I concentrated on working on pretty much one subject (stopping) for 4 days straight with Sugar. It makes a huge difference to work 3-4 days in a row. If I just worked on one subject one day and not work on that subject for a fews days, then come back to it, in most cases the first day I worked that horse would of been useless.
If the horse already knew the subject that would be a bit different, but if I taught or worked on a subject the horse was very bad at then I need 3-4 days straight to where it really sticks in their head.
It goes like this:
Day 1: Introducing the lesson to the horse. Horse isn't sure on what's going on yet.
Day 2: Horse is understanding what you want and starts getting it down.
Day 3: The lesson is now a habit. It's "planted" in the horse's mind. From here it just builds up!
Day 4: You can "skip" day 4 if the horse has it down without worrying about it. This day after it will be further implanting good habits and more steps!
If I wasn't consistent and only worked on a lesson one day, here's how it would look like:
Day 1: Introducing the lesson, horse isn't sure on what's going on yet...
Day 2: No lessons
Day 3: No lessons
Day 4: Working on the same lesson. He's forgotten anything he's done on day 1 because it hasn't been planted in his head yet. No progress at all. So I'll have to introduce the whole lesson again.
And to be honest I've made this mistake quite a bit! It doesn't matter so much if I just work on something the horse already knows, but then again it all depends on how well that horse knows it.
I've been basically teach Sugar how to stop all over again. I haven't been consistent with this lesson and honestly very lazy... Even when I stopped her I started teaching her bad habits and her stops were terrible. It wasn't very bad and thankfully grew slowly into bad habits, but enough was enough! I started day 1 with a lot of backing. Not only backing in the saddle but a lot on the ground too. She's actually quite good at backing on the ground. She's not too bad in the saddle but she always tried to walk out of it when I asked her.
Focus and be consistent:
Currently right now on day 4 I can back her with one finger and the slightest pressure! I wouldn't of been able to do that if I wasn't consistent with her every day!
I did a lot of backing because this taught her to think back instead forward, forward, forward all the time. I would back her on the ground all the way to the arena. When I'm in the arena (for these lessons I skipped a lot of groundwork because I wanted to use my time and focus mostly under saddle) I would mount and instead of taking off right then I would flex her from side to side and then back her around the arena for a bit. When I did move forward, every time I stopped I'd back her. I also focused on my seat and how I should feel with my body language.
I did more than just backing however. I worked on her yielding the hindquarters because I very rarely did that. Yielding the hindquarters was actually really hard for me to do under saddle in the beginning of my learning especially because I had a hard time feeling/telling if she was crossing her hind legs over and keeping her inside foreleg planted or not. It's a lot about feeling on this one because I can't see what's she actually doing like I could if I did the same thing on the ground. I was so afraid of doing it wrong. But now I'm starting to get the hang of it!
And my main subject; stopping! I did more backing on day 1 than I did stopping even though the stops were my main goal. The reason for this is because backing is the key to better stops. I want her mentally balanced out between backwards and forwards. Horses always start out thinking forward forward forward! When they spook it's run away, running forward. Unless they're trapped or physically can't move forward, horses will naturally and always run forwards. It's very rare that a horse will ever in his daily life back up on his own. So they're naturally thinking forward and that's why they don't come so easy to be taught to stop and back up.
Whenever you ride a horse it's usually get on and go! That's why when I get on I don't want the horse to take off. I don't want him to be impatient to go already. I don't even want him to be thinking of moving forward! So I'll spend my time flexing first because that will teach him to stand as long as I want without getting impatient about going. It's a good habit to change it up and back the horse once in awhile before ever taking a step forward. This way he's there and never knows what you'll ask but is ready to do what you want vs assuming you'll want to go straight off and taking charge of what to do.
Being consistent is very important when teaching a horse, especially if it's something new!
And I'll make one more point on this. If for instance I did work my horse every day for 3 or 4 days straight and the horse forget's the lesson each time the next day, I'm obviously not making any progress. This is a very high chance that he's not paying attention! You have to make sure that horse is paying attention to you and not getting distracted or looking for something else to look at because you're not being in his face enough.
It's like kid in a class room learning, let's say math for instance, for about a week. He might be half asleep bored out of his mind and looking out the window for something else to interest him in. He technically heard his teacher but it went in one ear and out the other. Same thing with horses! If you're a "boring teacher" and not aggressive enough, the next day he'll forget everything he's learned. You could be teaching him to back up and maybe make a little progress the first day but if he's not looking at you 90% of the time it probably means he's not paying attention.
I learned this the hard way when teaching Ruby backing and lunging. She had her head turned away a lot of the time on somewhere else (daydreaming, a horse far off, who knows what else). Because she wasn't paying attention I lost all that time on her because the next day it was the exact same thing. It was only when Shelbi (CA method ambassador) said to me once "pull her head around! Make sure she's giving you two eyes!". And then she told me about a 100 times after that...
At first I didn't know the use of this and probably wouldn't of bothered if she wasn't there. But the next day it made enough of a difference to show me that I was completely wrong! She was a different horse! She finally knew the answer to the math problem!