I'm still trying to figure out what works with Paddy. Normally I focus on having a steady, slow rhythm (because we all know how zoomy Paddy can be), and since our last dressage lesson, I've also been working on getting him straight and evenly in both reins by moving his shoulders around. But yesterday, I just didn't have the energy to be super demanding of him and ride every step, which is really what's required to make straight and steady happen for us right now. So instead, I took him out on the back track for a little conditioning work. We did our usual mile or so of walking to get loose, and then we did about 10 minutes of trot, alternating directions with short walk breaks. He was allowed to go whatever speed he wanted, but he couldn't haul on me and he had to stay balanced and over his back. I rode with a really soft rein, even as he flew over the ground, and tried to remember not to let him get really heavy on the left rein.
Note to self: We could totally win a trotting race against a Standardbred. Just sayin'.
After we did our little trot session, I decided that I did actually have it in me to ask for some more demanding work. I picked up the reins and started on some 15 meter trot circles, along with some trot squares and halts. He had a faster tempo than I would have liked, but he remained balanced and very over his topline. I could really feel his back lift up, and that was new. We also did some canter, which, while fast, was balanced and longer/lower than usual. I think that's a direct result of our warmup - normally if we work on slow rhythm, coming over the back doesn't happen so much.
So I don't think we have a warmup routine that works for us just yet, but it's interesting to try different things and see what sort of ride we have because of it. Maybe I need to let him trot it out for the first 10 minutes or so, then ask for more steady work? I don't know, but we'll continue to try different things. Paddy is a big thinker, and he needs the mental challenge of something other than zoomy trot to really get him working. At the same time, I don't want to kill the forward or stifle his desire to come over his back by having him do too much slow/collected work. It's a tough balance!
What do you do for warmup? What works for your horse and what doesn't?
Unrelated: I looked closely at the pics from the show on Saturday and discovered Mr. Sneaky trying to sample his winnings. I swear he has a prehensile nose!