Aw, I'm glad Caroline! And thanks.
I think we could learn a lot from each other! I know you always make me think of things I had never considered! :)
Hahaha oh yes, I did!
One important detail that I think I forgot to mention was that they were around his neck, like necklaces, and the braided into his mane part was just to make sure they wouldn't come off if he did decide to lose it. Hanging off the side of his neck would have been too much pressure for where he's at...but soon! haha
He was tied to a sturdy tree branch high above his head, in a rope halter with a tied in lead rope - if he did lose it, there wasn't a whole lot of damage he could do and he couldn't get away from it. :)
I guess really the key is feeling how "ready" the horse is for something. For instance, he didn't like having the hula hoops going over his head the first time or two [eyes wide, nostrils flaring], so I kept doing that until he settled. He settled pretty quickly and he settled all the way down, so I moved on to leaving the hoops over his head.
If he had started moving away from me or continued to not be ok with them going over his head, I would have kept it up until he was more ok [no more moving away or some other "achievable" goal] with it but I wouldn't have left them on his neck like I did.
Mostly it's just steps. Start small, figure out what gets the absolutely smallest reaction, work on that until there's no reaction, then just keep going. "Baby steps, baby steps", to quote "What About Bob".
And I made sure that he was already sort of tired [can you ever totally tire out an Arabian?? haha] before I asked him to do any 'thinking' - that way his body was less primed to panic and more primed to eat, then sleep.
If that all makes sense? haha
There's also a junk ton of "Good BOY!!!"s involved. I try save physical praise for REALLY good work or a extremely brave move. I sort of think of touching as more of a bond-experience. Bond=survival for the horse so, in my opinion, that's probably highest level of "good job" possible. Vocal praise isn't, imo, necessarily related to a bond [oh dear, I think I have that philosophy with people too..........awwwwkward.], for me, it's related to "oh the pressure is off now"-reward.
I'm pretty sure Lacey thinks her name is "Good GIRL!!"