Pete Kyle’s advice on warming up.

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Pete Kyle says focusing too much on maneuvers in the warm-up pen will weaken your show-ring performance.

Professional Horseman Pete Kyle grew up showing in Western performance events and has competed in almost every major event in both the United States and Europe. No matter where he shows, Kyle says he sees riders overworking a maneuver—like the turnaround— in the warm-up arena.

“One thing I see is people asking their horse for more speed in the turnaround right before they go in [to show],” says Kyle.

“That horse can get flustered and lose its rhythm. Make sure you turn around only six or seven times to let the horse get its step and rhythm to be confident. You have not jerked or spurred, but you’ve given the horse that confidence. Most of the time, that horse goes into the arena quiet and it will step up.”

Kyle says riders often see others working on a certain maneuver or asking the horse in a way that looks effective, so they try to mimic those movements. Instead of becoming better prepared, however, both horse and rider get frustrated.

“You cannot change how much speed or how flat that horse turns around right before you go into the show pen,” he says. “It is too late and that horse is what it is. Show what you have to the best of your ability. If you try to make the horse be more, it will be less. A lot of times, if you let the horse do [the maneuver] and stay smooth, that horse will give you more than you expected and it will look better.”

The master showman, who has earned more than half a million dollars in the show pen, has his own strategy for preparing to show a pattern that calls for spins first.

“Be sure you turn the horse around enough [in the warm-up pen] so that it is thinking about the spin,” he says. “I always like to turn the horse around when I am two horses away from showing. Then I quit. Right before I go in, I let the horse mentally relax while I focus on my pattern and how I will show. So, that last few minutes isn’t schooling hard, but focusing on the good ride you will have. You want to remain as calm as you can at all times, and that horse will, too.”

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