After Tex's big meltdown last week, I started introducing a new skill to him. A skill that he could master, and one that would make him feel both more confident and more comfortable.
I am teaching Tex to lower his head when I touch him between the ears. When horses are worried, anxious and on alert their heads are held high; their necks taut and their nostrils flaring. In contrast, when they are relaxed, their heads droop a bit and their necks have a soft arch. Asking a horse to lower his head not only makes it easier to halter, or bridle - it sends a message: "relax."
Tex already lowers his head for the halter. I hold it, hanging, in front and below his nose until he drops towards it and then I slide it over his muzzle. It's a smooth, easy, relaxed transition. But, with the fly mask his head is always high.
Since this is Tex, afterall, I started with baby steps. After the halter was on, I rested my hand between his ears until he dropped his head. At first it was just an inch, but he got a "good boy" and a cookie for the try. Each time I worked with him, I asked, and each time he dropped his head a bit further. Now, he is dropping it almost level to his chest and not jerking it back up immediately afterwards.
A few days ago, I added asking him to drop his head for the fly mask. Initially, his head didn't stay low long enough to get the fly mask on but it was a start. Monday morning, he kept it low while I slipped it over his ears. The air was cool and he had been playing a few minutes earlier -- running, and striking at the air, hoping Flash would join him (he didn't). I thought he might be too wound up to relax for me.
It just goes to show that you can't predict their behavior. Tex was happy and frisky, but he wasn't worried. He lowered his head and I slipped on the fly mask.
Later that day, Brett's daughter and her family stopped by for a visit on their way home to Washington. Of course, the grandkids wanted to visit with all the animals. After giving the goats some Cheerios, they wandered into the bigger pasture. Flash came over to investigate Harrison. Tex cam over to investigate the Cheerios. Brett said Tex tried a few, and then stuck around for more -- even accepting Brett's stroking of his face.
I think grandchildren must be magic. I know these ones are.