Soooooooo one of the MOST IMPORTANT things that Linda has given me is the permission to experiment. Of course I'm always trying to balance it. I don't want to let the horse be wrong for too long. But I also want to give the strategy a fighting chance.
With Nigel I really just started with small bits. And I have to say I use treats.....for a few reasons...one is to give incentive...but the other reason is to clearly say "BINGO. you got it. that is what i wanted". I used to end up with certain horses frisking for treats all the time..but I figured out that so long as you get them to do something for it that goes away. (the LBE's especially. even in their stalls a lot of times I ask them to back up with a finger wiggle before I give it up)
In one of the Mastery Manuals* recently Linda was talking about how the level of our savvy is directly related to the level of clarity in our body language. And I've been thinking of that a lot lately...clarity. A clear plan. Making what I want clear to my horse and then being clear about letting them know when they got it right.
I've noticed that two big things happen when I give a treat to this end. My body language automatically changes and just logistically we have to stop for a second at least. My goal of course is to one day be so good in my body that I'll be super quick to soften and smile and go to neutral in just the right moment. But for now in the interest of clarity I am using it to say "that's it!"
I'm not talking always of course. But especially when teaching something new...or when I'm asking my horse to put in more effort like doing 3 laps instead of 2 or weaving at liberty at the trot instead of online. When asking Nigel to get on a stump...its pretty obvious to him when he's done it. So just a scratch and a rest is good. I suppose this is why they all love touch it so much. They know exactly what we want them to do!
Also, doing a walk lap is in my experience one of the hardest tasks at first! What I did with Nigel is just send him off at the trot. He went a few steps and stopped. I gave him a treat. Next, I sent him at the trot. He went a few steps. This time no treat. I just brought him in and re sent him. This time he did a few more steps. I brought him in and gave him a treat. So all I've done is just say...give me a little more (do a whole circle) treat....quit that game for that day. Next time start with something...(half a lap even) give a treat....a little more (whole circle) treat... a little more (2 circles or even 1.5 circles) treat. Try the other way. (2 circles? ) Treat. And quite that game for the day. Etc. That's it.
Another strategy that works well if I have a good change of direction is just that. Change direction. He breaks gait or stops..change direction. Until he puts in more effort. BUT. . . . the real key is to notice when they put in more effort. AND SAY BINGO. (Alot of times I even say it out loud to myself not for the horse but because that too automatically changes my body language.)
This strategy is basically using comfort and discomfort. The idea being that it is less comfortable for the horse to change direction than just to keep going. So they put in more effort to going. Again. I must notice the effort and reward it. If I get too greedy and want to much too soon, it doesn't work. To sum up...CLARITY and MOTIVATION is what has worked wonders with Nigel. He had to learn that there was a point to what I was asking. And of course some reason in the world for him to do it. lol
Doesn't hurt that he's blindingly smart either.