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|Barbi, I asked my boyfriend about suggestions for your horse since his QH was doing the same resist and test under saddle. Here is what we came up with:
I don't recall what bit you using. But we took his QH back to a D-ring snaffle, thick copper mouthpiece broken in the center with the training bars and cavesson.
But before you get back in the saddle, try a different type of groundwork. Forget lunging and any force such as in backing up action for now. Put your horse in a rope halter with the strategic knots, and a 10' marine rope with the rattler on the end (piece of leather strips).
First step to groundwork: Teach Onyx to back up without force. Simply shake the rope in front of him and jiggle the leather ends closer if he resists. Step forward and move him back without force, using only the shake of the rope. I am posting a pic here to help paint it. Practice this until Onyx easily steps back without any force from your body, just the rope signal. This picture shows my boyfriend teaching this to his QH after a scary bolt this horse did with his daughter riding, very similar to what you have described.
Second: Reward standing shoulder to shoulder. Rub his neck. No more treats. Onyx now needs to understand respect from a different perspective. The shoulder to shoulder, touching with rubbing motion, is a reward horses already know from each other, and especially from those herd companions that are considered herd companions they want to please. The dominant horse will always be the one to reach forward shoulder to shoulder, reward another horse, using their mouth to rub the neck area of this other horse. I will post a pic to follow since I seem to only be able to get one pic on each reply.
Third: Expect Onyx to follow you. Be the leader without question. Lead Onyx without force everywhere until he freely moves with you, never rushes you, turns with your shoulder... moves as one with you, but always the follower. Another pic to follow.
Fourth: Put Onyx to a test to teach trust with you. It can be a tarp on the ground held down with rocks. It can be a wooden bridge set on the ground. Pic to follow. Lead Onyx to these tests over and over again until there is no question from your horse and he freely follows in a testy situation.
These are just four workouts of others on the ground that translate to a language the horse understands. The QH is the pictures is a "general", and is also an emotional horse that cannot be taught to understand through force. But can easily learn leadership from another through "games" on the ground that put you in the leadership role over the lesser "general".
Once you get Onyx working easily through these types of workouts, then bit and tack him up, but clip on a set of long driving reins. Shorten the stirrups so you can thread the long reins through and the reins fall near the shoulder. Stand behind Onyx and drive him. Forward, stop, back up, right, left, keep practicing. You want Onyx to now understand these motions with the feel of saddle and bit, and your presence.
When you are ready to get in the saddle again, be prepared to react faster than Onyx should he have the urge to resist and speed up. At the very moment you feel Onyx resist, do not allow him to get to the speed up stage, use the one hand stop right away. No moment for him to take charge.
The QH in the pics made tremendous improvement. Every now and then on a trail ride when we reach an open field, the QH will have a resist-speed up urge. My boyfriend immediately takes him into the one hand stop, sometimes they have to spin a few circles with my boyfriend using a strong arm, but the horse always gives first. Also, as he is turning the horse, he is applying pressure on the opposite side with his heel, to move the horse off pressure and into the turn/circles.
It is interesting to watch now, I used to hold my breath, lol, now I know the pattern... there is this moment of intense chemistry between them, horse reluctantly, but strongly protests (testing), yet gives to the pressure and circles, boyfriend wins. Ride goes on as normal. When it happens, it only happens once on a ride. Seems the not so true "general" needed the challenge, but not necessary the win.
Boyfriend loves horse.
Attachment: backing up without force.jpg (Downloaded 183 times)