Horses learn from the release of pressure, when intrusions into their experiential space disappear by an action the horse controls. Imagine your horse responding to nothing but your thought, the ultimate result of the soft yield to a rein, leg, or rope. Perfect peace is equal parts habit and relationship.
Faith builds when the results are instantaneous and consistent. Every time you apply a bit of pressure there must be a place of total release available. Not sometimes, not maybe, but ALWAYS. To enjoy pressure-free peace, all the horse has to do is make one tiny movement or change.
Pressure Means, “Look for freedom”
Lessons begin small and build. Every horse recognizing a restriction looks for freedom because it’s hard-wired into equine nature. When presented perfectly – recognizing that no one is 100% perfect – the fight or flight response isn’t triggered and your horse learns that pressure means nothing more than look for freedom, it’s there, and it isn’t hard to find.
When the release is simple and consistent, amazing things become possible. The difference between wimpy faith and indestructible faith is experience and repetition. Regardless of the dilemma, the horse has control over his response and knows there’s no reason for fear because experience proves that peace is one simple response away.
Know Your Horse’s Tolerance Level
Horses have different tolerances for pressure. One horse will scream across the arena when touched on the flank with a carrot stick while another ignores it altogether. “Whuh?”
Faith builds in a rhythmic action like an oilfield pump jack. Instead of up and down, it’s press and release, press and release. The result is always the same; a little pressure, a responsive change, followed by complete release and perfect peace.
Begin small, with a cue or pressure barely perceptible to your horse. Some will find the release immediately and others won’t know there’s a lesson in progress. Escalate one iota at a time until you get some reaction. In the beginning, look for an answer to how much pressure, not the precise response you’ll expect later.
Teach “Yield” Before “Pull”
Eventually you’ll want your horse to pull into pressure, whether you intend to rope, pony other horses, drag logs, hold onto his tail to climb a hill too steep to ride, or stand still when you want to use the stirrup to stretch your back.
Pulling is a useful skill, but totally confuses horses unless they know when pressure means yield and when it means persevere. Until yield is a cast-in-concrete habit, leave pulling for later.
Confidence comes from repeating an exercise with the same result. The horse gives, you give, and everyone is soft, content, and enjoys a pressure-free experience.
Pulling on the stirrup of a stock saddle is good training for a horse and a great way to stretch your back. It teaches your horse to stand untied and pull against your weight when you take the stirrup in both hands, step as far away as the saddle fender permits, and lean back until all your weight is supported by the stirrup.
I use “whoa” or “steady” to let the horse know what I want. I’ve always considered this a pre-requisite to riding a horse for the first time. If he isn’t comfortable with the different types of pressure this exercise applies, I’m not getting on board because he’s not ready.
Start small. Many horses will spook when you pull the stirrup away from their body, or yield to the pull and keep stepping in your direction.
My manta is, “No drama, no dust.”
Proof of Faith
The cycle and nature of building faith in horses is the same as transforming immature wimpy faith in God to unshakeable faith able to withstand any pressure the world offers.
God is the best trainer, always providing a place of perfect peace and release if you’re willing to look for it. Faith grows once you know the truth of Jesus’s words because you’ve consistently experienced the reality.
That’s what we do for our horses, offer a reality that supports faith and peace.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.John 14:27
Related post: Rethinking the Use of Pressure in Horse Training
From an Amazon reviewer:
“Like a wild mustang without access to food or water I ran into the camp of Lynn Baber, finding unlimited sustenance and life sustaining truths. Lynn’s simple yet challenging training technique combines God’s truth with her years of horse training experience. Lynn points clearly to the One and ONLY leader who is worthy to be followed…JESUS CHRIST…as she does this she also teaches us how to become worthy leaders of our beloved ponies! I find myself not wanting to leave the round pen of training that Lynn Baber has introduced me to…I FINALLY GET IT and so do my horses.”
Gospel Horse Book #1