Thursday, March 8, 2007

A float in the rope…a float in the reins

Wouldn’t it be nice if your horse was SO light that he ALWAYS left the float in the rope or the reins?? The only way to achieve that is for YOU to always leave the float in the rope or the reins.

As your feel and timing improve, you should find that you can get even a very green colt to respond to your feel through considerable slack in the lead rope. I used to believe that taking the slack out of the rope (or rein) was the way to teach a horse to follow my feel. Now I understand why that is not the best way.

If you begin to understand that everything you do with the horse, he understands very literally, this might start to make sense. If you consistently teach him to run into pressure, he will think it’s OK to run into pressure. If, on the other hand, you follow his feel a little, leaving the slack in the rope, but still making your intent clear, you will be much more effective at teaching him that the float should always be there. He will become much more tuned-in to the amount of slack in the rope; he will start to follow your feel with such sensitivity it will start to seem more like mind reading.

This is a very short blog entry, but the truth is…that’s really all there is to it.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Some thoughts on "Pressure"...

Contrary to what it might seem to imply, "pressure" does not equal force.

It took me an awfully long time to figure that one out, I'll admit. I suppose a lot of my old-school thinking got in the way. No matter how far I tried to take my horsemanship AWAY from the forceful ways, when I'd hit a brick wall, I'd find myself wondering if I had "spared the rod and spoiled the child". Maybe I was looking for an easy way out. Maybe I just wasn't smart enough at the time...I hadn't put enough of this "feel" thing together in my own head to make the leap that needed to be made. Only gradually have I begun to understand why getting with the horse's idea made sense. Only very slowly has the distinction between force and firmness, between forcefulness and focused intent become clear. And the clearer those things become, the more obvious it is that pain is NEVER a good motivator. Oh, it works with the majority of horses, and when I say "works" I mean in a very rudimentary way...the horse will yield to pain. Not willingly. Not gracefully. But the horse will yield. Usually. Sometimes, pain (the sting of a dressage whip or riding crop, the pain from a stud chain brought tight and hard across the nose, the wet-towel snap of the leather popper at the end of your lead rope, the bruising thunk of a metal clip on a halter, a metal rowel of spur to the horse's side) will actually make the horse MAD. Then the horse will defend himself...rear and strike, kick, buck. Do you blame him?? None of those pain-inflicting "techniques" made a lick of sense to the horse. Why on earth would they?? I know how I would react to that kind of treatment...and it wouldn't be pretty. Why do we expect a magnificent creature, ten times our weight, intelligent, phenomenally agile, to submit??

The fact remains that getting a horse's attention is critical. They are all individuals, and some will pay attention with very little intensity on your part. Others will sort of tune you out until you do something that they really notice. But if you take your time and experiment, you'll find that your "pressure" need not be escalating in force. And your results will be infinitely BETTER, the more you learn to increase your intensity without increasing force.