For about a month now I have been attempting to come up with a warmup plan that really works for Ben. Not just for shows, but for everyday work too.
I've finally got a basic plan that seems to work very well. I use the same framework everyday but with different exercises so Ben doesn't anticipate and get bored.
I wanted to write a post on it so I had a place where it was written down and I could refer to it all the time. Plus, maybe it could help some people out in their warm-ups. That would be a bonus.
I start out by getting on and walking once around the ring on a loose rein, getting a feel for him on this particular day, doing a mental check of my position, making sure I know my plans and goals for the day, checking to see what part of the ring the scary monsters are in today, checking the footing in certain places, etc.
Then I pick up a light contact and work some big, loose 20 meter circles, encouraging bend and stretch. I work on making his walk steps shorter and longer just using my seat and legs. Once he's moving off of my leg fairly well, we move on to some leg yields, still on a pretty long contact. Once he is loose over his back, bending, moving away from my leg, reaching for my hand, engaging his hindquarters, I pick up the contact gradually and walk a few more 20 to 15 meter circles on the new contact. We do some walk-halt transitions in different places to get him listening and his back end up underneath him.
Then we start making smaller 10 meter circles and start with some leg yield head to the wall and leg yield haunches to the wall to get him prepped for the more advanced lateral work. When the leg yields are going well, we move into shoulder-in, counter shoulder-in, renvers, travers. We try to do this twice in each direction. I get lazy a lot, and just do all of the lateral movements against the rail. When I do them in the middle of the ring, however, it improves his straightness so much.
Once we are doing that stuff well, I move back out to bigger circles and start posting trot. At this point, I'm asking him to be in a long and low frame. But still, he's in a frame, unlike in the beginning of our walk work.
So I do lots of circles and some trot lengthenings, just to get him thinking forward and establishing our half-halts. We also do some trot-walk-halt-trot-halt-walk-trot transitions. Then I start to ask him for a rounder frame and to put himself together more, and I sit the trot. Then we make smaller circles and work on the trot exercises I planned on for that day. I try to stick to my plan, but if I discover something that we need to address right then and there, I will tweak my plans to work on that.
Some of the exercises I'm a big fan of:
-Serpentines. 3 and 4 loop. Sometimes all at the trot, sometimes with voltes on the loops, sometimes with transitions over the centerline (either walk or halt), or sometimes with voltes and transitions. I love them because of the bending and straightening required. Doing the voltes really helps you to work out your crookedness before you have to be straight on the short sides.
-Loops. Such as from F to X to M and from H to X to K. Just like the serpentines, I will do these straightforward or with voltes. One in the corner before the turn to X. One the opposite direction once you get to X. Then another in the corner at the end of your loop in the same direction as the first circle. Love this exercise.
-Leg yielding with voltes. You start on the track in the corner, leg yield off of your outside leg, make a circle, leg yield, make a circle, leg yield, make a circle, until you are at the opposite corner.
At this point I'll also play around with shoulder-in, renvers, travers at the trot a bit.
Then I'll give him a walk break before I work in the canter.
I like leg yielding in the canter a lot. It requires a lot of balance and a nice quiet rhythm which is really good for Ben. Doing a half circle and countercantering to the end of the ring is a great balancer for Ben, although it would probably not be my exercise of choice at a show, because we haven't quite perfected it yet. Walk-canter-walk is really good for getting their butts up underneath them and getting a nice, powerful canter, although, again, wouldn't choose this for a show because it makes Ben cranky.
I usually choose two trot exercises and one canter exercise per schooling session. At that point he's going really well and would be more than ready to put in a really nice test. However, how he goes at home with this method is, I am sure, going to be completelty different from how he acts at a show with this method. I think it is a good start and when we get home this weekend, I will re-evaluate and see what needs work.