Therese Nilshagen's

Tips for Your Horse Show Warm-Up Routine

Swedish national team rider Therese Nilshagen shares her best horse show warm-up tips.


Wed 31 May - 23

Therese Nilshagen is an accomplished dressage rider and has been a part of the Swedish national team for several years now. 

She started competing when she was just fourteen years old, riding her first competition on a school pony named Rainbow. Today, she can already look back on a fantastic career, with numerous impressive placements in major championships, both in team and individual competitions. In this interview, Therese shares her top tips for the best horse show warm-up routine.    

Come prepared 

Make sure that you have everything down pat before the show. You can't start training your horse in the warm-up ring. As the name suggests, the focus should lie only on warming up. 

Stick to your plan 

It's important to warm-up the same way as you would do at home, regardless of what the other riders around you are doing. Sometimes, less experienced riders can become unsure when they see how others are warming up and may start to change their approach. My best advice is to stick to a pre-established plan that you and your horse feel most comfortable with. 

Remember, each horse has unique warm-up needs, so it's essential to tailor your routine to your horse's individual requirements. I always base my warm-up routine on the horse I'll be riding. For example, if I'm riding Dante, I make sure to give him ample time to walk, even at a show. He's used to walking for almost half an hour before we begin, so that's what we do. 

Practice your warm-up routine 

With each show you participate in, you'll gain more experience and learn what kind of warm-up routine works best for you and your horse over time. One helpful tip is to practice the warm-up at home, perhaps by timing your riding session and noting how long it takes for your horse to feel fully warmed up and ready to go. Then, aim to keep your show warm-up routine as similar as possible to your routine at home. 

Prepare mentally for your warm-up routine 

Even as an experienced rider, I always try to think ahead and anticipate different scenarios during my warm-up routine. Maybe I'm extra careful as I compete with stallions, but for me it's important to do whatever I can to make the ride as positive as possible and a good experience for the horse 

"It's unlikely that a bad warm-up, with a hectic schedule and a negative atmosphere between you and your horse, will lead to a successful ride in the show ring." 

Start by mentally preparing and setting a plan that works well for you and your horse, and then stick to it.


After a show, especially with younger horses, I often reflect on my ride and think, "Maybe I warmed up that one for too long" or "I need to work more on the canter." I take note of what went well and what could be improved upon next time. It doesn't matter whether a competition went well or not, there's always something to learn, and it's important to keep that in mind. You don't have to overanalyze every detail, but if you want to improve, it's crucial to reflect and evaluate your performance.