Warm up -how long and how important is it?
Your warm up routine is a key part of any training session, if your horse is not sufficiently warmed up before you ask it to perform more difficult work it is significantly more likely to injure itself. I think there is an increased awareness of this nowadays but people are still unsure as to what constitutes a good warm up.
There is some research that suggests it takes around 15 minutes in walk before the range of motion in the joints of the limbs alters so try to bear this in mind when warming up and spend much longer in walk before asking for trot.
In this phase ask the horse to begin to bend slightly by walking in serpentines or large circles to help increase suppleness in their back, you could also move the walk forwards and back to encourage the horse to alter its stride length. Transitions to halt and back to walk will help the horse begin to activate its core, especially the abdominals and sub-lumbar muscles.
All these exercises in walk on a long rein initially, then shortening the reins as the horse begins to carry itself, this will help to prepare the horse’s body for work. Do not go into trot until the horse feels relaxed and comfortable in its back and is swinging forward freely in the walk, this will probably take at least 10mins.