It's very difficult to get a cold backed horse to come nicely to the contact. First off, a cold backed horse can have a "cold back" even in the tropics. If the back is tight and the horse has the tendency to buck when you begin to ride, it's considered "cold backed." I've never dealt with an actual cold backed horse, but I do have horses that react to the cold temperatures and become cold backed in the winter. Junior, is not what I consider a temperature driven, cold backed horse. It can be well below zero and he feels just the same as when it's 90 degrees. Wheels, on the other hand, feels like butter in the summer and a board in the winter. If there was ever a horse that truly needed to go to Florida in the winter, it's him. When it's cold and especially if the horses are forced to remain indoors because of ice or whatnot, I need to put him on the longe. The lunging might go either way...some days he can't move hardly at all and other days, his tail is tight between his butt cheeks and he kicks violently out to the right. He's not being wild or misbehaving, his back just needs to work itself out. Like I said in my previous post about longing, Wheels gets special privileges and is allowed to do what his body needs to do.
Once the body is moving better on the longe (I may or may not use side reins...today I did not), I go ahead and mount up. I always use a quarter sheet if the temps are below 25 degrees. I may or may not remove it during my ride, but it stays in place most of the time. The other issue the Wheels presents me with, especially during his "cold backed" days is a very inconsistent contact with the bridle. He's very busy with the contact, which, in turn, leaves me with little control over the shoulders. He tends to have rapid bursts of energy which send him roaring down the long sides on occasion...often with a helicoptering of the head. I have found the best remedy for any horse with inconsistent contact is to bridge my reins and go very forward in all 3 gaits. Bridging the reins allows me to be very still with my hands and I am not tempted to try and fix the neck's squirmy behavior. I simply keep my hand steady and firm, but sympathetic at the same time, and ride very energetically forward. If the horse is playful, so be it. If the horse is spooky, best to have your reins bridged anyway since it will encourage the horse to spook straight and it gives you better balance.
Interestingly, Flagg is very similar to Wheels in his behavior with his connection and contact. Curious if this is a Regazzoni thing since they have so many similarities. It will be interesting to see if Tilly exhibits the same tendencies once she's started under saddle in the next few months. I'll keep you posted!