I have updates! And an important insight...
So, Flash has had a few weeks off due to lameness. During this time, I was making lots of videos to share on HF so others could help me evaluate his lameness. In letting others evaluate him, though, something I didn't realize I was doing came up. Many people commented on how "still" his hind end was, like he was having back pain. I guessed (and I think at least partially correctly) that this might actually have to do with the clicker training. Before he went lame, Flash and I had been working on keeping everything SLOW, but not necessarily collected. I didn't want him taking off on me at a trot when I finally climbed up there, especially since I'm breaking him bareback and in a halter. However, I had accidentally reinforced the complete disengagement of his hind end. He wasn't reaching or moving naturally - not even his tail. It was almost tucked, like he was intimidated or parylized. (Though I did take pride when someone mentioned they just may not be used to seeing such a young horse so "contained".) Of course, non-clicker people won't understand how I might have "trained" my horse to be so still in his hind-end - but he immediately started tracking up and engaging better as soon as I focused on it yesterday. He was actually moving like a horse! Just beware - for better or worse, you may not realize all the things your horse is learning with CT!
Which brings me to today's session. He was behaving SO well, listening to my cues to walk, trot, lope, stop (we're still working on downward transitions), and back up. He also needs to learn better manners for the farrier, so I picked out all his feet and then did some leg stretches with him - both to loosen him up and to get him used to letting us do with his feet whatever we will and for how long we want to. With how great the day was going, I decided to ride, which we haven't done in 3 weeks. Now, remember, he's still a young teenager at the fresh age of three and he's been on more-or-less stall rest for the last three weeks without me even thinking about climbing on. Yet, he was a total sweetheart. He didn't miss a single cue and was very responsive to all of my leg cues, picking up right where we left off. We only did walking (and we threw a few serpentines in there), but I couldn't have been happier with him! I just stuck my hands on my hips and didn't even touch the reins! I still can't get over how I finally have a horse that FREEZES when I ask him to - and not even with my voice, but with subtle body movements. Such a good boy!
So, I decided we'd finally try backing. I had plenty of treats that I wanted to use up today (I'm going to make a new batch), so we went for it. I gave him the same verbal cue as I do on the ground, and he started walking forward. I held him back (in the halter), and he couldn't figure out what to do, but he's improving because he'd usually hop when he got frustrated but today he just kept trying. I was holding him back pretty stiffly with the halter and pulling on him, repeating "back up", and sooner than later he took a tiny step back in the middle of moving all over the place. CLICK! He froze - he knew he'd done something but didn't know what yet. He got his treat, and then we tried it again. I said "back up", and held him back, but in slighatly less time, he took a BIG step back - CLICK! Well, he got it that time and before I could even ask him, he started backing at good speed and kept going halfway across the arena (which I didn't click for because I didn't ask him to and he obviously got what I wanted). So, we immediately went to walking, stopping, and backing up on cue. I still need to give him a slight tap on the reins so he knows I'm asking him to go backward instead of forward, but he backs faster than my horse that I won the state 4-H reining competition ever did! All those times I've asked him for speed when backing on the ground definitely paid off!
Oh, and did I mention Flash learned how to back under saddle (well, bareback), and fairly quickly but without any pressure, all in the matter of 5 minutes?