With the slightest touch, you should be able to move any body part of your horse
Notice the slack in the rope while flexing
Pressure and Release
In our article about Focus and Respect, we talked about being a firm but fair leader. Good leaders understand the importance of a balanced or “fair” approach to motivation. Generally, when we ask our horse to do something, we apply some form of pressure. Whether it’s spanking the ground with a whip, squeezing with our legs or simply moving our horse with body language, the horse interprets this as pressure. As we apply this pressure, the horse will be looking for a way to gain release from the pressure or, “looking for the right answer”. A good horseman will immediately recognize the moment the horse provides the “correct answer” and will immediately release the pressure. This release, is the reward the horse recognizes and deserves. Horses learn from the release of pressure.
If you are the soft hearted, passive horse owner that doesn’t want to upset your poor horses’ mood and allow this 1200lb animal to push you around because you’re afraid to correctly reprimand your baby, you will never gain safe control and your horse will be making all the decisions for you.
On the other-hand, if you’re the hard, aggressive, overbearing type that does not understand when and how to be soft and reward the horse for trying to do the right thing, you’ll have a horse that is always tense, afraid and reactive. This horse can be a very difficult horse to control.
The key here is this…..Anytime you ask a horse to do something, always ask with the lightest and softest suggestion (pressure) possible, steadily increase that pressure until you achieve the correct response. Once you get the response you are looking for, reward your horse with the immediate release of the pressure. Personally, even after the release, I like to rub my horse and let him know he did a good job!
I really believe horses are always wanting to please us. We just have to learn how to properly communicate with them. Again, you must be firm enough to motivate your horse to look for the right answer but fair enough to reward him when he does!
If you can master the art of pressure and release with your horse, it’ll be like the difference in driving a sports car or a dump truck!