Warm Up Routine

I mentioned in my previous post that I have a standard warm up routine. It’s simple and helps warm up myself as well as Simon, and gets my arms and hand eye coordination warmed up too.  I am also the type that gets SUPER bored, SUPER easy.  Trotting in circles makes me want to cry.  I am also not very athletically, hand eye coordinated naturally, so I think the little extra effort really helps me with my skills. 

Basically I have a couple lanes of equipment set up, generally poles with mugs, balls and cones and flags and cones.    Sometimes I throw in something else, but only things that can be done on the straight away.  I try to have two set up to one side of the riding area and another lane or two set up on the other side.  I just keep them set up like this so they are always ready when I hop on. 

While warming up and trotting around the ring, I trot through the races on the straight away.  I’ll pull a diagonal across the arena from one lane and pick up in another, and I’ll throw in some 20 meter circles and serpentines in between, with lots of change of direct.  And when I trot past a cone with a flag in it, I pull the flag, when I pass a cone with a ball on it I pick it up, and when I pass a pole with a mug I shuffle it.  And I keep it all at the trot. 

I keep everything set up in lanes, vs just having a cone or pole placed along the track, which would also accomplish the task at hand, for several reasons.  One, I want to be able to actually practice without resetting everything.  So by keeping it set up in lanes, its ready to switch from warm up to practice with no added labor.  Two, it teaches my pony that he can trot past a lane of poles, or through a flag race, without speeding up.  This is a common misbehavior in games pony, and I am as guilty as the next for having ponies that see a line of poles, and bolt through them.  But since Simon has always warmed up through races, maintaining whatever speed I set him at, he understands that facing a lane of poles doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to run like his tail is on fire.  The third reason I like my warm up equipment set up in lanes, is that I find it harder to perform most of the skills straight on.  When you turn around a cone and place a flag, you have more time to do the placing as you make the turn, but going straight past it, you have a lot less time so accuracy is more difficult.  So I feel by being straight, it creates more of a challenge. 

It is also note worthy, that I only make wide sweeping turns and curves, vs tight cutting turns.  After all I am warming up, and those turns should be saved for practice, not warm up. 

I mentioned above that Simon has learned by doing this warm up routine, that he does not need to bolt off when he faces a line of equipment.  I do think this warm up has helped with this, but it should also be recognized, that Simon does understand that this is warm up and when he is in the heat of the game, he knows the difference and will launch off from a stand still directly into a gallop. 

That said, Simon has been doing this routine since I purchased him as a four year old, and was new to the sport of mounted games.  I do feel it helped acclimate him to the equipment, although he never batted an eye at any of it from the start.  But I did also incorporate this into my semi-retired pony, Osh Kosh’s training several years ago.  This was after Osh Kosh had been an accomplished masters level games pony for over a decade, and he was, and still is, completely guilty of not being able to walk past a line of equipment with 3 hooves on the ground at the same time.  After a few weeks of using this warm up daily he did begin to settle into it.  He still tended to try and bolt off if I leaned over to place a flag, or pick a mug, but the more time he spent warming up this way, the more relaxed he became. 

I find this technique helpful for myself, and also for my ponies. 

Plus, it sure beats just going in circles to warm up!

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