... I definitely wouldn't say Specs is dead to the leg, because he's really sensitive about the stuff that he understands (like tapping/squeezing his sides lightly to 'go'), most of the time I can just use my seat to change his speed, but he just doesn't understand leg aids enough for my taste. It's my fault completely, I know this, because I depend on the reins too much to get him in the direction I want him to go
but either way it needs to change, because my 'goal' with him is to be able to ride bareback and bridleless by the end of the summer. That'll be impossible without him understanding leg aids!
yield to my leg at a walk or slow trot as long as I get him started in the right direction with a slight cue with the reins, but as a whole he doesn't really listen or understand them, especially if I don't remind him where he's supposed to go with the reins at first.
Are horses supposed
to be able to work off only leg aids (like no reins at all), ideally? What's the best way to get him to understand leg aids better without being harsher or using spurs
Thanks in advance!!
Yes to the being able to work off leg mostly (ideally). I personally like horses that respond without me touching the reins. It is a lot more fun that way
You do NOT need to use spurs or "harsh" leg aids in my opinion, at least not in your case. What you need to do is train yourself, and train him simultaneously. My gelding was dead to leg pressure when I got him too. What fixed him for me was consistency. For a short while, I rode him with the reins as the previous owners did, got used to him. Then I progressed over time to getting him to respond to leg. I did this by adding a small amount of leg with the cues he already knew. He got used to the two cues at the same time. For example, I would ask for a right turn (he was neck reining at the time) and I would apply my left calf pressure while asking for the right turn with the reins. As he got good at this, I would ask for the turn with my leg only. If he moved, even slightly, to that direction I would reward him by taking the pressure off and praising him. If with the leg pressure, he did not know what I was asking, I would apply a slight amount of rein pressure. Ask with leg first, rein second. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
The whole point of this is to get the horse to understand that the leg pressure means the same thing as that rein pressure. Look at it as starting where he is at (rein pressure) and slowly transitioning to where you want to be (leg pressure). A slow, easy transition and he will have it in no time. My gelding picked up on it easily, and I barely touch my reins at a walk/trot.
The biggest thing here is consistency. Pay attention to what cues you are giving with your seat, hands, and legs. Make them consistent and he will probably surprise you are how fast he catches on. Another thing, make those cues as light as possible. Light cues in training makes for a nice, light, responsive horse.