Hey all! I've been MIA for a while (sorry!) but for a good reason! I was offered a position for my dream job and have been diligently working to sell my home, get moved, and get ready for this fall when My position starts.
In all this, I sold my endurance horse and have been focusing on my baby that I've been doing clicker training with. First, we did quite a bit of desensitization and ground work just to get him confident and consistent working with me. I really want to train him for reining, and he showed some potential last fall for moving off of leg/rein pressure the last few times I rode him, but I never truly worked on it with him. Since we've been working together and I trust him more, I decided to give it a shot starting straight from working with a cordeo (neck rope).
I've kept Punks Tank's advice in mind and kept our working periods short. One good way I've found to limit myself is only to carry just enough treats in my bag - it reminds me to quit while I'm ahead since I only have so many treats to work with! Of course, I don't carry so few that I run out before I get him to a successful stopping point. However, this has kept our sessions under 5 minutes. In addition, I've been working with him in his own pen (about 1/4-1/2 acre), where I've found he's much more relaxed and focused, especially at liberty. He's the only one in there, and when I give him a break, it's truly a break. I don't think he got the same sort of mental release when I gave him a break but left him in the arena/round pen.
We worked a lot on "woah" from the ground, first with lead rope, and then working at liberty. We did this with both leading from the front, then walking in a circle around me, but I found that driving him from behind and then stopping when I said "woah" communicated what I wanted best and allowed him to make the connection between the word and stopping. Once I felt like he would stop if I needed to, I got on. I want to be very precise and clear about my leg/seat cues, so for that and a few other reasons we worked bareback. For the next few days, we worked in a halter. Since he's respectful on the ground with a halter, it translated straight to riding in a halter and getting control if I needed it. More importantly, though, it allowed me to give him a "hint" for what I wanted him to do, which is good since he's young and sometimes gets a little over-zealous when he can't figure out what he's supposed to do, usually ending up in some frustrated 3-year-old hops (NOT good when riding bareback on a ROUND horse!). I continued what we'd been working on before, pairing my seat cue (squeezing with my thighs and sitting deeper) with "woah". If he didn't stop immediately, then I lifted up on my "reins" (aka my lead rope tied onto his halter), and that got him to stop. Within no time, he was stopping with the "woah" and began to connect the seat cue with "woah" and stopping without any help from the reins.
So next was turns. He'd had some practice moving off my leg last fall, but wasn't consistent in turning the right direction or at all without help from the reins. Now, however, after pairing my leg cue with a rein cue (always neck reining before giving a direct rein) a few times in the halter and clicking and treating, he was responding correctly a little more than half the time. I experimented with having a second lead rope around his neck and using that to cue first, and found he'd made such a good connection after being rewarded for correct responses that I wasn't even touching the reins attached to his halter.
So, this was all last week. Sunday, I made myself a cordeo (neck rope), and it's all I've ridden in. I've been out there almost nightly, riding for just 5-10 minutes until he shows some consistently correct responses to walking off, turning both directions, and stopping with a squeeze and soft "woah", and then giving him his "jackpot". In addition, I feed for my boarder in the evenings, so when he's done, he knows he's done well because I go and get dinner for him :) Each night, he's done even better than before. I've been clicking and treating after he does something particularly well, or if he seems a little uncertain but figures out the correct response. Today, I was able to do 2-3 things (like a turn, walking straight for a while, and stopping) before clicking and treating. I'm going to keep extending that time now so that I can build up to riding for a while before clicking and treating. He generally knows the correct things to do now, but he's still building confidence that he's responding correctly. I'm so proud of him! He's turning off of only leg/neck rope pressure and stopping without any pressure at all - just a seat cue and soft "woah". Sometimes, he stops with just the seat cue! I'll have to get my hubby out to videotape it one of these times. :) SO EXCITED to be riding and training my horse with just a neck rope and my clicker!