Riding off

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Release before a dressage test

Warming up before a driving test

In equestrian sports,breaking down is called warming up the horse. All horses must be warmed up before the actual work and cooled down after the work, including vaulting, driving and working horses. One speaks also of “solution phase”[1]because this is intended to release tension and stiffness by increasing the blood supply to the muscles and ligaments and thus loosening them, warming up the muscles

The first phase of the warm-up is a 10-20 minute stride phase, during which not only the muscles are warmed up, but also joint lubrication is increased. The synovial fluid reduces friction in the joint and thus prevents cartilage damage and arthrosis.[2] At tournaments, in addition to the actual show arena, a warm-up arena must always be available for the respective disciplines

After work, each horse must be cooled down again.


The primary goal of breaking-in is to keep the horse healthy; specifically, it should lead to the physical and mental relaxation of horse and rider, i.e. to looseness. From the beginning, attention is to be paid to tactful riding and diligent forward motion, i.e. momentum in trot and canter. The horse’s back is made to swing and the horse is ready to stretch forward-downward, to ‘give up his back’. Frequent snorting is for Seunig the “catharsis in horsemanship” and signals the looseness of the horse, that is the “release of physical or mental tensions that still existed to a lesser or greater degree” and is rewarded by praise[3] and is rewarded by praise. In the course of the release phase, the horse should also be able to follow and, depending on its level of training, be ready for collection at the end of the release phase. All sub-steps of the training scale are thus touched upon.

Overall, breaking leads to an increase in “willingness to perform, efficiency” and “inner satisfaction of the horse”; in the process, “nervous horses become calmer and impulsive horses become more industrious”[4]. When riding out before dressage tests, the horse is reminded of “the individual lessons” of the test task.[5]


The duration and structure of the solution phase depends on individual circumstances. It begins with a walking phase of at least 10 minutes on the long or[6] on the long or surrendered reins and lasts a total of about 30 minutes. By then at the latest, the horse should be relaxed.
Before dressage tests, the guidelines recommend that an hour be set aside for the warm-up: “In all experience, the warm-up before a test has seldom been too long, but frequently too short.”[5] A “sufficiently long stride phase” is also to be ensured before jumping competitions.[7] Differences arise from the horse’s characteristics and the rider’s experience: “Lazy, sluggish horses need a shorter but more intensive workload. The rider should ride forward more and thereby ‘wake up’ the horse. Fierce, easily excited horses need a longer timed break-in period.”[8] After looseness and permeability are achieved, “some trial jumps” are then added.[7]

Lessons of the solution phase[9]

  • Walking with a surrendered or long rein
  • Light trotting on large curved lines
  • Canter in easy seat on large curved lines
  • Trot-canter-trot transitions
  • Step-Trot-Crotch Transitions
  • Thigh turns, forehand turns
  • change from the circle
  • simple serpentine lines and serpentine lines through the whole track (3-4 arcs)
  • Extend kicks and jumps
  • at the end of the solution phase pole work (ground tricks and small gymnastic jumps) in trot and canter
  • between the exercises, let the reins out of your hand again and again

additionally at a more advanced stage of training:[4]

  • Reduce and enlarge square
  • alley-crossing
  • change through the circle
  • Figure eight ride
  • Reduce and enlarge compass

Cooling during the ride

Cooling during a forced break of an endurance ride, at the same time the horse is led so that it does not get cold

Lessons of the solution phase before jumping tests[7]

after reaching looseness:

  • Transitions within a gait and between gaits
  • shoulder riding
  • Hold
  • Reverse
  • Short reversals
  • flying gallop change
  • after that some test jumps

Little effectiveness is gained by breaking the horse down if it is “exercised in a deadening or fatiguing manner”[7] is exercised. Therefore, in any case, when riding out – whether in training or before tests – attention should be paid to variety and to adequate rest breaks (paces). Riding on the long reins is an excellent way to relax and reward the horse after work.

Cooling down

To prevent damage to health, every horse must be dry led, dry ridden or dry driven after work. One speaks of “dry riding”, “dry driving” or “dry leading” because the sweat evaporates. A wet sweaty horse is susceptible to colds because the coat does not dry as quickly as, for example, wet skin

Dry riding after the working phase is a recovery phase and serves to give the horse a breather. Heart and breathing rate return to normal, relaxation and satisfaction are to be ensured. It corresponds to the cool down of humans after sport. Not only does the horse come to rest, any tensions are also released. The calm movement after exertion also prevents “muscle soreness”.

In the case of great heat and great stress, i.e. long, fast rides with or without obstacles, such as endurance rides, the cross-country ride in eventing or hunts and also in horse races, the horses are cooled with water afterwards or during forced breaks. After cooling with water, the horses must again be dried out before they are taken to the stable, pasture or transporter. The sweat can also be removed with a welding knife, which dries the horse faster

With thick winter coats, horses sweat very quickly and drying takes all the longer. Depending on the coat, this can mean over an hour of dry riding. If horses are to be exercised in the winter as well, they can be blanketed in the winter. This will make them less likely to freeze and develop a less thick winter coat. In addition, they can also be shorn. Shorn horses, depending on the shearing and outside temperature, need to be tucked in while warming up at a walk until they are properly warm. A sheared kidney area must also be protected with a sweat blanket when cooling at a walk

After work and cooling down, horses can be placed in the solarium for a while to remove the last remaining moisture from the coat. The heat also has a relaxing effect. Afterwards, when they are really dry, the horses can be covered again with a stable or pasture blanket.

Riding off


When riding or pushing in polo, an opposing player may be pushed off the line with his own body or horse.


  • Guidelines for riding and driving. Vol. 1: Basic training for rider and horse. Ed. by the German Equestrian Federation (FNverlag), 26th edition, Warendorf 1994, ISBN 3-88542-262-X
  • Guidelines for Riding and Driving. Vol. 2: Training for advanced riders. Ed. by the German Equestrian Federation (FNverlag), 12th edition, Warendorf 1997, ISBN 3-88542-283-2
  • Waldemar Seunig: From the paddock to the capriole. The Training of the Riding Horse. With an epilogue by Bertold Schirg. 2nd reprint of the edition Berlin 1943, Hildesheim etc. 2001(Documenta Hippologica), ISBN 3-487-08348-5

Individual references

  1. Guidelines Volume 1, p. 93
  2. Warm up: How to warm up your horse properly, Britta Schöffmann, Pferde Revue Österreich, 14 November 2014
  3. Seunig, p. 166
  4. a b Guidelines Volume 1, p. 95
  5. a b Guidelines Volume 2, p. 111
  6. Thermography,, retrieved 23 April 2017
  7. a b c d Guidelines Volume 2, p. 193
  8. Guidelines Volume, p. 192
  9. Guidelines Volume 1, p. 94