I've worked with him with it sooooo much.
Every time ill let him see it, smell it. Ill put it on and off till he relaxes, rub it all over him. in the end he doesn't care, lowered head and lip licking. But every day its like.starting over.
I suggest then that he's not actually relaxed at all about it at the end of the session, but just submitting to it, because somewhere along the way he's been conditioned to 'shut down' to stressful events he can't get out of. The lowered head & lip licking is usually a stress sign that shows they're close to giving up.
I would pay very close attention to his bodylanguage, his breathing and even whether or not he's grinding his teeth - some do! Some horses internalise their feelings, rather than being 'out there' about fears, so you have to take notice of the smallest bodylanguage. Then work with the saddle blanket in a less confrontational manner that doesn't push him 'over the brink'.
I grab the pad, go to put it on him. He moves away, so I send him away. After a minute stop him, he comes to me and I put the pad on, he didn't even think about moving away from it. ....
Should I keep doing that?
I don't think sending
him away from you when he's afraid is going to help him find more confidence in being close to you & your toys. But I do think having him loose while you work on it is a great idea, so he's allowed
to move away, so when you miss the subtle bodylanguage that says you're moving too fast for him, he can leave & then you'll definitely know you need to back up & slow down your approach.
Using clicker training principles can help, but if you're not practiced with using +R effectively, it may be difficult, because you don't want to reward him when he's reactive either.