Magic has already been broke, but is an extremely spooky, jumpy horse. I actually had to move him out of his pen on Saturday when Stable Boy was doing some work by the barn. The other horses were watching calmly, but Magic was freaking out so badly, I was afraid if I didn't move him that he would try to go over the fence.
My goal with Magic is to help him learn to relax and be a safer, calmer horse to be around. To accomplish this, I've been treating him like I would any other horse that comes here to be started. It's clear that someone has taught him to respond to cues, so teaching him the exercises is not difficult. The difficult part is keeping him from over reacting to the cues and convincing him to be relaxed when asked to do something.
One of the things I've done with him is to teach him to lower his head. I do this between almost every exercise simply by applying feather-light pressure (increase as needed in phases) with my thumb and forefinger at his poll.
I've never seen a horse go through a spooking fit while there head is down in a relaxed position. Their head always goes sky high when they spook. Also, they tend to have a hard, glassy look to their eyes.
Even though Magic typically jerks his head right back up as soon as I release poll pressure, for that fraction of a second while his head is down, I see a softening in his eye. I also feel that even though his head goes back up, it doesn't go quite as high as it used to.
Some horses come here more to learn skills and exercises. With Magic, I am using the exercises to teach him to use the thinking side of his brain instead of just freaking out about everything. Friday was Magic's 10th day of groundwork. It was also the first day that he has shown a full true sign of submission and trust by voluntarily lowering his head to about the level of my waist when I invited him in. I was thrilled!
I had been working with him for about an hour fifteen minutes at that point and still had a few exercises left on my list of things I wanted to do with him. Though it was tempting to keep going so I could have my list fully checked off, I reminded myself that this relaxation was what I really wanted him to learn. I had to keep my main goal in mind.
Since horses learn by the release of pressure, I immediately took him back to his pen and tied him up. I was rewarded later when I went to untie him with another first--when I walked up to his side, he only raised his head slightly instead of reaching for the sky.
Now we have a starting point, so I'm hoping for some more progress this week. We'll see. Magic is so unpredictable and extreme, it's likely he always be somewhat spooky, but hopefully I can help him modify his behavior so that he is more safe to be around.
Safety Note: If you want to teach your horse to lower his head by applying pressure at the poll, be aware that when you first try this, it's likely they will throw their head about. Keeping your other hand lightly on the side of their halter will help prevent them from smacking you in the face with their head. Once they understand, you probably won't need to hang onto their halter.