I know this is basic but I need some clear instructions if possible. I have two issues at the same time. My horse isnít as forward as I would like and sheís got a touch of gate sourness.
I don't know that you really have two issues. You just simply has a horse that lacks in basic command obedience. The horse is being the boss and deciding what to do (refuse to move forward, refuse to leave the gate, etc).
I canít really fix gate sourness until sheís more responsive.
Sure you can. The gate just happens to be a specific obstacle/place. You can still work on making her more responsive.
Now, just a few things to think about with gate sour horses.
---When you are done riding for the day, NEVER get off your horse at the gate. Pick a random place in the arena and/or roundpen each time to get off your horse, and loosen the cinch. Let your horse stand for a minute, rub them, and THEN lead them out the gate. If you always allow the horse to stop at the gate when you are done riding for the day, that is going to make gate sour worse.
---Sure, you can work the horse harder near the gate, and let them rest away from the gate, but ultimately it just comes down to the horse listening to your cues and doing what you ask -- no matter where you are in the arena/round pen.
So, Iím trying to fix the forward issues first. The problem is that as soon as I correct her she will surge forward - but with her shoulder towards the gate. I can keep her shoulder aligned with rather firm contact but not without contact (Iím simply not capable of doing that, no use telling me that I have to). So, I either let her surge forward with her shoulder out and eventually sheíll run to the gate or I take up firm contact and ask for forward into a rather strong hand which obviously isnít ideal.
So what do I do? Let her run to the gate and then ask for more forward at the gate? I havenít tried letting her get there as I donít want her to think that she can do whatever she pleases.
So, to sum it up: should I use enough firm contact to keep my horse straight when correcting her for ignoring my leg?
If you've have asked your horse to move forward in a certain direction, then that's what you've asked them to do. Period. Do what it takes with your cues to achieve that. Yes, you're kind of giving multiple cues at the same time to both keep them moving forward AND giving them a specific direction but that's okay.
On a horse that knows better, I have no problem giving them a good spur in the side if they keep drifting toward the gate. If they know better not to drift toward that gate, then I expect them to do it.
However, in your case, I don't think that would be the correct approach at this time, because your horse doesn't take you seriously. You've got to show your horse that you are the boss and you decide which direction you go. This means being 100% consistent 100% of the time. Do not ever let her "get by" with ignoring a cue, or else it comes back to bite you in the butt.
On that same token, make sure you leave your horse alone if she is doing something correctly or did respond to you correctly. The release of pressure is a good reward for her.
Horsef, do you have a trainer you can take lessons with? A lot of this stuff is sheer timing, on knowing WHEN precisely to release pressure, and when to keep the pressure on. It can be very helpful having someone in-person help you with this.