I have had this 7 y/o gelding by Sock Broker for about three weeks, after I traded to gain him as a project horse. He is gorgeous, athletic, very intelligent, and possesses loads of potential, but he is scared of just about everything. From what I've been told, he has been ridden before, but with his flighty demeanor and trust issues, I would much rather start from the ground, up.
He has made great strides on the ground with leading, longing, and general comfort with me moving around him, touching him, and tacking him up. However, he still will not come to me in the open pasture. I have to trick him into coming into the barn. This usually involves leading all of the other horses into their stalls, making him think, "Oh boy! It must be feeding time again!" Not only do I not like using this "bait & switch" method, but I am sure that at one point, that he will wise up to my ways and not follow his buddies.
I am fully aware that gaining his trust may take time, as I believe that it is possible that he may have been abused at one time or another. He seems to merely be frightened, but does not fully exhibit all fight/flight responses. He is never aggressive by any means. He never kicks out, pins his ears, lunges out, or bites. He continually looks for ways to escape.
I lunged him, as I do routinely, and the last 4 sessions have been with a saddle & bridle. Yesterday, I stepped up into the stirrup about 6 times and put body weight on the saddle with no incident. Today, it was perhaps a foolhardy decision that I decided to follow the same routine, only this time I attempted to swing a leg over. He took off towards the herd. He never bucked, he just ran.
Does anyone have any suggestions for methods of training? Any specific clinicians I should look to in gaining his trust?