07 October 2008

Pressure and release in horses

Whether you like it or not, whenever you are with your horse you are applying pressure.

Here I use the term 'pressure' to mean getting our horse to either do, think or feel something that if left alone they would not experience unless it be from another horse.

This can be Physical Pressure - leg on, contact in reins, whip/crop, leading, asking him/her to move over in the stable, asking for a hoof/leg, grooming, loading, washing, in fact anything where you or a piece of equipment comes into contact with your horse.

It can also be Spacial Pressure - looking directly into the horses eyes, lunge whip (if used correctly), approaching, *going 'fluffy feathers'* (see below), threatening with whip (as used in horse racing), in fact anything where you or a piece of equipment does NOT come into contact with your horse.

Or it can be Emotional Pressure - isolation, separation, hunger, both negative and positive transference of emotion (whereby the horse picks up on their handlers emotions and reacts to them).

All of the above effects our relationships with our horses and their well being weather we mean to or not. What we do have control over, is the amount of pressure we use and the release of that pressure in our training of the horse.

Firstly be aware of your own emotional state, if it is contrary to what you are trying to achieve - change it.

When using both Spacial and Physical Pressure to achieve an aim start off softly and build up slowly if need be, after all, if you start off with a lot of pressure you don't have much further to go before you're stuck and many people then resort to violence. All violence teaches a horse is that his/her fear and anxiety are justifiable in a similar situation.

When you ask your horse to do something it is far better to release the pressure as soon as the horse starts to respond than to keep asking until the horse fully completes the given task. We have all seen horses that are dead to the leg or the owner is constantly having to use a stronger bit.

* I'm sure you've all seen chickens squaring off to each other with their feathers puffed out and standing tall to make themselves look bigger and more intimidating. When a horse is showing me aggression and I want them to know I'd rather they didn't I go 'fluffy feathers' whereby I approach square on, eyes on eyes and waving arms about.*

1 comment:

Mrs Mom said...

I never thought about the 'fluffy feathers" line. Thats pretty neat. I always tried to think myself bigger- like a bear if need be. Bear is fine in bad bad situations, but I think I like the feathers better.

It is amazing how much our horses pick up on our mental and emotional states. This week, I have been in a bit of a funk. Sonny, the big red horse who lays claim here, has been a peach and actually tagging along behind me, resting his nose on my shoulder time and again. As things get back to normal, he will get back to requesting that I spoil HIM instead of the other way around.

Keep the thoughts coming here!