I am SUCH a lazy writer!
Trying to catch up now. I've been given two more horses to work on groundwork with and Snickers is being jealous whenever I start working with one of them before I do something with him. He comes and hangs around close to us and looks all left forever alone, so I just HAVE to come over and give him a cuddle.
Since evenings now become dark so fast, I stick to groundwork when I go to the barn after work - riding in complete darkness isn't that fun, until we get our arena floodlights set up. Actually, we needed that. Over the summer I had been riding more and let our groundwork slip a little, but now I spend more time on precision, timing, new exercises, and Snickers is really enjoying it. There's a miniature hill and a little ditch in the paddock, so I incorporate them in what we do - for example - backing up upwards or downwards the hill, doing circling game with him jumping back and forth over the ditch, etc. There's also a large log which we use to jump over or to set forelegs (or a specific foreleg) onto, and two huge willows, which are growing very close to each other and just perfect for sending Snickers to go or back up through them. I'm also using a hulahoop for Snickers to set a specific leg/legs into, to pivot without taking the legs out of the borders set by the hulahoop, to teach him how to swing it in his teeth, etc.
Yesterday I borrowed a longer (~7m) rope from a friend and tried working with Snickers from a larger distance. He backed up perfectly in the whole length of the rope and I managed to talk him into doing the circling game, using all of the rope. As soon as he understood that he's been given a whole lot more of space, he set off at a fast canter (respectfully) and that riled up the whole herd which was close by. They all started galloping and playing near to us and I decided to set Snickers free to play with them, which they did for some 10 minutes, after which Snickers came up to me all by himself and we walked off together. :)
We've been also using some poles to do serpentines around and he's been doing a good job in flexing and stretching while doing it.
As for riding, I had an instructor give me a couple of lessons in basic Dressage/schooling, as I felt I've been sort of plodding around lately. Had a wake up call to put my arms in place and my seat into action, refreshing Snickers in areas of contact and flexing laterally, and also at shortening the canter without losing the impulse. It was hard work, but worth every minute of it!
We also went on several trail walks in-hand and a couple of rides. In one of the rides we were accompanied by a friend on a nice gelding, who was a calm companion for an easy ride, and in the other I went with Snickers alone, something I hadn't done since summer, when I was slightly traumatized by Snickers being violently spooked by the sudden appearance of an ATV (possibly drunk driver and very aggressive driving!).
This time, he was a little nervous to begin with. We started the ride by going down a gravel road with a little ditch on one side and a thick hedge on the other. Some little critter jumped out of the hedge right at his hind end, he spooked and jumped the ditch before I even understood what's happening.
So I just jumped him back on the road and we went further along. As he was tensing up and tending to hurry up as soon as he thought we're going home, I just slowed him down to a walk, turned back and went on a different direction. Soon enough he understood that hurrying will get him nowhere and loosened up.
He also tried showing that he knows the drill of a trail ride - warm up at a walk, first trot, walk, second trot, less walking, canter, etc. - so when we got to the point he thought we should be cantering at last, he tried shaking his head in a very playful manner and just jumping into canter. Gave him a surprise, though, because I felt this coming and he found himself walking into contact and flexing nicely on a circle. Poor boy, nothing really went his way this time.
After a good hour we went home at last, but I made him one last surprise, by just passing the driveway to the barn and cantering him off in the forest, in a completely opposite direction. As he is not used to hurrying AWAY from home, this seemed to completely blow his mind.
Will repeat this strategy on other rides, too, it seemed to work well on him, and I ought to, too, as we've been having slight difficulties in the trails (mostly with rushing at canter) and I have been delaying addressing these problems for long enough.
Almost forgot mentioning a funny experience. Okay, it was also slightly annoying, but I'm easily annoyed by my mother.
So, mom calls a couple of days ago and wants to visit Snickers all of a sudden. No problem, of course, but turns out she has a friend with a 10yo daughter, who really, really loves horses and wants to have a ride. I don't even know that woman or her daughter! I explain that Snickers is not the best match for inexperienced kids who want to plod around the arena and, for her own safety, the kid should get a ride on one of the BO's horses. Mom gets frustrated, because it means her friend has to pay for the ride! Well, yeah, my horse isn't a free carrousel either! Then the best part comes - she had the guts to ask me why I bought Snickers in the first place, if he is not suitable for giving pony rides to random children! After a thorough explanation, she didn't really grasp the idea that he is not a tool or toy for me, and that having a horse does not oblige me to entertain others...