Horses Pressure & Release Part 2

Pressure & Release Part 2

The reality is that many riders feel like they are begging for the horse to acknowledge them. Other folks’ approach is to “make” the horse do something through physical dominance; this fuels the horse’s defensiveness. Then there are riders who learn to work “around” the horse, limiting what they ask of them to avoid potential resistance or conflict.
None of these methods contribute to the horse or rider’s confidence, trust, respect, or partnership. So how do we fix it? With young or inexperienced horses, my philosophy is it is easier to prevent something from happening than try to fix it after the fact.
Horses are born sensitive, alert, aware, and curious. But often by the time you see a horse that has been ridden for a few years, they have “lost” a lot of those traits. So what happened? Often, through no ill will or bad intention, but rather a lack of quality equine education, many folks have handled their horses in a manner that has unintentionally taught the horse to ignore them, to be fearful of the human, and to feel defensive towards people in general.
How does this happen? Contributors that tend to quickly create mistrust, misunderstanding, and concern for the horse can include but are not limited to:
Professionals who prioritize quantity of task accomplishment with the horse, rather than quality and confidence-building training practices.
Trainers who feel time/financial/ego pressure to produce results and rush colts or inexperienced horses too fast or hard in their initial education, create a fear of the unknown.
Trainers send inexperienced horses home to inexperienced riders who “don’t know what they don’t know,” therefore the rider asks things of the horse that are overwhelming or over-face the horse.
A rider’s general lack of correct usage of aids creates a constant heaviness (all pressure and no release) combined with continual mixed signals and passive communication.
A lack of physical release from the rider contributes to a mental disengagement from the horse. This is what I consider as overly desensitized horses or mentally “shut down.” They aren’t interested in participating, and they are only tolerating the human, leading to continual resistance towards the rider.
So what if you aren’t working a young horse, but an older experienced one, can he “come back” from the mental stress and physical pressures created by people? Absolutely.
It does not take long for the horse to recognize the immediate difference in a “conversation” focusing on refining his interpretation of pressure and release, defining clear boundaries and standards as to what behaviors will work and what won’t. The more the horse realizes his efforts lead to a release, the more mentally present and curious he becomes about what is being presented.
Horses can be forgiving animals, and can quickly adapt to specific, clear, and fair communication. Re-sensitizing the horse to being soft on the lead rope, leads to a softer response to the rein.
Following the feel (mental directability) and softening to pressure, should feel like the horse is “melting” towards wherever you first direct his thought, then his body, whether you’re on the ground or in the saddle. The horse should feel like putty, waiting for you to mold him however you’d like. Being a herd animal, he can be very willing to comply and adapt, if the rider is willing to educate themselves and learn how to support the horse through scenarios, rather than constantly challenge and critique his efforts.

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