When you warm up for a competition, how critical is the timing?
Last week when I made my way over to the showjumping warm up I saw hundreds of competitors cantering around, and soon learnt that they were running ten minutes behind schedule due to a fallen rider needing medical attention. This was fine, I could stand and watch a few rounds to see if there were any bogey fences or if the time was tight.
Unfortunately, another competitor hadn’t realised there was a delay and while I was watching they trotted over to the ring entrance.
Loudly they started berating the fact that it wasn’t their turn, even though it was the time allocated to them. The stewards explained patiently that there has been an accident, and the response was “well I’ve warned my horse up for this time. If I have to wait then she’ll go off the boil and won’t jump clear”.
There was a little debate to which I’m afraid I switched off from, and then a couple of minutes later I read, at the top of the steward’s list of numbers “it’s been a long day, be nice to us!”
It made me chuckle, but on the way home I started thinking about how crucial timing is at competitions. I always expect them to run late, so check the situation when I arrive at the warm up. If there is a big delay I have a stand and wait, or walk on a long rein, depending on weather, how Otis feels, and how busy the warm up is. When I warm up I aim to ride him in with enough time to have a good walk and break, before picking him up again when the competitor before me is about to go in.
I guess it depends on your individual horse as to how you warm up, and how important the timing is so that they perform at their best. I was pleased to read an article by Mary King who backed up my method of warming up, but she also explained how fizzy or excitable horses need more time to settle in their surroundings and to relax. Lazier horses benefit from some jumps immediately before going into the jumping ring to wake them up and get them sharper off the leg.
I guess dressage horses may suffer from too much hanging around in the warm up or from going “off the boil” so to speak, and not move as extravagantly or as correctly as they can.
Ultimately it’s down to knowing your own horse and being savvy enough to find out if a competition is running to time and how much of a warm up your horse needs.