Energy / “Feel”
One of the least talked about aspects of training horses is Energy! This can be a difficult subject for trainers to explain because it involves feel, and feel generally is gained by experience.
Horses perceive energy from us as pressure. This is important to understand as horses learn from the release of pressure. Your body language, which as we all know is crucial in communicating with our horses, can and should dictate a level of energy of the horse. It can be difficult to attempt to express your body language as one mood if you are truly in a different mood. This is why I tell everyone, never work your horse when you are emotional! Good trainers understand this very well and are usually experts at compartmentalization or more specifically, having the ability to separate their body language from their emotions, and even better, controlling their emotions altogether! For example; Go out to your pasture with the intent to catch a horse. If you march toward him like an angry gorilla who lost his banana, (and trust me, no matter how you try to disguise it, if you are truly angry, the horse will probably know it!!), more than likely, the horse will see you and say…Not today Jose! On the other hand, if you walk out nice and relaxed and project this relaxed energy, the horse will more than likely respond in kind and may even walk up to you!
I use my body language 100% of the time to let my horse know what I’m expecting of him. If I’m working a dull, lazy or “low energy” horse, I’ll bring my energy up via body language and this in turn improves the horse’s energy and performance. On the other hand, if I’m working a reactive, hot and nervous horse, I still basically go through my same training methods as the lazy horse but I lower my energy. By doing this, this relaxes or, “lowers the energy” of the horse and I get a better response.
As part of my method, when I ask my horse for something, I ask with as low energy (pressure) as possible. I will increase my energy as necessary and fairly quickly, depending on the level of training, to get the response I’m after.
I also want a certain level of energy from the horse. When I ask a horse to do something, I’m not going to allow the horse to take all day to do it… I want it now!**Note for those who feel I’m being too demanding here, I submit this question…. If a horse starts to run away with you or begins to buck, would you want the horse stop now or whenever he decides to? Another reason is, if you are competing in Dressage or Reining as examples, the horse should respond immediately at specific marks. The bottom line here is, I want my horse to respect what I ask of him and when I ask it!
Get with your favorite trainer in person and I’m sure they can help more on this subject and maybe demonstrate this for you. I know using energy properly can be a challenge, but if you really pay attention and correctly use your level of energy while handling your horse, I think you will quickly understand how important this is and how you can use this to your advantage!