Yesterday the farrier came to trim their hooves, and Mac pinned his ears and threatened when I tried to halter him. I got the rope around his neck, but had managed to get his halter twisted up (it's a weird kind of one; I really need to replace it with something simpler) and the farrier had to untwist it for me while I held Mac, who was twitchy and flicking his ears nervously. I got it on him, but there were moments of...resistance.
So today I went out into the field with the halter and a plan. I petted Illusion. Mac came over to get petted. I offered the halter; he threw up his head and pinned his ears. So I swung the knot on the end of the lead at him and told him to "get on". He took a few steps, looking puzzled. I pushed him on; he swung around Illusion to get away from me, and I followed, swinging the rope. Illusion looked at both of us as if we were idiots (no comments, you in the corner!) and occasionally moved a little, but not much, as we did merry-go-round around him. Since these two squabble, I was careful not to be where Mac crowding in on Illusion to get away from me could result in a hoof-smack from either one. But I kept Mac moving, and moving, and moving.
After awhile, he turned to face me and stood while I walked up to him. I gave him a pat and a "Good boy!" and then offered the halter. He moved his head aside. I offered it again; this time he put his nose in, but as I moved to toss the halter strap over his neck so I could buckle it, he pinned his ears and laid his head sideways, ready to nip. I let the halter slide off his nose, released the neck rope, and drove him around awhile longer with the lead rope (notice--not hitting him, just moving it in a way that suggested I might). He kept trying to hide behind Illusion, who by now was ignoring both of us, and I kept him moving anyway. Finally he stopped again, facing me, and I walked up, put the rope around his neck, and gave him a pat, then offered the halter. He stood a moment, considering, then put his nose in. Cautiously (not wanting to be nipped) I pushed the strap up on the other side of his neck and brought it over. His neck stiffened, but he didn't toss his head, tilt his head, or pin his ears. I buckled the halter. Owner 1, Horse 0.
So then we went walking. His ground training was poor when I got him, and I've worked on it just about every time I've had him out. This time he did very well for awhile: starting when I said "walk on" and stopping when I said "whoa" and turning as I asked, keeping a better (though not yet perfect) position beside me. Then he started his usual creeping in, subtly invading my space. I pushed him back: he should be about an arm's length from me, his head a little ahead of mine...perfect is with the horse's shoulder by the person in charge. Mac wants to come right in and push on you, if he's beside you, or walk on your heels right behind you by first lagging and then moving in to follow. This is not polite, and it can be dangerous, besides being scary to guests who aren't used to horses. The following right behind is really dangerous, as a horse that spooks in that position can run right over the person leading. (Kuincey the spook tried to jump in my lap for security a couple of times, and 900 pounds of horse suddenly in your space is not a good thing.)
Tomorrow I'll try the evil halter again. Last time it took several days to convince him that a) it was going to happen and b) it didn't always mean the bitter medicine. He's not stupid; I'm hoping he'll behave tomorrrow...but he is, after all, a horse with little native generosity, so he may try to intimidate me again. But the improvement today was noticeable...what I want (what I've gotten with my other horses) is a horse that is happy to come, that cooperates because cooperation is rewarding for us both.
He is walking sound without booties at the moment, hopefully toughening up his inadequate soles.