Just as with anything periodically life gets in the way. I went across town to put ride #2 on our soon to be hunter. My gentle efforts yesterday were rewarded today. As equestrians we are conditioned to expect 2 steps forward 1 step back. I have learned that with the right approach, and consistency it is reasonable to expect a steady marching 1 foot in front of the other each and every day. This was the case today. Rather than regression I saw some beautiful overnight progression. This fine gelding must have spent all night pondering how to get more of my attention and push our bond higher. It is such a great feeling to have one with a strong desire to please me.
Some of you may be asking how to accomplish the same thing. My secret...having a game plan and sticking to it. What's the game plan you ask? Ask a question. If you don't get the answer you wanted then what. Ask the SAME question again. This is where a lot of people stumble in their training. If they don't get the answer they want they change the question. This results in a very confused partner. If you are free lunging and trying to transition walk to trot decide on one method of increasing your energy. Some people use their own body language, or proximity to their horse to drive them forward. Others use a training stick with a flag, Yet others use a lunge whip or maybe a rope. None of these are wrong if they are used consistently. So what if your horse doesn't start trotting the first time you ask...just ask again..and again...and again. As soon as they start trotting back your pressure off a little until they peter out then increase your energy in the same manner again. Where a lot of people go wrong is they ask the first time with a flag, but when they don't get a fast enough response they pick up a rope and put the flag down, and so on. Imagine if I asked "Why is the sky blue?" in French. When you just looked at me funny I switch to Italian, and finally Spanish. What are you going to think when I go back to French...WTF...that's what. Your horse is no different. They learn through repetition which means as a trainer you need to use the same tactics in the same order over and over. As your horse starts to understand then you can eliminate one tactic at a time until it requires little more than a fleeting thought on your part to get the desired response.
This carries through to the saddle. Let's use bending through a corner as an example. The question I'm asking is "Could you please yield ribs?" Could=my thought...you=swiveling my head (eyes)...please=using inside leg behind girth...yield=outside leg at the girth...ribs=inside rein contact. Now as I'm schooling I will go through this same sequence with each cue in order and independent of the one before it. If I do this consistently in each corner my partner will associate corners with bending, and I will be able to eliminate one cue (word) of the question at a time until I am doing little more than thinking "It's a corner I need you to bend".