We've been continuing our ground work and I am feeling very good about it.
We had a very rewarding session early on in the week where we worked on the circling game, and he was much more relaxed. He is rushing less, and maintaining better, which is lovely to see. He's getting a bit clever and trying to guess what I'm going to ask of him before I get to asking it, so it's a little tricky! I have to make sure I try and change up the game a little and keep him guessing. One of his favourite tricks is stopping with his front feet over any and every pole. I've had to work on this to make sure that he isn't doing things I'm not asking. To try and rectify it, I decided it was time to up the ante. It took a few minutes to get the result, but as you can see above, we managed to work out how to stop with left feet on one side and right feet on the other!
Mid week he was far more tense. He came up and was finding it hard to focus. Everything was a bit scary, and when he managed to zap his nose on the electric, that was the end of any fruitful work for the night. He managed some good circling in trot, but was by no means relaxed.
Yesterday I had a water issue to deal with! Not my favourite sight...
On Thursday it was lovely and quiet, and Rio was much calmer. I decided that I would change things up a little and ride. He was much more relaxed outside his stable, where he usually fidgets and stresses - this may have been because Franks was in his stable 3 doors down, but even when Sarah took him away to go back to his field, Rio wasn't spinning, calling or fidgeting like normal. I opted to take him out to the ramp to mount as that's where I used to get on before he moved stables, and I know he is more comfortable there. I wanted to keep it as stress free as possible. He stood beautifully, waited to be asked to move off, and listened when I told him it was OK to walk past the scary rubbish skip.
We stuck to walking, but focussed on getting an attentive, good quality walk, with a bit of roundness. It wasn't 100% but I was happy with his efforts. Especially considering he's not been asked to come down and round for some time, and that it had been a week since I'd been in the saddle again. He was fairly relaxed, and it didn't take too long for him to blow out, confirming he was more settled.
This evening we just had a small groundwork session in the field. We played some friendly game, including swinging the carrot stick around our heads, and although he took a few steps, I was able to disengage him very easily and continue. We moved on to the circling game, and it was the best he's done yet. He kept up a perfect rhythmical trot, and despite a few excitable frolicking strides of canter he was very well behaved. He even picked up a fantastic collected canter on the right rein, which he impressively maintained around me for a circle without losing his footing! This is progress. His balance appears to be much improved, which I'm hoping will also go towards building his confidence.
All in all, I couldn't be happier with my boy. He's my absolute superstar. To round it off, he's getting more comfortable with me rubbing his head between his eyes, which he has never ever been very comfortable with. Hopefully soon he will accept it as a form of affection instead of seeing it as a bad thing!