The Pressures of Good Communication

  As I have said in last week's post, I will be talking about the concept of pressure and release this week. If you have not read last week's post on lunging, you can also go read that one as well. 

  Pressure and release is the way horses communicate and correct one another. The better we understand the concept and how to use it, the easier and more effective it will be for us to communicate with our equine friends.

  Some people make the mistake that horses only really put pressure on each other when they pin their ears, bite, rear or kick. In reality, they are also putting pressure on each other when they move their tail, stomp their feet or even give each other a look.

  So what does putting pressure on a horse mean? Well, it's a form of communication. Depending on whether you want to interact, train or correct your horse, you will use pressure in different ways. Let's say you want to catch your horse in a paddock and he starts walking away from you, you would use pressure in front of his drive line to prevent him from wandering off. If you are teaching a horse to lower his head, you may want to put pressure on his head until he gives in to the pressure. If your horse is about to bite you, you may want to raise your voice and move your arms to let him know he cannot do that.

  No matter how you use pressure, you also need to understand that release is the most important part. Horses learn what the right answer is when they get release from the pressure. So, when you stop your horse from walking away, release the pressure so he understands you want him to stand still before you approach him. When your horse lowers his head, release the pressure off his head so he knows that this is where you want him to keep his head. When your horse is prevented from biting you, release the pressure so that he knows that he can't get away with that.

  The same methods are used when riding as well. When you want your horse to jump over a fence, you want to squeeze your legs tighter right before the jump and then release the pressure when he takes off. When you want your horse to turn, increase the pressure on him until he has moved to the direction you want him to go to.

  When you give a horse release after the pressure you are showing him what the right answer is and there won't be any miscommunication. It seems pretty obvious, but it's sometimes forgotten. 

  Make sure you stay consistent with what you are asking of your horse to avoid confusion. You don't want to let your horse get away with something one day and not the next because then he will never stop testing you and you won't progress as quickly as you might wish.