TRAIN TO WIN: MIA PALLES-CLARK – Showjumping Warm up at a competition.. How to make the best of the collecting ring and save your horse’s jump for when it really counts!

The warm up arena or collecting ring is a very important place where classes can be won or lost, nerves and confidence built and restored or where stress and dramas can be created and the outcome of your competition determined.. a pretty important element to get right then!

Tips for the rider..


Flat work starts approx 12 horses before you go, work in as relaxed a fashion as you can, on both reins through all paces. If it’s tight and only possible to go in 1 direction then use counter bend and counter canter to ensure an equal warm up. I also always add a flying change or 2 both ways in the warm up.

Jumping starts approx. 7 horses before you go. Keep it relaxed and have a good routine. 

Allow 1 or 2 horses time before you go in to check tack, have a drink, walk a little and then watch the one before you (time to focus)

*Amount of fences

I would expect to jump maximum 8 fences.. possibly 6 or 7 if all is well!

My preference is to start with a small vertical with a decent ground line (I’m no longer a fan of a cross pole to start as it has no ground line), then I follow that with 2 or 3 more verticals going up a decent amount each time (obviously relative to the class you’re in) I will always jump off both reins (so this means executing a half loop or roll back turn to come on the opposite rein) it’s no problem just ride it on a 45 degree angle and make sure you call for your fence so people understand what you’re doing!

Then onto the oxer, a gently ascending first one (just 1 hole lower in front) but a normal width and with a decent ground line to encourage a good shape (bascule)

Then 2 (or 3 maximum) more square oxers off both reins, getting bigger and wider in accordance with the class you are jumping (no more than 10cms higher that the class is allowed in the collecting ring)

My final fence would be after a little break and I would always jump what the first fence in the ring is.. ie: vertical on the left rein that’s what I jump, square oxer on the right rein that’s what I jump. That way you have already mentally prepared yourself for that first fence.

*Mental attitude/zone

Calm and clear, when asking for feedback LISTEN and apply what you feel and have heard to improve your performance. This isn’t the place to get into a long or heated discussion. It’s also important your support team know the routine and how to handle your expectations when you’re in your ‘zone’ just before a competition. We all have our foibles!!


The collecting ring at some shows can feel like trying to cross the M25 at times.. it can be dangerous so keep your eyes open, body language VERY clear and communicate with fellow riders verbally (politely) as much as you need to.

Call for your fence.. ‘oxer on the left’ or ‘coming on your outside’ is all it needs to be in order to make everyone’s life easier.

DO NOT cross the landing and take off zone.. this has to be the most dangerous thing that can happen when warming up, avoid, no one wants to be jumped on or cut up.

Listen to the stipendiary steward.. the equestrian police, they are there to ensure fair sport and a level playing field, respect and obey their instructions.

This has to be constructive time for you and your horse, it’s not the place for retraining, discussions, smacks or arguments.. and to channel your inner John Whitaker ☺

Tips for the coach/helper/groom/husband/partner/wife/friend/etc..!


Understand the timing schedule discussed above.. 

Check the numbers board and keep your rider updated., a simple hand signal even avoids the need to shout to them.. There’s no need to go into the warm up arena until they want to start jumping, far better for your safety to!


As discussed this is no place to start training or re training or a heated discussion.. so lovely phrases such as ‘what a lovely bascule’ ‘he really let go behind there’ ‘very neat in front’ ‘great rhythm’ ‘a little more canter into the corner’ or even ‘good’ and a thumbs up will always go down well and allow your rider to feel confident going in the ring. It’s vital you are calm and organised at this point. If you have a snappy rider don’t rise to them, they’re full of adrenaline, nerves and focus and don’t really mean it!

If you notice a tack or equipment defect then address it but consider your potions before you do ..classic example being a lost stud seconds before they go into the ring.. there’s nothing you can do about it there and then and they will probably be just fine without it. 

If you mention it then there’s a small element of doubt you may just have put in their mind, which could have bad consequences! Obviously anything you can fix instantly and or that is going to be dangerous then sort it out as quickly and calmly as possible.

*Your safety

In the collecting ring have eyes everywhere! When crossing into the middle chose your moment and use all of your best Green cross code skills. At the fence stand still and not too close to the fence. Ideally in the middle and not to the outside as there are added dangers of multiple horses here. 

When the fence is yours be swift and assertive with other grooms (sometimes you need sharp elbows!) You need to fulfil your riders requirements without hogging the fence but also without losing it someone else so compromises may need to be made. As always clear and friendly communication is the key!

*Care of your horse and rider

Drinks on hot days, rugs on cold days, water, polos, jackets and the well equipped ring bag are all vital parts of your tool kit.

If you’re super organise then videoing or photographing the round really helps the rider too.

Your most important role however is a big smile, a well done for your rider and a pat and a polo for your horse when they come out if the ring!




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