Romeo and I had a little disagreement about a week ago, and my rear landed on the asphalt at the end of my dirt road. Hurt awful, but reminded me that, if I'm going to hop on him bareback, I better also work some of the edge off on a regular basis. Here's another effort at that.
Romeo and I got about 40 minutes of solid ride time in, at the arena. He's going to stick with his Western saddle for probably long-term, so I also stuffed the western bit in his mouth. He took it well, neck reined pretty solid. That needs more work - I'm in a (good) habit of leg-reining, which is great for a knowledgeable rider, but if I put a newbie up on his back, the neck reining has to be solid enough that he doesn't need leg cues to turn.
We worked out all three gaits, and only had one missed lead. He's getting a little better about keeping a light canter. Those down transitions out of it, UGH. Maybe that just comes with better muscle memory, but they're bone jarring, and awful uncomfortable. Really, his ups aren't much better. I just figure it's an "out of shape" situation.
He was easy enough to ride in all three, and easily settled into a pretty jog that'll be cute on the trails. I didn't spend any time on his brakes, because he was transitioning with just breath and a deep seat. No need to reinforce "whoa" every single ride. In fact, I was exhaling as I realized I was holding my breath, he broke to trot, and I had to reward him. My fault I was holding my breath, but funnier he was that in-tune to my exhale.
I took the lazy way out, and made him carry me back to the trailer, across the puddle-stricken pasture. He wasn't particulary happy about carrying his Momma through the deeper mud, but he didn't refuse. I rewarded by not forcing him through any cold puddles.