When I work with the horses, wether it's groundwork or riding, I use the "ask and tell". The ask and tell is; first, asking the horse to do something and if he doesn't respond, tell him to do it.
There's a "teaching stage" and a "practice stage". The teaching stage is where I'm teaching the horse something new. I'm introducing him to something he's never done before. The practice stage is where I'm asking him to do something he already knows. Here's where not to get mixed up on; don't teach the same way you "practice" the horse. As soon as the horse understands the lesson and has it down it's when I start getting "picky".
In the teaching stage it's basically every little effort in the right direction is an instant release of pressure with a reward. The more the horse knows how to do it the more I'll start expecting him to do it better and better, whereas the early teaching stage I'll expect him to mess up, get confused and just take small steps in the beginning. Especially in the beginning, it can get ugly or it can just go smoothly, you never know until you start teaching.
Let's say I ask a little boy/baby:
"Could you get me that ball over there please?"
He hardily knows how to speak yet but he at least understands that I want something. Now it's my job to help him understand. He's not sure what I want and where the ball is there's also other objects. So he might go and bring me back something else like toy truck for instance.
"no, not the truck. Can you bring me the ball?"
He might keep bringing me different objects until he finally brings the ball. That's when I make it obvious that's what I wanted and congratulate him.
"Yes! That's what I wanted! Good job!"
I would never say:
"Go get me that ball! NOW!"And if he didn't do it in 5 seconds I would punish him. Of course not!
Same thing with horses. I shouldn't just thrust it in his face and expect him to do it right away! It would make it a lot worse.
When I teach a horse something new I ask him like I asked the baby. Horses will try to figure out what you want by looking for an answer similar to the baby looking for the ball. He didn't know what he was looking for but as soon as he found it, I made sure he knew that's exactly what I wanted. I'll take away the pressure the second they do what I want and reward them "yes! Good job! That's what I want". So the next few times I'll ask for the same thing until the horse starts to understand "Oh! You want me to (example->) a few steps back!" (back up).
In the beginning I'll reward the horse for the slightest try. Even if he just took one step back, then I'll take the pressure off right away. Some horses will learn faster than others just people do. I need to establish a starting point each horse. If the horse just isn't getting what I'm asking for I'll take it a notch down. Or if the horse overreacts, confused, or being disrespectful, it can vary on where I need to start. I'll try to make it as easy as possible for him to understand but also be effective. But I won't stay in one spot forever! Don't teach a kid his ABCs until he's 20. I want to build on that so I'll start asking for more and more. And of course continue onto the next lesson. The fundamentals are all the foundation parts of training. It doesn't matter what the horse will do later in his life, barrel racing, trail riding, jumping, there's always a foundation to be set before anything else can be taught.
Now that he understands well enough what I want him to do, I'll get more picky. He knows well enough what I want him to do at this point. Here's where the tell part comes in. I always ask in the lightest pressure that way anytime I ask him to do anything all it takes is the lightest pressure rather than a lot of pressure.
I'll ask the horse:
Me: "Can you back up for me please?"
Horse: (lazy) "well...I just don't feel like it today" or (challenging me) "No. I don't want to. What do you say to that?!"
This is the horse showing me disrespect, laziness or challenging my leadership. I know he knows what I'm asking for so I don't have to worry about confusing him because we're past the teaching stage. So I'll "tell" him:
Me: "I want you to back up NOW!"
The pressure bar goes some slightest to the extreme!
Horse: "Yes ma'am!"
I wouldn't do this to a horse who doesn't know the lesson/what I'm asking for. It'll just confuse him a lot and end up in a wreck. Or teaching him to fear and overreact.
In the teaching stage the pressure bar starts out small and builds up gradually with rhythm: (for backing up method)
1, 2, 3, 4 (not listening)
1, 2, 3, 4! (not listening)
1, 2, 3, 4!! (not listening)
1, 2, 3, 4!!!
In the practice stage it still starts still starts out small but if the horse doesn't respond correctly, the bar skips the gradual and right to the point. He knows what he's supposed to do, now it's his job to do it.
1, 2, 3, 4
1, 2, 3, 4!
But if he wants to be lazy, too bad for him. For the amount of time I work him (1-3 hours a day) he has the rest of the time to himself doing whatever he wants in the paddock or turnout pen.
If he's challenging my leadership then I need to make it my duty to correct him on that too. Horses will always challenge your leadership every once in awhile, some more than others. They'll ask it like "hey, I don't want to listen to you today! I think it's my time to be in charge here!".
By the way, when I say I'm "asking" a horse to do something, it's not verbally asking. It's through my body language with the pressure I use on them. Again for instance, backing, if I "asked" the horse to back up about 10 steps I'll add pressure either by pulling back on the reins if I'm in the saddle, pull back, march my arms or shake the rope if it's groundwork.