The Magazine April 2020

Warm-up like William Fox-Pitt

Posted 27th February 2020

Nail your showjumping warm-up every time with top eventer William Fox-Pitt’s golden rules

William Fox-Pitt show jumping

Whether your showjumping warm-up comes after the dressage phase in a one-day event, or is in preparation for the first of a few rounds, your time is precious. These vital minutes in the collecting ring need to unlock the perfect way of going for the course that’s to follow. Looking pretty as you warm up isn’t the most important thing – save that for dressage – however, set your horse up to be responsive, supple and well-balanced, and a pleasing picture will follow. Having a tried-and-tested, adaptable format you can use anywhere will ensure you’re ready and focused for whatever’s in store on course, every time.

Get your horse to focus

You’ve walked the course and know where you’re going, but your horse isn’t privy to this information. So, ensure he’s focused and listening to your instructions to reduce any chance of upset. How do you achieve this? The answer is giving him plenty to think about in your warm-up.

Begin your walk and trot work on a 20m circle, asking regular questions. Transitions between and within gaits are effective, because the changes in pace will keep your horse interested and make him more reactive to your aids. Keep your upper body tall and the contact level in both hands to make your transitions as precise and straight as possible.


If the collecting ring is busy, or you’re short on space, you might not have the opportunity to consistently use a 20m circle. In these cases, you have to go with what you’ve got, but ensure any work in walk, and halt transitions, are done on an inner track so you don’t interfere with other competitors’ warm-ups.

Add lateral work to your jumping warm-up

Adding lateral work into your warm-up is great for focus and increasing suppleness. While a busy warm-up arena might not feel like the right place for leg-yield, a few strategic steps will get your horse moving away from your leg and supple throughout his body…

  1. Establish an active trot in your horse’s natural rhythm and consider where you’ll ask for your leg-yield steps. They could be performed down either the arena long side, or on a circle.
  2. Use your inside rein to ask for slight inside flexion.
  3. Put your inside leg behind the girth to ask him to step across under his body with his inside hindleg.
  4. Keep the contact consistent in your outside rein, placing your outside leg on the girth to prevent your horse from falling through his outside shoulder.

Did you know?

Lateral work gets right of way in the collecting ring, so you can maximise the benefits of the exercise without having to cut your movements short to avoid others.

Make the most of your warm-up with William Fox-Pitt’s top advice in April Horse&Rider magazine, on sale 5 March.

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