I took advantage of the blustery day today and saddled up and headed to the woods. The sound of wind through drying trees makes the woods a lot scarier than they are when they're quiet (Thank you, Captain Obvious) so if that was the biggest problem yesterday that made the difference between walking calmly through a 100 foot path and freaking the heck out, we needed to try and re-create that situation, removing the 30 second timer and working through things thoroughly. Junior grew a hand when we were out and he gave me lots to work with, including when he refused to go any further and we got to have the same type of moment we had when he refused to go further into the woods yesterday. We happened to be along the driveway when he refused so I definitely knew it was disobedience more than real terror. I was able to work him until he went past the spot, but it took us a while to get very far as he insisted on playing the same game every 5-10 feet. He did give up on heading for home, but when we got to the bottom of the trail loops and turned for home he tried to trot home so we took some time convincing him he wasn't allowed to do that.
Then I REALLY tortured him by making him do the creek crossings several times. We even got to do a deer spook and had to keep traveling around the spot the deer jumped up from until that was tolerable. Then I REALLY REALLY tortured him by making him go into a very muddy and deeply standing water spot. You know the kind where if you stepped in with a boot you'd probably step out without it? The kind that pulls shoes off... the scary kind. We were not wearing shoes and his instinct was to stay the hell out of that kind of mud but I made him do it and stand in it, shaking, until he sighed and I let him walk out... and then made him walk back through which he did on a moderately loose rein, licking his lips.
I ended up with a calm and content looking horse who stood nicely for me to rub him down well and pick his feet. He was rewarded with a nice thick flake of Timothy hay so I think we had a very productive day. We ended calmly and were rewarded with yummies.
I have to admit that when he refuses like that and spins around and does mini-rearings I get a little nervous, but it seems we are finding a language that doesn't make him MORE upset and eventually he gives in. His protests are heard and then patiently and kindly overruled. I think he is working through his fears and trusting me more and more, just as I'm trusting him more and more.
Such a better day than yesterday. :)