Updated: Apr 28
Well, I have to just laugh at Ranger today. No photos because I forgot my phone when I went out but the setup will be the same tomorrow so I'll do some then.
As you've seen, Ranger is doing well with putting his feet on scary stuff like cardboard and feed sacks. He is very calm about that now and enjoys being brushed while he eats. Today my plan was to add a few cones to the mix and brush him again. I put down more feed sacks and 4 cones on the sides (2 on each side).
He came right into the barn and looked at the cones - put his nose on one, realized it didn't bite, and went right to eating his grain by the hay sled. His norm is to eat the grain, then munch the hay while I brush him, with his lead rope laid over his back so he is "holding himself."
Everything was going smoothly when he decided to pull a whole big flake of hay OUT of the sled. (Usually he just takes bites off the top.) When he pulled the flake out it came apart - some fell on the sacks and some fell against his front legs (it was a BIG, crumbling flake). That scared him so he lurched back, caught his foot on one of the rubber cones, knocked it out of the barn, and then he flew backwards out the door.
Some of the other horses waiting at the gate turned and ran so Ranger thought the end of the world was upon us. But I just stood there and told him he would survive this, and he turned back and came into the barn again. He looked at the cones again and went right to eating the terrifying hay.
Then he started pawing the feed sacks to get a few morsels of spilled grain and they moved, so he backed up and kicked a bucket in the aisle, once again convincing himself that doom was at hand! By now all I could do was laugh and remind him to check his mirrors before backing up!
So he came back in a third time (3's the charm?) and ate more hay, standing on the sacks and cardboard, played with one of the cones, I brushed him just a little, and we went outside (calmly following mom) and finished brushing while he talked to Steve, my M-W-F feed helper, all while "holding himself" and just chilling.
I wish I'd had videos because what was so great about it was the RAPID reverting to calm after the storm. Those events are just as good "training" as doing it all right the first time, because what he is learning is that if something frightening occurs, he is still going to be safe. I will always stay calm, he won't get yanked or punished for being afraid, and there will be the same soothing mechanisms (brushing, petting, calm voices) no matter what the event. And it's contributing more and more to our liberty bonding - out in the field he seeks me out, follows me and enjoys just standing together. He has come a LONG way since he arrived and I'm very proud of his progress. He's a good, good boy.