Many, if not all, riders warm-up themselves, but not everyone warms up themselves. A recent poll conducted on our social media showed that 62% responders did not undertake a warm-up before hopping on to ride. Of those, 87% said that although they didn't warm-up, they thought that warming up before a ride would make a difference to their riding performance.
A 2010 systematic review of 32 studies found that a warm-up was shown to improve performance in 79% of the criterions examined in a number of different activities and sports. It is important to note however, none of the studies looked at equestrian sports.
So, what may be the potential benefits, if any, of an equestrian running through a warm-up before they ride?
In a 2020 study investigating the warm-up routines of European dressage riders and show-jumpers for their horses, the proposed benefits sited by the riders included:
It has been well documented in humans that an appropriate warm-up (typically that is specific to the sport, at a lower intensity than the activity you are about to perform and of an adequate time before the event) can both reduce the risk of injury and improve performance in activities such as running and jumping, and sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball and cycling, to name just a few.
So if we know the benefits for our horses, and it's been proven in other sports, should we be considering the benefits for the equestrian also?
We can't say conclusively that it is necessary, as we don't have the evidence to back that up. Anecdotally many riders report that a brief off-horse warm-up does seem to improve their riding performance. 73% of responders to our poll said that warming up made a big difference to their ride, with 18% saying the difference was negligible and 9% saying it made no difference.
Ways a warm-up may help riders can include:
It is likely a case though where a "one-size fits all" approach may not be appropriate.
What is an adequate warm-up for a showjumper will differ to that of a dressage rider, a polo player, a jockey, a vaulter etc etc....
And there will be differences too between levels of training and the issues you have when you ride.
If you haven't been warming-up before you ride, and think it may be of benefit but aren't sure where to start, get in touch to book a rider screening assessment with our physiotherapy team. Appointments are available both online and face to face in Terrey Hills and Mangrove Mountain. Click here to learn more and book an appointment!