Best of JN: Warm up With Sloane Coles & Spring Ledge

The Jumper Nation Clinic series continues! This week think about how you warm up your horse and take these tips from Sloane Coles. 

Now that horse shows are running again, Jumper Nation Clinic continues — this time with exercises and tips to try in the warm up ring at shows. Jumper Nation has teamed up with top, respected riders who we love for both their horsemanship and their creativity with exercises they use at home and at shows. We’re bringing you new tips and exercises to try in the warm up.  You’ll be primed and ready to have a great round!

This week’s featured tips are courtesy of Sloane Coles, trainer at Spring Ledge in The Plains, VA.

“My warm-up routine stays pretty boring,” admits Coles. However, judging by the demeanor of her horses at the ingate, and the results she and her students post, “boring” is working just fine for them. 

“Everyone has a different program that develops as they get to know their horses, but I like to keep it very simple,” continued Coles. “I like my horses to feel confident before they go in, so I am always trying to build that confidence in the warm-up and help them feel their best when we head into the ring. I rarely do things like take away ground lines, or challenge them when we are in the schooling ring. It’s definitely not the time or the place to risk rattling a horse’s confidence.”

Sloane Coles on Pembrey Condors Diamond. Photo by Jump Media.

The Vertical

“I traditionally start with a vertical and jump it about three times,” said Coles. “It may be set at 1.20m for my grand prix horse, or cavaletti height for one of my riders who is jumping the low children’s jumpers, always with a ground line.

“I will include a landing rail in the beginning for some horses that need a little bit of shape before they start warming up.”

The Oxer

“Next, I will roll the ground line in under the jump and set a small oxer, jump it twice, and then go up two holes and make it a bit wider for the third jump. I never try to drill the perfect jump in the warm-up; a nice relaxed approach, good distance, smooth jump, and relaxed canter after the fence is the end goal. 

“Depending on the horse, I will jump one oxer a little wider with a ramp where the back rail is up two or three holes higher than the front rail. This helps the horse to stretch out over the oxer. If they do that well, I’ll narrow it up a little and make it square again.”

Back to the Vertical

“To finish my warm-up, I go back to the vertical set at the height they will compete at in the ring. From start to finish, there usually aren’t more than eight to 10 jumps in my warm-up routine, and I think that is a good general rule to go by. 

“If I am getting my grand prix horse, Coldplay, ready, I may do things a little differently depending on how he feels that day. He is a very straight-forward horse, but I sometimes will jump a tall skinny with no ground line, or a ramped skinny before my final vertical to get him on his toes and feeling confident to face those types of questions in the show ring.”

When to Troubleshoot 

“While I try to keep it consistent and simple, I have had some horses that I can’t even jump in the schooling ring because they were too excited about being at the show or in a busy warm-up ring environment. For those horses, I will often do things like halt in front of the jumps, a lot of transitions before the jumps, or just flat to help them relax. As soon as those kinds of horses do something well, I go right in the ring. I don’t make too big a deal of the warm-up if they are uneasy.”

Sloane Coles on Coldplay. Photo by Jump Media.

About Sloane Coles

Sloane Coles grew up in The Plains, Virginia, immersed in all things equestrian.  Her father, John, is a former steeplechase jockey and currently Joint Master of Orange County Hounds while her mother, Julie, is an accomplished hunter and jumper competitor.  Sloane enjoyed a successful career as a junior, winning equitation, hunter, and show jumping titles at the country’s top horse shows.  She has trained with some of the best in the sport including John and Beezie Madden and Johnny and Kitty Barker, as well as Andre Dignelli’s Heritage Farm, Mark Leone’s Ri-Arm Farm, and Stacia Madden’s Beacon Hill Show Stables.

Together with Chippendale’s Boy DZ, Sloane made her Nations’ Cup debut at the prestigious CSIO5* Spruce Meadows “Masters” tournament in Calgary, Canada, in 2019.  She is currently developing Coldplay and Pembrey Condors Diamond for the top levels of the sport.

About Spring Ledge

Spring Ledge is a top-class hunter/jumper facility located in the heart of Virginia’s Hunt Country. Owned and operated by Sloane Coles, Spring Ledge’s emphasis is on the development of horses and riders, nurturing and encouraging them through a customized training program that allows them to reach their full potential. 

Spring Ledge welcomes clients across all levels, as well as young horses for training, showing, and promotion, while also offering a superb selection of green and veteran hunters and jumpers available for sale or lease. In addition to developing horses and riders for the show ring, Sloane and her family operate a retirement program out of Spring Ledge, where they care for more than 50 horses.

To learn more about Spring Ledge, click here, and be sure to “like” the farm on Facebook and follow on Instagram.

Missed previous warm up tips?  Check them out here: