Q: My young horse does not always have a 'Go Button'... How can I 'up my phases' without creating bad ears or brace?
A: With any horse make sure the picture of what you are asking for is "fair, reasonable, and possible". If you are not sure about that, you can always ask for something one notch easier...
Because we want to make sure we get 100% effort from the horse... It may take some repetitions to get it... But it is our goal. If we aren't getting 100% we either have to change how we are asking... Or what we are asking for!
You ask what the phases should look like... That can be very different for each horse... with one horse it may be just holding your leg on and waiting... for another the string works best, for another the stick tapping first my leg, then them... Or just a pop on the butt ... I kind of feel it out with each horse to see what seems to work naturally the best for them.
Most of all you need to be fair and predictable and set it up so they absolutely have a chance (the time) to make the right decision, but not so much time that they think you didn't really mean it!
And always check your position, cues, body language to make sure you are being clear and allowing.
The important part is that you follow through until you get their best attempt... and repeat until their best attempt is 100% of what you pictured.
Sour expression or pinned ears come from two main reasons:
1. they did not 100% do what you asked... they did it partially, and are still complaining
2. they did do what you asked but they still feel pressure on them.
If #1, you need to follow through more
if #2 you need to praise, release, allow, follow more