Jumper Nation Clinic: Warm Up with Doug Payne & DP Equestrian

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 Doug Payne and DP Equestrian.

Doug Payne is a 5* event rider, Team USA PanAm gold medalist, and a Grand Prix show jumper.

Doug Payne and Starr Witness (USA) at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The overarching theme of your warm up is to finish it with a super confident, sharp horse ready to go into the ring.

Individualize the warm up for each horse.  I do like to individualize the warm up for each horse to work on their weakness and support their strengths. Our basic starting point is starting with a small square oxer, gradually building it to full height and width and finishing with a vertical. For the last two jumps, I will do a large sweeping turn to the vertical followed by a tight roll back from the opposite direction.

Replicate course questions that may cause trouble.  If there is a particular angle or question presented in the first round or jump off that might cause some trouble, I will try to replicate that in the warm up.  To generalize, say a horse is weak with rollback turns off the left lead, and it just so happens that fence 5 in the jump off has a tight rollback off the left lead.  Be sure to practice that in the warm up.

For horses that are slow up front, I would be quick to use a ground line and change the filler, such as by draping a cooler or towel over the top rail of the fence to catch it off guard.  In general, I try to stay away from ground lines in the warm up ring, as they aren’t in the show ring.  If a horse makes one mistake, that’s fine.  However, if it makes a mistake two or three times and keeps hitting itself up front, then it would be time to explain the situation to the horse.  I would start with the ground line close, and then pull it out further if it’s not being as effective as I would like.

For horses that are weak behind, I may end up with starting with a small, square oxer over moving up to quite a large, ramped shape going quite wide early.  This will encourage them to use their body best following through behind.

For horses that are not quite as careful, and additionally for horses that are lazy, I may do much fewer warm up jumps and head right to the ring.  For example, I have a Grand Prix horse who does maybe three warm up jumps and then heads right to the in-gate: I start with something around 3’6″, then go right to a full height oxer, and then then do one more fence to finish.

For spooky or ultra careful horses, I will progress slowly with height.  I might raise the fence only a couple of holes at a time.  This does inevitably mean that the horse will end up jumping more fences in the warm up.

For horses that are bold or sometimes careless, I’ll get to full height very quickly.  I will raise the fence 4-5 holes at a time, rather than just a couple like for spooky horses.  Also on occasion, I’ll start with a trot vertical up to full height with a 9′ rail.  Once at full height, then move to an oxer.

About Doug Payne

Doug Payne is a 5* event and Team USA PanAm gold medalist.  He also competes in Grand Prix show jumping and has won numerous Grand Prix classes most recently at HITS Ocala.  Doug additionally is an FEI dressage and USDF silver rider.  He is a USEF judge, author of The Riding Horse Repair Manual, and clinician.  He is also a mechanical engineer and a pilot.  DP Equestrian is based in North Carolina in the summer and South Carolina in the winter.  To learn more about Doug Payne and DP Equestrian, click here and be sure to “like” and follow Doug on Facebook and Instagram.

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

Missed grids and exercises from our first Jumper Nation Clinic series with top tips for practicing at home?  Check out them out here:

Go Jumping!

Photo of Doug Payne with students via DP Equestrian Instagram.  Words have been edited for clarity.