Getting him to work better
Alright, so I have finally come up with something that really works, as far as Ice and working goes. Pretty much now any time I want to touch him, other than leading him out and back into his stall, the first thing I do is ground work (even for grooming). A few circles in each direction of walk and trot, and then he comes into the center to do whatever needs to be done, which he behaves and sits still for, or he do a few more circles at a trot. Lots of relaxation going on, licking and chewing, today while we were tacking up he even let himself drop (he's such a bad pony--we were nowhere near my excalibur!) until we went to girth up, and even that was uneventful. One nasty look and a very loud "NO SIR" and slap on the chest, and he was done...we even went to re-tighten the girth a few moments later and got nothing from him.
I've learned that he doesn't particularly enjoy having his face touched as a greeting, but if I go and pat his shoulder and his neck first, he seems to accept that, and then he doesn't flinch or pin his ears when I go to touch his face to wipe eye goop away or shoo flies or whatever. Some days he looks fat, and some days he doesn't--I am basically out of rice bran though, so until I get another job I think I'm going to up his beet pulp. Today I even went into his stall, actually went in to take his halter off, and although he kind of shut down and got glassy eyed, he didn't attack me either, lol.
My question is really more about riding, though. Well, its a couple of questions. The first one is pretty straight forward--since I plan on ground driving him before backing him, so I can build up his topline a little bit and maybe encourage him to put his head down, can I use a hackamore? I'm thinking generally no, even though he does seem to do okay with semi-direct reining under saddle, I wouldn't be able to do that while driving. I was thinking of getting one of those "indian hackamores" (I believe Wallaby has one) that use sort of slip loop type thing, which would be better for direct reining. Putting a bit in his mouth is just a straight no-go in case you're new to Ice, he gets way too stressed out no matter what kind of thickness, mouthpiece, or any extra coating (copper, rubber, etc) and doesn't pay attention. The second question is, today I noticed that, while he is very comfortable physically carrying someone at a walk (although his tail was a little bit raised, he was carrying his neck very nicely and not at all hollow in the back) he is not comfortable at all carrying someone at a trot...It could have been a combination of things, because there were a lot of things wrong this morning, but overall he just isn't comfortable. He's been seen by a chiropractor recently, we finally got one to come out, and his back is still fine, he just has a bump over his right hip bone, its not a misalignment, she basically just equated it to when a persons leg is longer than the other. I do have a video, but I won't post it unless a couple people ask, it really was just a terrible example of riding (although not my riding). So, other than trotting poles and lots of directional changes, anything I can do to get him working under himself and get his head down and his back a little more leveled out?