The first few days:
I decided to keep the first few days calm and relaxed, going over things Boomer already knows how to do well. I groomed and saddled him, longed him, and bonded with him. John is a big part of our training process and he is a huge help with bridling Boomer. Boomer is not easy to bridle, but I don't really blame him. I think it will just take time before he accepts the bit readily and easily. I am working on him putting his head low, almost to the ground when I bridle him. Naturally, it comes right up when I get the bit in his mouth, but with time I hope he will start leaving it low for longer periods and raising it less. Eventually, the goal is to have his nose at hip height for bridling.
I have started working on yielding head and sides with Boomer, both with pressure and with the bit. He actually is a natural. First I pulled his head towards me and blew in his nostril gently (a horsey greeting) and he did not resist at all! Then I moved to the other side and had the same results! I was very happy to see that although he is overweight, he has a flexible neck. The next thing to try was what will later translate to leg yielding. I got him walking and pushed on his side just behind his elbow. He automatically stepped away with his front end! I then pushed on his side about a foot or two further back and he stepped his near back leg over his far back leg. This is a good sign because he is yielding to pressure at a walk, but he is doing so with a forward momentum. The far side (right side) also checked out with the same results.
After working with Boomer in the round pen he is usually really sweaty. I so far have been hesitant to wash him because his previous owner said that he does not like to be washed. I have seen how he reacts to fear and I'm not sure I want to see what happens with water. But, I am concerned about putting him away sweaty a few days in a row and I take my chances. My first mistake I later realized was tying him up. I looped his rope around the fence a few times and turned on the hose. He immediately reared up and started pulling back. I thought the fence would come up or he would flip backwards and break his neck. He kept pulling and rearing and eventually pulled the rope loose and ran off. I went and caught him and brought him back. This time I had John hold him and I just turned the water on to fill the trough. Once he calmed down, I turned it off. I decided we needed a new tactic.
Enter Sylvia Scott and her web site http://www.naturalhorsetraining.com/TrainingTips.html.
I took her advice on using a belly rope. A belly rope is a 20 foot length of nylon rope with a permanent loop tied in one end. The rope is secured with the end through the loop around the horses belly. It is then pulled up between the horses front legs and through the halter ring. When the horse pulls back or rears, the pressure tightens, as soon as he steps forward the pressure is released.
So, I went to Atwood's and picked up a few items, including a rope. I had John help me out and be the strength for this exercise. We decided to work with a tarp before moving to his 'real' fear. He is already sacked out to the tarp, but refuses to step on it. Last time we tried the tarp, he got very worked up and would jump over it, around it, anything but step on it. Now we are trying this new tactic and trying to keep him as calm as possible. He did pull back and rear a few times, but he also responded to the release of pressure. He stayed calm and the session was interspersed with lots of bonding with John and I both. Eventually we got two front feet on the tarp and quit at that!