Jumper Nation Clinic: Warm Up with Caitlyn Shiels & True North Stables

Now that horse shows have begun running again, Jumper Nation Clinic continues — this time with exercises and tips to try in the warm up ring at shows.  Jumper Nation has teamed up with top, respected riders who we love for both their horsemanship and their creativity with exercises they use at home and at shows.  Each week, we’ll be bringing you new tips and exercises to try in the warm up.  You’ll be primed and ready to have a great round!

This week’s featured tips are courtesy of Caitlyn Shiels, who owns and operates True North Stables.

It’s all about incorporating ground rails and poles into your warm up routine.
Caitlyn Shiels in the warm up ring aboard Michelle Durpetti’s Cassius. Photo by Jump Media.

“Whether it’s to help the rider think about rhythm or to help the horse, I’ve always utilized rails like an extra friend or an extra tool,” explained Shiels. 

The warm-up ring isn’t the place to introduce something new or complex or to really drill what you’re going to do in the show ring. Instead, I want both the horse and rider to feel confident going into the show ring.” 

Using Rails for Riders’ Benefit

“Both at home and in the warm up ring, using rails can help the rider focus on rhythm without having to worry about the jump. Doing rail work really helps work on lengthening and shortening, so I’ll often incorporate that into the warm up for my riders. 

“If I have a horse that tends to drift a little bit to the left, I’ll always try to do a left landing rail, and that’s more for the rider’s benefit than the horse’s. A landing rail or a vertical set a little high on the one side helps the rider not have to overthink straightness. I know that when nerves get involved, throwing a lot of information at someone doesn’t necessarily help and can shake a rider’s confidence going into the ring.  I try to set a jump or rails that will help take care of the horse so the rider doesn’t do as much overthinking about ‘I have to keep it straight. I have to keep my rhythm. I have to find my distance.’” 

Helping Horses Focus

“In a schooling area, I’ll set something like a small vertical and then four strides to a rail on the ground, and I find that really helps the horses with their focus. 

Rather than jumping a regular jump and just cantering away, this keeps them focused and sets my horses up nicely to go into the ring without just jumping a million jumps. 

“Right now, I have a number of young horses that I like to start out nice and slow and with a little less pressure on them, so the ground rails are a good way to keep their focus and their confidence.” 

Ride for the Ring You’re Going In

“At every show, you have to think about which ring you’ll be showing in and adjust your warm up accordingly. In a small ring, you might jump the line and be hitting the corner to make a turn. That’s when I’ll set something like the vertical to a short four ground rail to keep their focus on that short four and work on what the horse can expect in the ring. It’s going to vary at every horse show with different size rings, so take that into consideration and set your exercises accordingly.”

About True North Stables

True North Stables is a full-service hunter/jumper training program, dedicated to horsemanship and to providing top-class riding and training services to both horse and rider. Led by Caitlyn Shiels and with bases in Illinois and Florida, True North Stables offers highly individualized instruction, horse acquisition and sales assistance, and the opportunity to excel in the sport and in nationwide competition.  To learn more about True North Stables, click here and be sure to follow True North on Instagram.

Missed previous weeks’ warm ups?  Check them out here: