Way to go Jillybean!! Sounds like he's coming along really well. :) I wish I had just one horse to invest all my time in like that. That's fantastic!
Sounds like he's making great progress, but I hope your non-CT friend hasnt influenced this decrease in CT? Or is it more just moving on to the next skill?
Also, while I agree bits are safer than halters, bits rely on pressure and release. Your horse who isnt used to any sort of strong pressure on his mouth may freak out more if he spooks and you grab for the bit. I feel like it may cause more of an accident. I always find the safest thing to ride a horse in is the thing they respond best in. For Tank it's a halter, because that's what j trained her to respond best too, and for my Belgian its a kimberwick, because we're stepping down from a broken liverpool. So the safest tool you can use on your horse is what the horse will respond to quickly, easily and most important, calmly.
I guess that's why Tank responded to finding the target when she was scared better than me snapping her halter - both resulted in her turning her attention to me. But the target got her focused and thinking, while shanking her resulted in upsetting her more and causing near panic.
So glad to hear he's doing so well with backing up and foot targetting :P that's a great idea for teaching lateral flexation! Ill have to try it, but not with Revel, he's a toe nibbler!
Out of curiosity I've heard two ways lf steering horses with your legs, which do you guys all go for? Squeezing the inside leg a little behind the girth for the horse to bend around or squeezing the outside leg a little ahead for the horse to turn away from the pressure? I've been using both, bjt im not sure if that's confusing her with too many signals and too much subtelty?
A halter is fine in the arena (and, of course, we're starting to go without even that), but my friend talked some sense into me about trail riding before Flash had the opportunity to knock it into me. Since he's only ever had pressure from a halter, that's currently the "safest" thing I could probably ride him in - as you said, Flash might freak out if I just put a bit in his mouth and he suddenly has pressure, which could make things worse in an emergency. However, should something happen - especially on a trail - any horse CAN run through a halter much easier than a bit. Just like I hope I'll never need my helmet or seat belt, I hope I never need to haul on the bit to stop him, but will be thankful that I had the bit to do so should it ever happen. So, I decided he needed to learn to respond to a bit in order to be safe enough to do the trail riding I want to. This doesn't mean I'm going to be direct reining all the time, but rather teach him to give when I ask him to. That's why we did lateral flexion - he quickly learned not to fight but rather just to turn his head with a soft touch. I'll be riding him with a bit every day now and treating it just like a new skill by clicking and treating for proper responses to the bit, whether it's just holding it quietly while we neck rein or giving quietly to pressure when asked.
By the way, Flash is also a toe nibbler - which I quickly corrected a while back when we were just riding. It's just like mugging for treats - he won't get good things, and risks getting something he doesn't like instead. In this case, it was a light but swift kick to the nose - it didn't hurt, but it surprised him. He doesn't nibble my toes anymore.
As for leg reining, I usually push the front end around with my feet close to the cinch/girth. We haven't worked on giving the back end yet, but we'll be doing that, too. In my opinion, though I've never had a horse thoroughly trained this way, I think it's important for a horse to know which part of their body you're asking them to move and they should be able to give them from under the saddle just like they do from the ground. I'd start with the basic moving away from your foot first, then refine what they're supposed to move later. One way Alexandria Kurland shows this in her book from the ground is to put duct tape markers on your horse so that you're consistent with where you're tapping the whip and applying pressure so your horse can learn which spot means what. And like everything else, if you do it properly on the ground, it will translate into proper movement while riding. I'm not there yet, so I haven't worked out exactly how I want to do it, but we'll get there someday once we've exhausted our current list of things to train (which it seems like we're doing rather quickly!) haha :)