I finally got out to ride Boomer! He still looks good, healthy, and in good weight. He is happy and seems calmer and more relaxed. He is still pulling back, but the Be Nice halter seems to be making him think about it.
We went out for a ride and I rode a cute buckskin paint named Bucket and Kelly rode Boomer. We were out for over 2 hours and we switched horses about halfway. One thing she did differently is when he would 'booger' at something, she would make him walk right up to it and touch it or walk over it. She explained to me that he 'avoids' these issues by looking away any ignoring the scary thing in front of him. That is why she makes him touch it with his nose. Because he HAS to look at it to touch it and once he does that he loses his fear and will walk all over whatever it is that used to be scary. Like this rock:
He had never seen this rock before and after spooking at it, she made him touch it, then he voluntarily put his hoof on it and the he just hopped up and crossed it! She had him cross it a few more times so I could get a good picture. She did the same thing with a patch of concrete and a tire he looked at funny. He would avoid and prance around the thing but she kept him moving forward and used the reins to make him look right at the object.
He doesn't look around and worry as much on the trail and Kelly even stopped him to gather and move some fallen branches. She has taught him two new voice commands 'stand' and 'easy'. She uses 'woah' to stop, and 'stand' to cock his leg and wait a while. I was so shocked at how quietly and easily he stands now. We could stop and talk or readjust my stirrups, whatever. He just stands now. She said that at first he would prance around and toss his head, but pretty quickly figured out how much easier it is to just stand. She uses 'easy' and bumps him with the bit when going downhill to make him take baby steps and look where he is going.
I was so impressed that he seems to really pay attention to where he is headed instead of worrying all of the time. She took us on trails that she mostly hadn't taken him on before to show me how to handle him if he got worried, which he didn't, so she talked me through how to handle him once he tests me back home.
We switched horses and it did feel so good to be back on him. I didn't know how much I had missed riding him. He was in a shanked bit (sort of like a tom thumb, but with better shanks that don't pinch) with a curb chain and was not wearing a martingale. He traveled with his head and neck so much lower and relaxed. You can really tell the difference in how he carries himself in this picture:
He was great going up or down hills. He really slows down and picks his way through the downhill and I actually felt safe on him.
This is us going downhill into the creek bed:
We also did a ton of creek crossings and I was so impressed with him. He went right in like it was no problem. Kelly said that they had spent a lot of time in the creek the last few weeks. Here was the highlight of the ride for me:
He went in that deep, not be cause he had to, but because I asked him to! I was so happy, as you can see from the goofy grin on my face!
We rode along the road and went to the neighbors house and saw a new pony and talked to the neighbor. Boomer cocked his leg and stood like a pro. I was so proud of him. I could take my legs out of the stirrups and stretch and he didn't even flinch.
After we rode home, Kelly had me turn around and leave and told me to ride around and come back. So, I left and he didn't even fight. He did keep looking over his shoulder back home so I bumped his mouth to get his head straightened out a few times and kind of growled at him to get along and he was fine after that. We rode for another 15 minutes alone and did a few trails and the came back along the road. He looked at a tree stump, so I made him look at it, touch it, and step on it. The more bossy and aggressive I got, the more serious he got about actually looking at it. We also encountered a cat along the way and he was great for that too. I actually felt in control the whole ride. He went where I pointed, even if it was icky footing or stepping over sticks/rocks. He didn't tug on the reins or try to go his own pace. He wasn't freaking out about everything he saw. He was fun to ride.
Boomer will be at the trainers for another 2 weeks and then we will pick him up. I am really excited about him again. Today was a great day and I am so glad that I was able to get him somewhere where he would get some real training and see some serious improvement.