End result - excellent! But the truth is, I was really worried about being successful.
Frankly, I was able to buy Sydney cheaply because he had baggage. I don't know exactly what size his luggage is or whether it's an indestructible Samsonite, soft-sided, or just a small carry-on. I do know that he was bred and raced in New Zealand and then exported to the USA, which isn't cheap. Someone got him his Hunter/Jumper card thing which also means someone was spending big bucks on showing and trainers. Neither thing, racing or jumping, worked out for him, so he slowly made his way to the barn of Debbie Davis, re-homer of the can't quite make it where they were.
Why didn't Sydney make it on the track or as a hunter/jumper? Was he simply too slow, too clumsy, or was it something more insidious? Was he untrainable? Too sensitive and anxious? I tend to gravitate toward the no one really wants 'em kind of horses. I've had hot ones, wild ones, and even one that tried to kill me. [That was Speedy G - and he really did try!] In the end, they've all turned out to be really great horses that garnered a great deal of respect.
Each time I start a new one, I go through a period of buyer's remorse. I think, holy crap! What have I done? There's no way I can make this one work. And each time, I figured the pony out and was honored to have him or her in my life. Right now, I'm there with Sydney. I keep reminding myself that it's been less than a year and we are making progress. But every time I lick one issue, two more crop up. This haltering thing was just one more in a line. Take a number and all that.
When I woke up on Sunday morning, how to fix it consumed me. I thought about it long and hard but was overwhelmed with feelings of doubt and fear. What if it just gets worse, and I can't resolve it? And there it was, the root of all my anxiety, especially the issue we worked on at our lesson. What if I don't have the skills to deal with Sydney's baggage? What if he's untrainable? What if I get hurt?
Meet my new elephant. His name is What If. Unfortunately, he's lived at my barn before, so I know him well. I kicked him out a couple of years ago, but you know how these freeloaders are. They sneak back in while you're not paying attention.
So dealing with the halter thing was a big deal. And when I solved it, even if just for one day, I felt some of my confidence return. Sydney is teachable!
I didn't do anything special. I just used what I know. I started in the outside run of his stall and asked him to lower his head by pulling steadily on his lead rope. Once he lowered his head, I gave a good boy. Next, I gently rocked his head toward me. More good boys. Then I wrapped the lead rope around his neck and repeated the first two exercises. Downward pressure, sideways rocking. I loosened the halter and moved as though I was going to "release" him. As I knew he would, Sydney tried to jerk away. I was hip to his game and caught him smartly, and sharply, with the rope. The halter was back on before he knew what had happened. And I will say he had a mildly surprised expression on his face. Something like, what the hell just happened?
I love that look because it says a lot about a horse's ability to follow the rules. There was no pinning of the ears or swishing of the tail, gestures that say, screw you, lady! Instead, just surprise. I repeated the process again, and was rewarded with a pony whose feet were bolted to the ground. He was rewarded with a small cookie and lots of very good boys!
I gave Sydney a break while I did some other chores and then we moved the lesson to the arena. No bolting, jerking, or other shenanigans. Just a pony who seemed happy with the rules more clearly defined. I think that as long as I insist on a lowered head and a nose bent to me, we'll have no repeats of the jerk to be free maneuver.
Mr. What If, would you kindly remove your over-sized butt and get the hell out of my barn? You are decidedly not welcome here.