First Canter and changing things up
To start the lesson, I changed things up a bit so he wouldn't be so bored or resistant, and hopefully I wouldn't have to use the escalation protocol I came up with. I really don't want to sour his attitude toward work, and I think part of this resistance could come from a few things, such as being in the arena all winter, our lessons can be over an hour, having a bit of a repetitive routine and also, I haven't varied his treats as much as I could.
Circle Game: we warmed up with the circle game, then I tried the half circle game against the wall. He's terrible at it, since we haven't done this in a long time, but it was something different. He tends to crowd me. He is not being "bad", but he lacks confidence when learning new things and I'm also fuzzy on how the exercise looks. I will have to go back and review.
Backup: His ground backup is actually quite impressive now. He will slowly walk backwards until I click. Sometimes he even offers the behavior. Occasionally he ignores me, but otherwise it's good.
From the saddle it needs work, he is very slow and I have to put a lot of pressure. I've been trying to get him to clue into my seat and knees being tighter and more "leaned back". But he's a bit "derp" and waits for the hands. *eye roll* Plus I hate that he uses it as a crutch to avoid going forward, especially if I take contact. So I don't practice it as much as I could. I would like to actually get it more tuned to my seat and then use this as an exercise to teach him to stop really well.
Mounting Block - When he pulled back on me initially, I did give him a load of crap for it, because he really went out of his way to back up. Then I moved the mounting block and he decided it would be nicer to cooperate. He actually came on up and even did the "hip hip" to move his hips toward me when I asked. This was a first! Clearly he thinks this whole "riding" thing kind of is MEH, so I can't imagine doing this without positive reinforcement. I may have to make my lessons shorter or something, because apparently this isn't uncommon, where they like the ground work better.
Go forward: Though I shouldn't have worked on it, because he needs a break, I did it anyway. He has improved. He seemed to be a bit more sensitive. The problem is, everything I want to work on kind of stems from "go forward"; so not working on this exercise means I'm going to continue to get a half-assed go forward. And I don't want him to think that is ok. (Kind of like, I ignore the quality of the go forward cue so we can do other stuff, and then later I am asking for him to do it correctly, so, I feel like I'm being inconsistent in my expectations?) I don't know and I don't want to drill it to death because then he will hate it, but I don't want to confuse him or continue to get a poor performance. You can't begin to teach intermediate level movements without a really good go forward and stay forward. What a conundrum. Maybe it's just time to ride outside in a big field.
Six buttons: Worked on it from the saddle, so we didn't have to just focus on go forward. But again, this could turn into drilling, so I need to be more creative in coming up with other stuff for him to do.
Go straight: I didn't really practice this one, but I did notice that it is slightly better. He will follow the wall and go into the corners, especially if I ask him to leg yield in that direction. But it still needs more work, because he does a few things that wreck it. First, if I ask him to go forward from the halt, he often turns first and then goes forward. Second, once we get going, he gawks or if he has a preferred direction, he will start to turn that way.
Turning: Definitely needs more work. On one hand, he can be VERY sensitive when he wants to be. I can almost turn with the hips and maybe a bit of "hint" with the hands and legs. But on the other hand, if we are going in one direction and he prefers to go in the other direction, he can suddenly get very resistant and heavy. Normal, but still annoying that he resists my cues. He will ignore leg cues and lean against escalation hand cues. I have even ended up having to bump his face to get his attention back.
SillyTricks: I think I mentioned I taught him to stand his front feet on a stool? At first he only wanted to paw and put one foot up, but he is pretty good at getting up on it now. I actually have to get after him or he will paw the crap out of the mounting block. He seems to like these useless behaviors. I was told to teach them because it adds variety. Now I'm going to have to come up with some more!
I have also taught him to "smile". It's coming along, but he can't seem to do it without getting close to me. He gets in my face for the cue because he thinks he has to touch my hands. I end up having to back him up so that I don't accidentally get conked if he throws his head or something. I will have to practice it behind a barrier or I'm never going to get a smile unless he's standing on me for the cue.
At the end of the lesson, I finally asked for a canter. I asked him to trot and then tried to produce a canter, by asking, but he went faster and faster and finally he burst into it. Weeeeeeeeeeeee. I forgot to click when he transitioned, but then again, I wouldn't have liked him to slam on the breaks and throw me forward. It was sure fun though. And he stopped when I asked. I also did all of this in his halter, because I'm dumb and I forgot his bridle at home.