Mort has been killing it lately. I've had really successful and fun rides and that's awesome. Friday Mort and I took it easy with a bareback ride. We wandered the pasture looking for his fly mask then spent some time playing around in the grass. I gave him Saturday off as I had plans with friends after my run. Sunday morning I hopped on after chores with spurs and Mort was forward, soft, and supple. He earned a super easy lunge day Monday.
Last night was cool and breezy and Mort was definitely animated. While we were on breaks he was very 'looky' but as soon as I'd pick up my reins to get back to work he'd come right back to me with full focus. The extra energy just translated to some really fun trot work. Even without my spurs he was soft and responsive to lateral work. He got a couple stretch breaks and one long walk about the property and came back immediately. Seriously a good boy and one of those rides where everything clicks.
I am continuing to experiment with different warm-ups to see which one works best for him and I'm obviously really liking the results of the latest one. I usually try to get Mort to stretch down and bend in the warm-up. It's often only moderately successful with a little stretching and more neck bend than true bend. I then jump into 'real' work without having really gotten him to push into the bridle well. It ends with a cramped neck that I stretch throughout the ride instead of the other way around. Definitely time to try something different--at least for the time being.
The last few rides all I've been doing at the beginning is riding him "on contact". For me this means that I pretty much let him decide where his head and neck are comfortable while I maintain a steady feel on the bit. The only time I adjust him is if he hallows out and tries to be upside down. Beyond that I do a ton of changes of direction and gait, especially quick ones between the walk and trot. After about ten minutes of this he's pushing into the contact all on his own and we're really ready to rock and roll. If I ask for him to stretch he's more than happy to oblige.
This is definitely not a warm-up that is a go-to for me as I prefer to let a horse stretch and relax in the beginning of the ride. I still do give him a long walk warm-up, letting him wander and loosen in that aspect before jumping into trot and canter work. But, it looks like Mort really likes this warm-up mentally and for now that counts a lot more than whatever ideas that I have preconceived in my head. He does start out a bit higher than I like, but if it means he pushes into contact and becomes adjustable sooner into our ride then I can't really complain.
He and I have a schooling show this Saturday. We're showing First 2 and 3. I'm going to try to use this warm-up method and see how it translates in a show environment. This is our last show before the recognized in October so hopefully this new warm-up really helps me unlock that topline in a show environment. He gets today off. I'll school Thursday and do an easy hack/school Friday.