We all know that the horse learns faster, more easily and with the minimal amount of stress if we can break lessons down for him into their simplest parts. However, it is often difficult to see ways of doing this.
I had an interesting Working Equitation Clinic yesterday and one of the obstacles we tackled was the speed gate. This is often rather flimsy and can easily be knocked to the floor so the horse really needs to learn the pattern first.
For this reason, I always teach this obstacle without the rope at first and get the horse to learn to step forward, move his hindquarter, step back and then move his shoulder; all between the cones/markers.
While this works well, most horses initially fear the rope and when the rider asks the horse to back through the gate while holding the rope many try to move away from it.
Yesterday I discovered another way I could make this even easier for both horse and rider. While working with the uprights and no rope attached, I added a lead rope that was not attached to anything. When the riders were teaching the pattern of forward, back, hindquarter and shoulder movement, they simply picked the rope up off the marker, carried it and placed it back as if closing the gate.
This allowed the horse to get used to having the rope there and it moving about.
Each horse that went through this extra step finished with a better result - a more relaxed, faster and neater negotiation of the speed gate. So the training outcome was improved and the horse actually learned the lesson considerably faster than the others that did not include that extra step.
Try to find ways of breaking things down for you horse to speed up your training and make the it easier for the horse.