I spent the day servicing my trailer. Kendall and I took out the mats, cleaned up with bleach, sprayed out the trailer, and Steve put a fresh coat of paint on the wood boards on the floor. That didn't leave a lot of time for horses as we had dinner plans. I decided to focus on Rio and get on his back to see what he's about.
Again, not a single concern with tacking up. I shimmed my pad to fill the hole in behind his withers and he seemed quite comfortable. We practiced lowering his head to the tapping on his neck and then did some ground work. He has a little trouble switching from the left eye to the right eye, a common problem for horses. He can switch from right to left unemotionally though. We played with the figure 8 until he got better about the left to right eye change. We went over things (bridge, tire pedestal, barrels). He jumped the barrels beautifully for the little horse he is! We practiced falling leaf, a good exercise for him. He was ready to ride.
We went in the round pen and I mounted up. I wasn't quite sure how he'd be, but he was perfectly still for mounting. His lateral flexion was pretty good and we got started. I'm very focused on two things with Rio: relaxation and teaching him to use his back better so he can improve his posture. We started with disengaging the hind at the walk. Then transitions. This horse can practically go bridleless! His responsiveness to my seat was a huge surprise. He knows quite a bit. We did w/t/c transitions with some halts and backups mixed in. His backup can be soft, but he has some brace there, too. We worked for a while in both directions and I would say this horse is a perfect "5" on the impulsion scale. His whoa equals his go. Very cool.
Then, I wanted to build in more relaxation so we worked on dropping his head in response to my combing the reins. It took no time at all for him to learn that the combing was timed with his lowered head and within a couple minutes he was trotting with his nose on the ground. I have to believe that felt great on his back. He was enjoying it so much, he stopped to prepare the ground to lay down! I hated to thwart that behavior - it's exactly what I was after. But sorry bud, you just can't roll when I'm on your back and you're wearing my $3k saddle. LOL
I hopped off though, took off the saddle, and tried to encourage him to roll. No dice...
Then, I wanted to teach him some catching game and "stick to me". I've noticed when I go to get him in the run, he leaves. He has no understanding of the catching game. So, we played that for a bit, first at liberty with no real success, then online. After playing a bit with that, we went back to liberty and he was starting to get it. Stick to me was working and I found a nice place to quit. He learned to move with me, at my speed, very quickly! He is a pleaser, just a very, very nice horse.
Next stop... the trail.
Note to self: Rio - so far 2.5 hours.