Yesterday, I haltered Rags and put him through some groundwork exercises, including walking between poles, then over poles, then turning 360 degrees inside a square, and so on. Tigger was a bit intrusive, walking right behind Rags sniffing his butt or walking behind/ beside where he could bump Rags with his nose in the flank. After noticing increasing signs of maybe-jealousy, and slightly less aversion to being touched, I tested this by walking back to Tigger after taking the halter off Rags. “Are you lonesome? Do you want to do some work with me too?” He stood still and his face ‘softened,’ ears more forward. “Well, here’s the halter…do you want to put it on?” The tiniest drop of the nose toward the halter. I held it open for him and he put his nose in. Without the lead rope even over his neck, let along around it. No pulling back at all. I fastened the halter, talking to him…didn’t have any treats with me, this was pure horse & human signalling. Picked up the dangling lead rope and said “OK, then, walk on.” He walked with me quietly and–judging by ears and eyes–happily. Walk, whoa, back, walk on, turn right (gee) and left (haw) –he remembers those voice commands. Walked over a slightly raised pole, walked into the square and rotated around. No tension in him, just calm cooperation. I kept it short, praised him, and dared to offer a little petting, which he accepted–stroked his neck, shoulder, and some of his back. No twitching or jerking. Then I let him go.
This morning I went out with the halter and some treats. He was farther away but started coming toward me before Rags did, confidently; they got to me at about the same time. I talked to Tigger: “Would you rather be first?” I offered a treat; he ate it. I slipped the rope over his head this time, he put his nose into the halter when I held it for him, and I fastened it up. We did a few more things; I was aiming for calm, relaxed, happy in his body language and expression. Rags came along but (since Tig is the alpha) didn’t try to bug him. No flank or butt sniffing. Tigger got more stroking of his head, neck, shoulder, withers, and body than the day before, then I turned him loose. Then it was Rags’s turn, and Rags was in a careless-clumsy mode (“I know this stuff, no reason to worry”) but if he stepped on a pole, or hit the higher pole, we did that one again until he didn’t. Tigger watched us without interfering. He wants to be first. Even when it’s being haltered and asked to do stuff, he wants to be first. He wants my attention and (from observation) he’s watched Rags getting the petting, the hugs, the attention and time-with-human, but…he’s still anxious. I’ll be sure he gets it, and gets it first, even if I need to give Rags more because of riding. (Which I’m not doing right now for Reasons.) Later, he tolerated touch when he wasn’t haltered.
Happy about this. I had hoped that since he bonded to Rags, and saw Rags getting attention and petting that Rags clearly enjoyed, he’d realize it could be pleasant.
This evening, the air’s dry enough that static electricity was making his tail fan out a lot at the bottom…I didn’t have a camera; it was feeding time, but it was something to see.