Winter Weather Warmups
Warming your horse up is important in every situation, but it becomes especially pertinent during the winter months. Cold and damp conditions mean muscles get tight and joints get creaky. So how can we help our horses work through it and still continue their (and our!) education?
I like to allow my horses to warm up on the ground first, if possible. This means ~10 minutes of lunging to begin. I usually do most of this at a walk, moving into trot towards the end. The walk is REALLY important for any warmup, but especially for those horses who might not live in a pasture or have access to constant freedom of movement.
After basic lunging I usually do a few minutes of d-lunging or in-hand work. This warms up my horse's mind and MY body, to prepare us both for ridden work. Warming up on the ground in this way allows my horse to get his muscles prepared to carry my weight in addition to his own body, without just sitting down on cold muscles. EVERY horse is "cold backed" in the winter, some simply tolerate it better than others.
Once I'm aboard, we spend another 10 minutes (minimum!) walking, and refining our walk. Not only is this a great opportunity to refine this all-important gait, it gives my horse even more time to warm his muscles, and now adjust to having an additional 170+lbs aboard.
At this point we're 30 minutes into our workout, and are FINALLY ready to begin the "hard stuff". Given this amount of warmup, I've found my horses are often more willing to try new things, as we aren't battling so much stiffness in joints and muscles, and excited about their work. While it is a long time, the energy and willingness I find at the other side are more than worth it!