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74 Issue 3 2013
Many years ago, when I first heard Pat say,
"Pressure motivates, but the release teaches,"
he made it sound so simple. And teaching and
training horses really is quite simple, because
it involves not much more than the appropriate
application of pressure and the exquisite
timing of the release. But those adjectives,
"appropriate" and "exquisite," are where the real
challenges lie, because these are the very things
that make the difference between a horse having
trouble, responding obediently, or responding
with enthusiasm.
Appropriate application of pressure
There are three ways to put pressure on
a horse: mentally, emotionally and physically.
I think that the word "pressure" can sometimes
be badly misinterpreted, but all it really means is
the process of pressing steadily, or a force that
pushes or urges. So the idea is learning to use a
little pressure to urge a horse to do something in
response. How that pressure is applied, however,
is key.
Appropriate means suitable, right, apt,
correct, proper.
What is appropriate application?
The pressure comes on very slowly
and smoothly, progressing to the point at which
it becomes effective and motivates the horse to
try something.
It is applied with focus, care and
intention for a specific outcome.
It is applied with love, language and
There are three ways to put
pressure on a horse: mentally,
emotionally and physically.
how can you tell if the pressure was
applied appropriately?
The horse responds calmly, without fear and
with good expression. As you progress the horse
becomes more responsive and more willing.
What is inappropriate application?
The pressure comes on too fast and
too strong, with no time for mental processing.
It is applied with an expectation that
the horse must react instantly.
There is no teaching principle behind
it: Do it or else!
Or... not enough pressure was
applied, so the horse never felt the desire to
try something!
how can you tell if the pressure was
applied inappropriately?
The horse doesn't respond, or reacts
negatively, has poor expression, is tense,
stressed, fearful or fights back. As you proceed
the horse gets worse, more reactive or more dull.
exquisite Timing of the release
When Pat says, "It's the release that
teaches," this means that when you release is
critical. If you release too early or too late, your
horse won't do what you expected. Overall it's
about timing it to your horse's thoughts. Hmmm,
how do you do that?
As your sensitivity grows you will actually
begin to feel when your horse gets mentally
focused and is about to respond. If you can
release at that moment, not only do you get better
responses, you get lighter ones. Exquisite means
beautiful, excellent, sensitive, discriminating.
exquisite Timing
You release at the slightest try,
when the horse begins to respond mentally,
emotionally or physically.
At first you release when the horse
Pressure Motivates,
by Linda Parelli
Try It!
Pair up with a friend and
hold reins between you, one
of you being the horse and
the other the rider.
and strong application of
The rider takes up the reins and
gradually, slowly, slowly, slowly increases the pressure,
milligram by milligram, until it is very strong.
As the horse, did you notice that, even though it
ended up with a lot of pressure, it didn't feel offensive or
SIMULATION 2: Fast and light pressure
The rider takes up the reins quickly and strongly and then
quickly and lightly, not putting much pressure on at all.
As the horse, can you feel how rude and harsh this was,
even when it was "light"? The speed
at which you apply the pressure is the
most crucial element.
now do both those simulations
again, and release when your friend
(horse) blinks. Did you notice how
much better your timing was when
you brought the pressure on slowly?
Release Teaches