I trot on a loose rein around a few times, get him into a very forward trot, then pick him up for a bit, then ride him long and low again, pick up, low, pick up, low. We do serpentines and leg yields and some extensions across the diagonal while doing this. Then we canter some big, loose circles on longer reins, do some lead changes, come back to trot and collect up for some shoulder-ins, renvers, travers, half-passes, small circles, walk/trot transitions, etc. And then he feels fancy and happy and ready to get into competition frame and really work. I can feel his whole body change and everything is supple and free and all the angles have been stretched. His trot gets more suspension and extension naturally, he is quick on the aids, completely focused and excited. His "I'm ready!" is unmistakeable.
What you're doing sounds good. One thing that helps my horse when he is tight is riding super loosely, getting real momentum, and riding lots and lots of circles - big and small - all over the place. Make sure he's bending correctly and not throwing his shoulders and ass everywhere. Be a crazy lady and make your body like spaghetti. Sing a song. He becomes more relaxed and looser from this. Also, saddle fit can be a huge help for some horses. You can try different kinds to see if you get his back happier. There are some saddles my horse loves to round into and others that make him run around with his neck up and back hollow.
Last edited by plomme; 03-17-2013 at 08:47 PM.