Thanks, NS, that's very sweet of you to say, but I do realize that, as long as I still want to ride Snicks, I HAVE to be as balanced and effective as possible, so that my riding is comfortable for him and that my cues are clear. Thus, I need to be critical of myself, I need to challenge myself, I need many lessons with good trainers and many, often hard, hours in the saddle. Currently I am trying to do lots of stirrupless riding (honestly, with Snicks it is somehow much harder to do in the saddle than just bareback!) and working on transforming my balance, which is heavily impacted by a twisted hip that I have due to hip dysplasia. It can be corrected, though, and that's an everyday battle.
As for groundwork, liberty and improving our relationship, I know that I have achieved good progress with Snicks and my main goal is just to be happy with him and to see him happy, but I'm far from the top shelves. I do have many aspects to improve in my body language and the management of my energy, and I don't yet have the mental clarity and focus that is needed to fully motivate Snicks at times. It's not that I'm not content with what we can do right now, but I still want to become a better person for my boy. :)
I am now adding little liberty sessions to each time we meet, either as the only thing we do, or before/after riding/taking a walk/trimming/etc. The day before yesterday I didn't even put a halter on him, not even once, as we went on to work at liberty straight away and he was beautifully connected, and yesterday he made me overflow with joy when he still followed me from the pastures unhaltered, even though I was leading another horse (who wasn't too keen on leaving the herd) and couldn't pay my full attention to him.
Regarding groundwork, I've recently taught him to spin at liberty! It is, for now, at a slow pace, but he has already started trotting to me after the spin, and I'm planning to start putting more energy in the spin itself, when I see that he is physically and mentally ready for it. Yesterday I also did some ground driving and used a bit, just to remind him this part of his education as well, but, honestly, I think I will give up on it altogether. The bit fits and his teeth are up to date, and my hands were light as well, but he loathes that thing SO much, although he truly is trying. We didn't do anything much, just walking, turning and a couple of large circles, but he seems genuinely set on not accepting anything in his mouth. His eyes lit up as soon as the bridle went off.
I am also currently looking into milder alternatives to my little S hackamore and will probably buy this - Gebisslose ZĂ¤umung Sun Wheel - gebisslose Zäumungen - Loesdau
I am quite certain that his favourite piece of equipment is and will be his cordeo, though. Less is more. :) But I still need a bridle of some kind when we are schooling, as I'm not good enough of a rider to tell him everything and help with balance just by my seat alone yet.