Oberon is, we're pretty sure, part goat... and part mule.
We knew when we got him that he could be hard to persuade to do certain things. If he didn't want to go near an object, he'd simply plant his feet and refuse to move. No amount of kicking or smacking him with a bat (bats made and impressive sound at least, dressage whips don't phase him at all) could get him to move. And those Natural Horsemanship games where you "annoy" the horse enough so that he moves his feet? Yeah. Oberon doesn't annoy easily, if at all.
But still, he was good when we needed for it to count. He's not afraid of armor and is a jousting wonder pony. He foxhunts, he jumps. We could put up with his oddities.
Unfortunately, we've had to get rather creative to work through them.
Although he's boss in the pasture (yes, Red lost his status), he REFUSES to lead on a trail ride. Red happily strides out all day long, feerlessly passing bikers, dogs, horse-eating rabbits, and other terrifying things. If we ask Oberon to lead, he stops dead when he gets literally one step past Red. Usually he'll then start backing up, as this is his favorite mode of evasion. Hubby has learned to smack, kick, and move his head left-to-right, to keep his feet moving. If this doesn't work, we turn him around and BACK HIM UP down the trail, in the direction he doesn't want to go. Since his evasion is to back, this actually works pretty well.
Let's just say Oberon's done a lot of backing in the last few months. A LOT of backing. Hubby will back him past whatever he refuses to go past. Initially he'd have to back him 20 feet down the trail, but now it's to the point where a few smacks and kicks usually gets him going. Brat.
You never know when this ugly tendency is going to rear its head. For example, Oberon's always been a good loader. You toss the lead over his neck, walk him up the ramp, and in he goes. Self-loading. Love it. Until last weekend... when he decided he ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT going to get within 20 feet of the trailer. I wasn't there, but I understand it was quite a show. He reared, he backed. He snorted. He reared some more. He wouldn't put a foot on the ramp. Finally, after 15 minutes of antics, with one person pulling on his lead and the other tapping him on the butt, he loaded himself right in. BRAT.
The funny thing was, he wasn't afraid. He's been in this trailer once or twice a week for the last year. Nothing had changed, he simply didn't want to get in. The only thing we can figure is that it was on the way home after a 3-hour haul there, and he didn't have a buddy. We almost always haul 2 horses, so maybe he was objecting to hauling solo? Who knows. Regardless, it's unacceptable behavior.
Another lovely habit that Oberon came to us with is that he likes to set back, break his halter/lead/tie point, and wander off. We've watched him do it any number of times - he'll simply be standing there one moment by himself, and then he'll pull back until something snaps, wander off 5 feet, and start to graze. He's broken two halters, half-a-dozen leads, and the tie point on the side of the trailer (&^$!). Clearly he's learned over the years that he's big and strong and can get away with this. Trust me, this is not a fun habit for a horse to have.
He uses anything as an excuse to do this - from "just because he feels like it", to someone walking around the corner of the trailer, another horse, being asked to move his butt over, and most recently, wheelbarrows. He's decided he's absolutely terrified of wheelbarrows, but only when he's tied (I can trundle past him while he's out in the pasture, and he never bats an eye). The ties in our barn are all Velcro safety ties (they tear apart when under pressure), which is a good thing because otherwise, we'd have to invest in another dozen lead ropes. Gah.
So the rule with Oberon is now that we either hard-tie him (rope halter attached with a bowline knot to a 3/4 inch thick 25 foot rope, then tied to an immovable object) or we tie him with something that will give, so that we don't have to keep replacing things that break. For the past few days, we've been hard-tying him in the barn during morning and evening chores. Hubby holds the end of the lead and has it wrapped around a post so that when he sets back, he can put some pressure on the rope, or let it slide if that seems like the better option. If I come around the corner with a wheelbarrow, he sets back, rears, sets back more... it's quite a show. If I truly thought that he was afraid of the wheelbarrow, I'd be concerned, but he's not snorting, trembling, the whites of his eyes aren't showing... in other words, there are none of the classic signs of fear that you see in a horse. Instead it seems that he's learned he can do this, so he's just going to do it.
Did I mention that he's really quite a brat?