How to Warm Up At A Show, Part II

Last week Lila Gendal discussed warm-up etiquette and safety. This week she's back to talk strategy.

Top: Skybreaker at GMHA

From Lila:

  • Do you have a systematic warm-up routine when at a show?
  • Have you ever had an absolutely awful warm-up that snowballed into a bad show experience overall?
  • Do you sometimes over-think or worry about your warm-up?
  • How can we take the success we have at home, in the comfort of our own riding rings, and translate that into good energy at a show?

Your warm-up can either make or break your ride. Last week we discussed warm-up etiquette and safety; this week, let's chat about strategy–what to do in warm-up, what to expect, what not to expect, and the goals of warm-up in general. Think about it: When you are warming up your horse that is the last chance you have before entering the ring or heading out on cross-country, so you really want things to go smoothly. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to warming up your horse at a show!

Now is NOT the time to ask for anything new or different.

Stick to what you know! For example, imagine you're warming up at a dressage show and you suddenly decide you want to work on flying lead changes, but you have never actually schooled this movement before. How do you think that's going to work out for you? BADLY.  Also, when you are warming up at a competition keep things simple and emphasize the good things. If you have been struggling with a certain movement at home, let’s say your downward canter transitions to the trot, do the best you can at a show without harping on the situation. Underline those things that you both are good at, and practice the things you have trouble with, but don’t become frantic over the negative.

SB jumper show 2012

Stay calm.

After competing for 18 years I have discovered that my best shows and best results come from both mental and physical relaxation. If you could have seen me at an event when I was 15 or 16 you would have been nervous for me. I was a mess. I was stressed out, anxious, angry, worried, scared… you name it, I felt it. Now that I am older, I have learned that my horses need me to be calm and hold it together. Both the horses I am riding now are 8-year-olds and do not have seasons under their belts, which is why I need to keep cool and kick on at a show. In many cases, a horse leaves his or her home for the day, trailers somewhere new and is expected to stay calm and be a good horse. If your horse is stressed or nervous about competing, it's extra important for you to take a deep breath and relax.



This is not something that has come naturally for me but rather has taken years and years to acquire. Confidence so easily can come and go. I can  finally say that I am starting to have a certain level of confidence on a horse. I think there is a fine line between being arrogant and being just confident enough, so that people respect you but don’t think badly of you. Regardless, being confident is necessary, especially when at a show. If you KNOW that you and your horse can conquer the challenges that await you at a show, and you KNOW that you have put in the hours and have done your homework, then by all means, be confident in your warm-up. If you are confident in your warm-up, most likely you will have a very good ride. If you are nervous, or concerned about your competition, you most likely will have a not so good ride. Believe in yourself and your riding… especially when you leave the comforts of your own barn.

Go Riding!


About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.