Sorry in advance for no pictures and LOTS of text lol, but I feel this is important to get written down.
Okay, I have been feeling frustrated lately that I can't seem to teach Chrome to steer. I didn't know why teaching him to steer has been so difficult!! I've taught horses to ride before and never had this problem. I think my first problem is that I'm a perfectionist!!!! Because Chrome is my horse and the first horse I've ever even thought about teaching dressage to, I want to do it right! Unfortunately I've gotten so hung up on doing everything perfectly that I'm not doing ANYTHING!!! I'm so afraid of screwing up that I'm too afraid to try anything at all (the fact that it's been six or seven years since I took dressage lessons doesn't help the fear of screwing up)!!!
So I started looking up random training videos by random trainers and I learned a few things. Just because I plan to make Chrome a dressage horse doesn't mean that I can't train him in the basics using Western methods (heck my dressage trainer has a Western rider start her horses before she starts training them in dressage). I've been so concerned about someday teaching him dressage that I haven't wanted to teach him anything that's not "dressage" including steering.... are you noticing what I finally noticed? If he can't steer there is no way I'll ever teach him dressage! Duh! :)
So I need to take a step (or a million steps) back and start from the beginning. My first problem is forward.... he has no GO! Chrome is a lazy horse.... a lazy, overly desensitized horse. I never taught him that a whip means go forward. I've never backed up my "walk on" vocal cue for going forward. I haven't been consistent with leg pressure meaning go forward. (Note: He will walk forward, but it's a slow, ambling walk with no purpose, not a forward, energetic walk) So, if I can't get him to go forward energetically how in the world do I expect to get him to steer.
So, first step is to teach him forward. He needs to know that a whip means go forward and that the voice cue means go forward. Once he's good at that I need to teach him that leg pressure means go forward. And most importantly he needs to learn that when I ask him to go forward he needs to keep going until I tell him he can stop (by saying whoa or just stopping my body from following the movement).
Since he is almost four I'm going to start teaching him to longe (and yes even use the round pen for some free longeing, round penning or whatever they call it these days). Once I get some GO in him then I can work on riding and steering again.
This may all seem sooooo obvious to you guys (if you were even aware of the problem, not sure if I've mentioned it before), but I was thinking so far ahead that I totally forgot about the basics. Yes I want to start taking dressage lessons again and start teaching him to work like a dressage horse, but if we can't even go forward or steer that's never going to happen. So, wish me luck!