I've been working on starting (ahem, actually starting) one of the yearlings at the livery. The horse is 4 years old, and an AQH/?? Mix. He accepts the saddle and bridle, lunges with both, and leads with both.
I convinced the BO to let me do some turn and stop work with him before we take him out on trails and such. So yesterday I took him to the round pen to work on him. I saddled him up and fitted him for my brand-spanking-new Full Cheek Snaffle bit (recommended -- that or the Bosal).
A basic exercise I learned on teaching the horse to turn is to stand facing their shoulder and to pick up the rein, enough to put pressure on the bit but not pulling the horse's nose over. When the horse tips its nose to you, you release. After you've done this on both sides and the horse understands it, you ask them to yield their hindquarters away from the pressure. I did this by picking up the rein and asking him to move his feet by looking where I want him to move, and then gently 'bumping' his side (where I would use my foot to ask him to move his hindquarters) with my fist. Again, both sides.
I got in the saddle and used my heel. NOW he understands that when I squeeze with my legs and tap him with my heels, he goes forward. He turns. When I work on his stop (something we had done on the ground previously), a light pull on the rein and a "whoa," he began to shake his head as if trying to escape the bit. I did my best to put minimal pressure on the bit ("feelable," but not harsh) with a verbal and seat command.
Would anyone have some suggestions? Does this happen often or am I pulling too hard even still? Input from other trainers would be appreciated. (:
This winter in his initial training (indoor arena) we had a snaffle with a pretty goofy shank on it, not for starting horses. So I switched him to my "training" snaffle. So far, outside of stopping, he's responded so much better. His bridle fits, saddle fits (it doesn't pinch) and he has no "complicated add-ons" like breast collar, crupper, etc. (yet?). Our current goal is simply to have him as a livery trail horse (but will likely not be rented out until next year). Workers will only be riding him, getting him accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of the trail.