You might ask why I choose to have Kid 1 help me with this. I strongly believe most horses will do better with their first ride if you have a confident, experienced rider in the saddle as a passenger while an experienced horse person holds the lead rope and directs the horse through various groundwork exercises.
As the horse becomes more confident and comfortable with the rider on board, the rider can start adding the appropriate under saddle cue for what the person on the ground wants. Gradually, the ground person stops cueing and allows the rider to provide all the cues, but is still there to provide additional pressure if necessary.
Good communication between the ground person and the rider is essential for this to work properly. For instance, I may say, "Send Aspen out on a circle." Kid 1 would go through her phases asking Aspen to go forward. If Aspen didn't respond, Kid 1 would say "Help, please." and I would add my ground cue for her to go forward.
If I wanted Aspen to yield her hindquarters and face me, I would tell Kid 1. She would tip Aspen's nose and apply her leg appropriately. I would stand ready to reinforce this as needed.
As we progressed Kid 1 began telling me what she was going to be doing and I would just stand there watching, waiting for Kid 1 to tell me what she wanted me to help with.
The next stage is to repeat this without the safety net of the lead rope, but with the ground person standing ready to add pressure when and where needed.
I really like using this technique for starting young horses. It eliminates any possibility of the rider having to kick excessively or go to extremes trying to get the horse to go forward or to speed up or slow down. I feel like the horse ends up having a more relaxing, positive experience for his first ride.
If I had a second person around all the time, I would do this for every horse that comes to me. Most of the time it's just me though, so we muddle through.
I really thought Aspen would benefit from this technique so I was glad the kids had off of school today. Aspen finished out the ride with her head low and looking about as relaxed as I've ever seen her, so I think I made a good call.