Backwards and Forwards
Aslan has been having a few moments of "lets go my way" in regards to turning and direction. This has obviously been all my fault, starting with the way I trained him.
A few well known horseman suggested allowing the green horse to make a decision to turn and then following with the rein so that he begins to equate the two (turning and pressure on the rein). Anyway, I did that and yep he learned to follow the rein and turn. But then this backfired. You have to get rid of the "him deciding to turn" at some point, especially since horses love to make decisions. The second part is that I was allowing him to make some decisions on what he wanted to do next, in order to keep him motivated in our sessions. Add these two together and following the rein started becoming less soft, and going straight or in the direction I asked became optional. Cues especially got hard when he decided he wanted to do a different exercise or go somewhere else. Hence our issues with "go straight".
Hanna suggested that we try the target square from "Backing your horse". You teach the horse to softly follow the rein in this exercise. While this seems like a step backwards, I understand. We didn't get a strong reinforcement history with turning and well, I allowed him to make too many decisions. So let's go back to basics and relearn that turning is a good thing (and sorry but *you* don't get to make decisions anymore.)
We did have a significant argument on "decisions" a few days ago. Not in the -R way but rather, he wanted to go do shoulder in and was being very heavy and ignoring my cues. So as he turned toward that direction, I kept him turning so he spun right back around. Then I would ask him to go forward. He would spin around, so I would keep him spinning until we are facing the right way again. Rinse and repeat. But I forgot to reward him for making the decision to finally listen. *insert bad word here* I at least remembered to stop reinforcing shoulder in and make it a bit more boring. (He really loves lateral work and we've done a lot of it, so sometimes that is ALL he wants to do).
Ultimately the session wasn't our best and I had to really go out of my way to make sure it ended on a good note, since things were kind of going down hill. So many things to think about! And sessions like this happen occasionally.
In other news, he is getting better at self carriage. While we still have a long ways to go it's heartening to see we are getting good at something harder! Mostly he seems to understand vertical flexion and head down. This is a start! Where he is not so good, is that put his head in position and even curl his back up and STILL be on the forehand. I didn't think that was possible but welcome to the world of COBS.