Beginning at the Beginning...help!
Hi all! I'm new to the forum (just joined today!), but not entirely new to horses. I rode a bit in high school (mainly just exercised a 14-year-old paint mare for my grandma's neighbor and trail rode with a vet tech I worked with on her horses) and for the last two years I have worked with a friend at the stable she is leasing, helping her train and exercise her horses (mostly arabs, arab crosses and a thoroughbred thrown in the mix). I retrained one of the horses, an eight-year-old arab/saddlebred gelding whose owners had allowed him to get away with everything and had also abused him a bit (long story there), working him back from the ground up. I taught him how to lunge (didn't know how to lunge in a round pen or on a line), I taught him voice commands, I taught him ground manners, and basically got him to the point that he could be used as an off-lead, bareback lesson horse for an eight-year-old little girl who had been thrown from a horse and was terrified of horses because of it. I also helped my friend lunge/exercise her flighty five-year-old arab mare who had a neck injury that caused some serious neurological damage (she's rideable, but only just).
ANYWAY, none of this experience has prepared me for what I've just taken on. I just bought a two-year-old Percheron/spotted draft cross stud colt who has not had much in the way of training in the past two years (when I say "hasn't had much," I mean he was just barely halter trained). He has basically been spoiled by all the ladies who board their horses at the stable where he is now. He had the horrible habit of biting (not mean biting, just curious baby biting...he was taken off his dam and the herd WAY too early and apparently never learned what was acceptable and what wasn't), but I've almost completely broken him of that. Now he only does it if he thinks I'm not paying attention or with newer people, but I don't let him get away with it (this was a bad habit the eight-year-old gelding had that I broke him of, so I know how to handle it). He was barely halter broke and balked at putting on the halter the first time I tried, but after I got it on him, he was actually very good. He is one of the most level-headed horses I have ever met, especially considering he's a two-year-old stud (don't worry...he's going to be gelded in the next three months...it's in my purchase contract and the guy who sold him to me is having it done for free from one of our local vets). He does not spook very easily (his stall is next to the road, so he's used to traffic, horses riding by, kids on bikes, dogs, etc) and he is willing to try anything if I'm willing to lead him (calmly, of course). He even went into the giant tack room that occupies the front half of the main barn, which most horses won't do (you have to go through the giant tack room to get to the stalls at the back of the barn...kind of difficult to explain, really).
Anyway, we've already passed a couple milestones since Friday when I purchased him. The first is that we have officially gained a good, consistent stop and stand while leading. This may not sound like much, but when you have a 15.2hh, 1000+lbs horse crowding up on your shoulder when you stop, or just simply keeping on walking, an actual stop is an amazing thing! Now he walks just off my right shoulder (far enough away that he's not crowding me) on a loose lead and stops the second I do. He also stands quietly without shuffling or moving until I start walking again. The second milestone we passed was that he stood tied for the first time EVER today. His lead rope was looped around the hitching rail, not actually tied, and it was only for a few minutes, but I was able to walk five or six feet away and lean against the next hitching rail over without him following me...at first. After a few minutes of watching me, he realized I wasn't going to walk back any time soon and tried to come to me (he's a huge pocket pony, really). The rope tightened slightly and as soon as he felt the pressure, he stepped back to his original position and looked at me like "Okay, now what?" He did great until I went to unwrap his lead rope from the hitching rail. When I started to lift it up, that somehow spooked him a little bit, but his spook consisted of throwing him head up about 6" and taking two small steps backward. I think that's the most I've seen him spook at anything, even walking into the tack room.
Okay, so the leading and the tying are things I had to work on with the eight-year-old gelding I worked with, so I've got those down. However, our biggest hurdle right now is lifting and holding his feet for the farrier. He really needs to have his feet done, but right now he doesn't like them messed with. He is willing enough to pick them up (all I have to do is grab his hairy fetlock and pull up gently while leaning against his shoulder or flank and up the foot comes), but he HATES having them held. Yesterday when I worked on it, he was fine until I got to his left hind (started with his left fore, then worked my way around clockwise, so his left hind was the last). When I got to his left hind, he was thoroughly pissed off and came fairly close to kicking me. Is this something that I just need to keep working on every day or is there something else I can try? I have to have someone helping me right now as he doesn't tie completely yet and he tries to reach around and bite my bum when he's had enough (which is pretty much from the get-go), so someone has to hold his head so he can't reach around on me and catch my pants in his teeth. I don't want him to be one of those horses that thinks he gets a treat for everything he does (the eight-year-old gelding was like that), but I'm not against giving him treats if appropriate (just not all the time).
I know I'll have more questions as we progress, but that's it for now. If you've stayed with me through this whole long thing, here's a virtual cookie! Thanks so much for any advice and I hope to learn a lot while I'm here. :)