I am SO happy with my Artie boy right now.
So today, since I can't ride (I'm down for 10 weeks with a broken collarbone) I had my mom help me train Arthur to sidepass and back through the 'L' for the trail class I'm riding him in two weeks after I get out of my sling.
First I spent 30 minutes with a halter on him, and I jiggled the lead and applied quick on-and-off pressure. Every time he took a step backwards, I let him eat grass for 30 seconds. Eventually he got so motivated by the grass incentive that when I lifted his head from the ground and just stood next to him and walked backwards and he would walk backwards as fast as he could.
Then I put my mom up on him bareback with his halter and lead and had her try to back him through the 'L'. He was really confused but got him to back kind of through it, with lots of urging from me on the ground, stepping outside the poles but nevertheless getting somewhere.
I had her do the same thing, this time with an eggbutt and English bridle. I figured I better use the English bridle instead of the Western curb so we could work up to neck reining while backing, and for now just use direct contact. Arthur was confused at now having pressure inside his mouth instead of on his nose, so I squeezed the noseband while my mom gave him light pressure on the reins. He eventually semi-got it, but his movements were still one grudging step, stop, reward, another grudging step, stop, reward.....
I was dyyyiiinnnnggg to work with him, so I sweet-talked my mom into letting me sit on Artie and JUST walk and back. She was skeptical because of my injury and yahda yahda yahda and if I broke it again I'd be down for how many more months, but decided there was no harm in sitting on him and teaching him to back.
So I got on, and from there we just progressed like crazy. I used the same concept of rewarding him with a pat on the neck and a bite of grass, and I had him backing up like he'd been doing it all his life. I trained him so he would back up with on and off light pressure on the reins, and he would tuck his head beautifully, and he would back at a decent pace with that cue. I taught him that the faster I tap with my heels, the faster he should back. MAN, did he improve in the 2 1/2 hours I worked with him! I had him backing through the 'L' in less than 20 seconds. Amazing.
Then I put the bareback pad on because after 2 1/2 hours on a horse with no muscle covering on his topline, darn does it hurt your butt after a while! Then we worked on the rope gate. He definitely needs more work with that as side-passing is a key and missing element here. We were able to do the gate several times, but it took a llooonnngg time and I had to stretch a lot. Almost took the jump standard down a few times
I really think we'll place in Trail class!!! We have 'til August to work on it. Yay! Haha. Here's a few pics I took (sorry none of the actual backing work, I'll try to get a video tomorrow) Please excuse the helmet-lessness, I forgot it for the first time in years, but thankfully we were just walking and backing lol: Looks pretty darn good for 23 years old, eh?