lunge

Arm hugs to toe touch


  • Length of barn aisle OR 8-10 repetitions in stationary position

  • Swing arms wide and bring back to hug yourself, lean forward and try to touch your toes (3 second hold). Repeat

Leg swings

  • 8-10 repetitions per leg in stationary position

  • Stand facing wall/stall. Swing leg out to side and back across the front of your body. Begin with slower, short range movements and progress to faster, full range

Part 4 in the Equestrian Athlete series will demonstrate how to cool-down at the end of your ride or horse show day. Please share with all your horse loving friends!

Remember…YOU ARE AN ATHLETE!

Featured on Noelle Floyd Style