I start every lesson with a warm-up to get the muscles moving and to remind the rider of the feel of the horse (especially if the horse changed). There are some standard warm-up exercises most instructors run through.
Airplane Arms: have riders hold their arms straight out, shoulder height with palms facing down.
Why? This exercise is a good chance to check the rider’s balance and muscle strength. Do they hold out one side only? Can they let go with both hands? Do their arms straighten? Do they need prompting?
Arms Overhead: have rider stretch both hands straight above their head, elbows by ears, palms facing each other.
Why? This is a chance to check strength and balance in a different manner. It is also a way to determine if the rider can copy movements and will take their hands off the horse.
Arms Over the Mane: have rider stretch both arms straight in front, over the horse’s mane with arms level with shoulders.
Why? See if the riders arms are level. Can they hold their arms straight out from the shoulders? Do both arms stay straight for a count up to 5 (or longer?)?
These are the three standard exercises I always start with, and I do them in both directions. Depending on how independent the rider is, these three exercises can be used in a variety of ways – one hand at a time, add in twisting, try with eyes closed, and more.
What are your standard warm-up exercises? Do you change the warm-up each class? Leave a comment with some of your favorite exercises!