Don’t Waste Your Money

Part 3

“Practice Makes Perfect”12825133_10153414951093316_1434809981_n Photo Credit: Mark Blakley


I approach the lead change in two way depending on my horse. Sometimes I will counter canter both ways to really combat his anticipation. Also, when loping through the center of my circle, I will ask him to get straight and will even set him up for a change but then will continue on my same circle. Secondly, I will sometimes change in the middle then continue in the same direction on the counter lead. I don’t avoid changing as I think the lead change then can become the forbidden fruit and therefore a bigger deal than it has to be. I change often and will do so most of the time in my warmups – it helps the seasoned horse think he might be showing and it help the change become common place for the young horse.


It’s always a tricky thing trying to get a nervous horse quiet in the show pen. However, I have had very skittish ponies become calm and confident in the show arena – even more so than at home or in the warm up arena. I think these horses learned that they are safe in the pen. This was accomplished by loping through countless warmups and showing conservatively until the animal was ready to run hard.   In other words, use your time wisely to build confidence by going slowly. Never hustle from maneuver to maneuver on this kind of horse. As he gets more seasoned, introduce a couple or three maneuvers at a time, but then offer a break to allow him to chill.


On approach is to rollback in the direction opposite of what the horse might be expecting. So, if you’re cruising down the sides, rollback to the inside of the pen. If there’s a substantial problem with the horse leaking out of the turn, I’ll cruise him to a stop and then back and put him right into a quiet spin out of the back up. I won’t ask for a lot of speed. I just want my horse to think rotate over his tracks. After a couple spins, I’ll push him out of the spin into a lead departure. I’ll try to make the entire sequence very smooth and controlled. I want to make sure my horse is very tuned into the neck rein so that when I release the one side and apply the other, his momentum is completely stopped and it becomes easy to push him out.


Showing can be very stressful for many people their first few times entering the pen. As a coach, I’ve found that constructing a simple pattern for my students and having them execute them in paid warmups is a very useful tool. While I rarely complete a pattern, usually just putting a couple elements on top of one another, I can also help keep their horse schooled as it doesn’t know what is going to happen next. Suddenly, showing alone doesn’t seem so intimidating if the person has run in several warmups.


I’ll start taking my three years olds in the pen early in their futurity year. I want them to start to understand what it feels like to go from the warmup pen, usually with a small herd riding around, to the show pen, all alone. As I mentioned above, I’ll keep everything quiet the first few times. I may ask them to spin in one direction in the middle or even change leads in the middle so when this happens in the real show, it won’t come as a surprise. I think as trainers, we walk a precarious line between seasoning our horses and having them anticipate maneuvers. Warmups can help us maintain this balance. Slowly, I’ll add speed to the maneuvers as the year progresses. I won’t run them at the same fast speed that I do at home though as I want the pen to be relaxing for them, not stressful or defeating. I’ve had a lot of luck with horses that showed for years after their futurity year, and I think part of that longevity has to do with seasoning them slowly through these early warmups.

We hope you enjoyed these steps for the paid warmup. Please comment below if you have any questions!


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