Saddled up endurance, walked to the arena, and hopped on. Harley's last ride was Friday, with a longe Thursday, and nothing for nearly a week before that.
I wasn't sure how wet the arena was under the surface, so the plan was to walk around, see how the footing responded, maybe trot. No longing to avoid the risk of a slip & slide. Besides, I was curious how the baby would respond to zero warmup after a significant break.
He walked off quietly, moderate energy. Nice. I left the reins loose, and continued the walk for 10 minutes. Up to a trot, as I noticed the ground wasn't shifting or sliding around under his hoof prints. Trot work, totally loose rein, posting, he was incredibly steady and relaxed. When Harley started lowering his head and neck, and reached his nose out, like he was searching for the bit, I shortened my reins just to contact. He reached even further into it.
Back to a loose rein, and a few down transitions on verbal and body language. The first few he blew straight through, kept on trotting. A couple tugs on the bit, and he remembered the body/verbal cues. Next few transitions were nice. A set of turns on forehand, turns on haunches, then back to trot. A few halts and a back up reminder. Still, incredibly relaxed.
I asked for trot-left, and thought, "Eh, why not. I won't know how he'll react to no warmup unless we ride the canter, too." Wrong lead. Shoot! Energetic, it took about eight strides, and a LOT of body language for the down transition. Verbal cue got me nowhere, and I had to resort to using the bit (bummer!). Three strides of trot, and he went back up into canter, correct lead. I turned him off the circle, then dumped the reins, and let him go wherever he chose. A very nice relaxed canter-left. Excellent.
A little canter-right, much like left. Without the lead blown, of course. Very relaxed. In fact, I could feel his footfalls and his legs moving, much like my last few rides on Mo.
Back to trot, which now was much more energetic. I adjusted it just by posting slower, and grinned. By now, my laughter was evident, as I was reaching all over Harley in the trot, patting and scratching, from ears to tail, one side at a time. He didn't change a bit, stayed in that steady trot all around the arena.
Success! Harley rode just like Mo does on the "easy days". No warmup, no solid collection, just going forward. The longer we rode, the more he reached down and out, searching for contact. I left the reins go, however, and let him decide for himself where to go (keeping us out of the one puddle that remains in the arena). It was an absolutely incredible 35 minutes, and from that, I've realized just how much the little guy has learned in the last year. From free longing over a few ground poles (ugly, by the way), and being anxious about anything new ... to riding out after a break, on a loose rein, without warmup.. Most excellent.