How to keep your horse relaxed and focused at competitions

A familiar routine will help your horse stay chilled in the warm-up arena

A familiar routine will help your horse stay chilled in the warm-up arena

Help your horse to relax at competitions with dressage trainer Antonia Brown’s winning warm-up plan, so you can feel confident in the arena every time

Using the same warm-up, whether you’re at home or at a competition, will instantly help your horse relax, because everything you ask him to do will be familiar. He'll take comfort from knowing what's being asked of him and will help him to concentrate. Try not to spend too much time in walk – just long enough so his muscles are ready for work. If he’s feeling particularly tense then just get him moving forwards - he'll get more uptight if you try to keep a lid on him too much. Start on the rein your horse finds the easiest, then he’ll be more relaxed and willing from the off.

1 Soften the ribcage

In trot, on a 20m circle, ask your horse to move away from your inside leg and then outside leg, gently encouraging him to give and soften through his ribcage.

2 Improve suppleness

While still on your 20m circle ask your horse for counter flexion for a few strides and then straighten, before returning to the correct bend.

3 Help him stretch

From the three-quarter line, leg-yield back to the track to encourage your horse to stretch and let go in his body.

4 Keep him on your aids and connected

As you ride serpentine loops down your schooling area, ride plenty of transitions. Make them progressive and not too abrupt, so that your horse stays relaxed. Also, try to incorporate transitions within the pace. 


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