A quick update about riding with a cordeo - after some trial and error, I figured out a safe way to achieve my goals. Ultimately, my goal is to ride without any contact with the bit. I'd really like to be able to ride him tackless and/or with only a cordeo. Rather than beginning with a bit and forcing him to turn through direct reining (and then having to wean him off of that pressure), I began riding instead with a side pull, moving quickly into a cordeo. With the cordeo, it's impossible to pull on his mouth and he's learned to move off light cues willingly. With such light pressure, it would be difficult to use "traditional" training since there's hardly any pressure to release to begin with. Rather, clicker training has made it possible to signal "yes" - something that my horse now readily and eagerly works for.
To put it simply the steps I took were:
- Halter break to give to pressure.
- Begin riding with the cordeo, cuing with my legs and the cordeo, but also have a halter with reins attached to give a "hint" for what the cordeo and leg cues mean.
- Get him consistently moving off the cordeo cues - right now, we're just doing the basics, like walking off, turning both directions, and stopping - and eventually remove the halter.
Today, I added the next step. Now that I've got him moving off of light light, non-forceful cues, I finally rode him in a bridle. Here's how it went:
Last year, when group-breaking, I taught him to open his mouth on cue (for taking a bit/medicine/etc.) as well as to take a bridle and bit, so he was very calm and obedient when I first put the bridle in. However, since I've only asked him to wear a bridle a few times and it's been quite a while since we did so, I also think that clicker training has taught him to be willing to do whatever I ask him to, because it usually ends up being a fun and good experience for him, like a game. I've seen this become more and more evident in other behaviors as well since I've been working with him at least a few minutes daily for the last week or two.
He's not used to the bit, so he chewed on it a lot (it's a nice 3-piece bit with a big, copper bean in the middle). He wasn't sure of what to do with it, but he's not fighting it either. I didn't worry about that today. However, I also avoided pulling on it, and I think that's what made today a success for both of us.
Rather than trying to direct rein with the bit in his mouth, I used 10-ft loop reins and threw on his cordeo. I held both in my hands comfortably and used them to steer. They're both made from the same material, which has a good weight to it, so he caught on immediately. When he didn't respond immediately to my cue, I used more leg and pressure with the cordeo rather than pulling on his mouth. In addition, to lengthen our rides and have more "direction", I set a goal of making it around the outside his pen once. I figure this will help give him a goal of what he's supposed to do, since he's sometimes getting confused about where the heck we're going and turning in circles or "over-responding" to a cue. Plus, as I'm still clicking and treating after every few "maneuvers", it also gives me the opportunity to ask more of him before clicking and treating. More or less, since he knows the individual cues, we're just trying to put it all together now into a "ride". It seemed to work very well - we went around one time, and he earned his jackpot. Then, I exercised another horse for probably an hour or so, and then we did it once more. He did so much better the second time that we made it around twice before his "jackpot" reward! I'm so proud of him! To those interested in training your horse to ride with a cordeo
- maybe this would be a solution for you? If you ride with the reins and
a cordeo at the same time, you'd still have a "safety net" if something went wrong and you needed more control. You could do it more or less the opposite way from what I've done since your horses are already trained with a bridle and bit - ride first with both the cordeo and reins in your hand to get your horse associating the cordeo cues with how they're supposed to respond, then try dropping the reins and cueing with only the cordeo but still being able to use the reins for "hints" or emergencies, and eventually getting you and your horse confident enough to ride with only the cordeo. It's a thought!