Gradually, he has come to view the halter as a welcome thing -- it usually means he is going to hand graze or go to the barn, out of stormy weather. And, he's gotten better with me touching his shoulder. He no longer flinches, or even tenses, when I rest my hand there and give him a friendly scratch.
In fact, at times, he seems to welcome and look for that part of the greeting. We have been working some more at liberty and he is fine with me resting my hand on his neck as we walk along. I do it to maintain my space, so I don't get stepped on, but he seems to view it as a friendly thing. When I go into the pasture, he leaves Flash and comes to me. We walk all over the pasture, side by side, with him following me in circles and bendy loops -- the way you do with a dog at heel. Except he is completely at liberty. No halter, no lead rope, he can leave whenever he's done. Recently, we've added backing up to our repertoire. Again, standing at his shoulder, I take an exaggerated step backwards. He matches. I usually am "done" with our playtime before he is. I don't think he has ever left. Brett says he follows me like a dog.
The horses are in the barn at the moment, as we have a series of rain systems moving through our area this entire week. Yesterday evening, I mucked out all the stalls and run-outs when I got home from work. Brett was gone, meeting a semi on the main road, to get his new log splitter. The horses all ignore me, to some degree, while I pick up the manure. Lucy demands attention, but the others are uninterested. Tex usually stands at the far end of his run-out, watching me from a distance.
Not last night. He was at the back gate to his run-out when I went in with the muck cart. Instead of moving to the stall end of his area, when I finished and was walking back to the gate with the cart, he stood, at an angle, facing me and blocking the gate. I was sure he would move as I got closer. He didn't. I stepped closer to him and touched his shoulder. He turned and looked at me. I scratched the spot just behind his withers where you so often see horses grooming each other. His lower lip twitched in enjoyment. When I stopped, he licked and chewed; a nice release. And he didn't move. I rubbed his back. Then I rubbed his butt, thinking he would move for sure. Nope. There was more chin twitching, with him leaning into me. Then another release.
I still had Flash's area to clean and it was getting late. I walked to the right side of Tex. He hates having people on his right side. He tensed a tad but he didn't move. Seriously? A massage on this side too? Yes, that was exactly what he wanted.
I was finally able to move him out of the way, after a thorough massage on the right side. I guess he's figured out that I'm a positive thing to have in his life. I don't bring pressure and pain; I bring positive reinforcement, gratitude and kindness. And, after a year of offering him that consistent intent, he has decided to fully trust me.
What a gift.