Here our equine physiotherapist Etti Cook uncovers the art of stretching and tells you why stretching should be a priority, not an afterthought.Read More
To help you train for a major dressage competition, Lee Pearson MBE. OBE. CBE and multiple Paralympic gold medallist answers a few questions put to him by Equisafety owner, Nicky Fletcher.
How do you warm up?
Do you start ‘long and low’ or do you walk for 5 minutes stretching and starting to make the horse do exercises such as ‘shoulder in’?
LEE SAYS: I do lots of walk and then break this up with little bits of trot. I don't insist on ‘long and low’, I’m just more focused on if the horse is accepting the bit on the leg. But, when warmed up, the horse gets regular opportunities to stretch long and low in between being in a competition outline.
How long before you start really working your horse?
My horse, Oscar, takes a good 20 minutes before I get proper work out of him. Is that because he is not fit enough, or is that about the right time for a large 17hh to warm up?
LEE SAYS: I treat every horse as an individual. For example by the time Zion has done walk exercises, little bits of trot, and underpowered stretching canter it normally is about 25 minutes before he is ready to be totally engaged and permanently in a competition outline ready for any movement asked of him.
Does the size of the horse determine the time needed for warming up
No, not really. I think age, fitness, any stiffness and any schooling issues can influence the warm up more than size.
LEE SAYS: What bit do you use when you are schooling and what type of nose band do you use? I use a loose ring snaffle with lozenge and flash nose band.
How long should your session be?
Once the horse is working correctly, how long do you keep up the high level for?
Would it be around 20 to 30minutes?
LEE SAYS: Yes between 20 and 30 minutes is about right.
What is your routine for “cooling” the horse off?
LEE SAYS: Stretching in Trot and Canter and then lots of walk with different neck positions.
How fit is fit enough?
How many months before a major competition such as Rio, do you start thinking about increasing your horse’s fitness.
LEE SAYS: To be perfectly honest I don't increase fitness. However, what I do is more schooling within a weekly programme, which includes lunging and hacking and days off.
Q8: Do you ride longer to increase fitness, or more times in a day with more intensity?
I don’t school more often in a day to increase fitness, I just school on more days.
What does your horse fed on?
Is this altered at all nearer a major competition such as Rio? For example will his feed increase? Is he on hay / haylage or anything else?
LEE SAYS: The horse has no change of food before any competition. I feed Dodson and Horrell ERS pellets, Alpha A oil plus and Dodson and Horrell Haylege.
Is he turned out in the field and if yes, for how long?
LEE SAYS: Yes - all day and sometimes night.
Is your horse regularly hacked out?
...to increase stamina, to chill out or both?
LEE SAYS: Yes I regularly hack out (and yes, I wear my Equisafety hi-vis!). The change of scenery is beneficial for me as well and the horse.
How do you stop your horse getting bored?
Is he ever jumped, or does he do something different in the area?
LEE SAYS: Lots of hacking out keeps him, and me, from getting ‘dressage bored’ to be honest. He’s never jumped – he’s rubbish at it!!
Do you lunge your horse regularly?
...and if yes, how long and what is the routine?
LEE SAYS: Yes, he’s lunged at least once a week and he’s worked like he would be if he was being ridden.
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We know Your Horse readers are busy people with jobs to do, children to feed as well as horses to ride. Here Spencer Wilton sets out a time frame to ensure that you can fit your schooling session neatly into 35 minutes!
Five minute walk
The most important thing to remember in winter is that if your horse has been out at grass in the cold weather, or stuck in his stable all day, it’s really important to do at least five minutes of walking before you get going. If you’re short of time this can be difficult but it’s really important to ensure your horse is given this time in walk to loosen up.
Five minute warm up
I like to follow a fairly set pattern when I begin my warm up:
- In trot, go large and ride
a circuit of the school or schooling area once on each rein. Allow your horse to stretch down and round
- Ride a couple of large circles on both reins in trot
- Go large again and move forward to canter, riding one circuit of the school
on each rein
- Stay in canter and ride a couple more large circles on both reins
- To complete the warm up, come back to walk and allow your horse to walk, nice and relaxed, on a long rein
15 minutes of exercises
It might not seem like a lot but plan which exercises you want to use from day to day and this 15-minute slot can be used to its
Five minute wind down
Using similar shapes to those you rode in your warm up, work in trot and give your horse a chance
to relax and wind down. Stay in an underpowered trot, especially if your horse has become tense during the session
Five minute walk
With your exercises and wind down complete, let your horse stretch in walk before you finish
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