Horses learn through pressure and release. The only way we can communicate with them is pressure. That can come from us running at them on the ground or pulling on the rein while riding or kicking them with our legs, all of which are irritating enough for them to feel pressured to change. There has to be enough pressure that it evokes the desire from the horse to change, as horses understand your cues or your language the pressure gets softer and easier making them lighter and more responsive.
When starting out you have to remember that they do not understand and if the pressure isn’t enough then they won’t have a desire to change. The moment that the “pressure” is released they remember that or at least try to pinpoint it down and remember what they did to get you to stop the pressure…stop pulling on rein, stop kicking or stop chasing. Here is the tricky part they might have done 50 different things with their body at the time of the release so you have to do enough repetitions that they are able to eliminate the 49 things that you do not want. That’s why you sometimes have the problem that you think your horse knows what you are asking of them and you go to show someone and all of a sudden your horse “is just being stubborn or a jerk”, when you went to show your friend circumstances changed and the horse tried something else. Or felt the cue in a different way and became confused. We think they know something way before they actually “know” it! It takes so many repetitions before they really understand. The Process of Elimination is harder than we think, luckily horses are incredibly smart and they are so unbelievably willing to figure out what we want!
Keys to get your horse into the process of elimination and start learning your cues:
If you add pressure asking for something and then release the pressure when the horse has not done what you wanted…
*think of what you want
*wait for the horse to respond with a body part moving in the direction that you want
… here is another way to say it:
When keeping with this formula long enough and with enough repetitions, the horse can go through the process and go from 50 things down to the one real thing you wanted. During that process they might do what you want 30 times and then start doing something else, that is normally when we say they are bored or this isn’t working. Stay true to knowing that they are just eliminating the things you do not want… only release the pressure when they give you exactly what you want and you will see that eventually they go through the whole process knowing exactly what you want and they then will do it for you whether or not your friend is watching or all of a sudden they are emotional on a trail ride. You just cannot stop in the middle of the process or they will think it might be 10 different things you are wanting and so they will get confused when circumstances change.
This is your new formula to a healthy relationship. Remember the only two emotions that belong on your horse from here on out is Patience and a Sense of Humor.