Pressure and Horses

Pressure & Horses 
I’ve never had an “English” language conversation with a horse, but over the years I feel that I’ve found some degree of a “common language” with which I use to communicate with them. I explain to students there is no “one” way to do things, and I always tell people “take what you like, leave what you don’t” from any learning situation. I finished reading a horse blog the other day and realized that in this day and age, I don’t think you can participate in any aspect of the horse world without hearing the word “pressure” about communicating with the horse.
I was thinking about what “pressure” might mean to others; ideas and questions started to pop into my head.
The degree to which you understand and the clarity with which you communicate are reliant upon one another. I feel it is my responsibility as an equine professional to attempt to explain, help interpret, and teach in a manner to those unaccustomed to spending most of their day’s energy focused on their horse.

With that in mind, the word “pressure” can have multiple interpretations as to “what it means," such as in the scenario of the horse within the herd, in the horse’s interaction with its handler, to the rider, to the coach, etc.
I believe that the word “pressure” is just as casually “thrown out there” as often as you hear people talking about “collection.” As with most things within a language, there is always room for further clarification and interpretation. There of course is also plenty of room for misunderstanding, as too often happens when explanations, statements, or examples are taken out of context.
For example take religion, philosophy, and written literature, how many times have documents been “re-interpreted” for better or easier understanding and clarification? And how often is it later recognized the influences of the person interpreting the information filtered how they perceived what they thought they understood?

I think it is human nature to “want it better.”
I want to experiment for a moment- I’m going to use one word, and I want you to think of the first scenario that pops into your mind in response.
Did you think of applying leg pressure to your horse’s side when in the saddle?
Did you think of using rein pressure?
Did you imagine a horse yielding from creating physical pressure with the lead rope?
Did you think of working at liberty and using your own physical movement as spatial pressure to influence your horse?
Did you think of your horse either spatially or physically “leaning on you” creating an uncomfortable spatial pressure from him being in your personal space?
Did you think of a horse showing physical signs of stress due to mental pressure such as swishing its tail, grinding its teeth/the bit, short/tight, and inconsistent movement?
Did you think of a tool such as a lead rope, flag, or whip, to create both spatial and physical pressure to get a change in your horse?
Did you imagine changing your energy (increasing and decreasing the pressure of your seat) to influence the energy of your horse’s gaits?
Did you imagine walking past the “scary” spot and “pushing” your horse forward with pressure from your entire body?

As you can see the list can go on and on. My point is that depending on your past education, exposure, riding discipline, and experience, your interpretation of the word pressure could mean many things to you. As with all horse things, there is no definitive “right and wrong” as we explore translating a theory, word, or manner of interacting with our horse.

Someone once asked what my goals are if ride with a mentor to continue my own education process, and I said, “I go not to ‘work on’ a specific problem, but rather to recognize the things I don’t even realize might be happening.”
This often is the case with folks who come to me with "only one problem," without realizing their issue is a symptom, rather than the root cause.

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