"The True Way"
The Round Corral ~ The Rope and Flag ~ Hooking On ~ Learning to Learn
Yielding the Whole Body ~ Blanket, Saddle, and Rider ~ In the Saddle ~ Use of Aids
Some Elements of Horsemanship ~ Distractions ~ The Quick Fix ~ Natural Horsemanship?
The Soft Feel ~ Spade Bit ~ Out of the Arena ~ Who's Calling the Shots? ~ Straightness

(last edited 3/05)


by Jan Young

The use of pressure is to cause the horse to try something else, to search. When he finally tries the right thing, the pressure immediately stops. This pressure and release contributes to the horse's "learning to learn." It gives him a way to compare his experiences, to solve the problems that we will present him with, using his own free will. He's beginning to learn a process in which the human can communicate with him.

In the round corral, the horse that has been roped, or is being worked in the halter, may not yield to the rope. Rather than use a steady pull, the horseman uses rhythmic pressure with the rope. If you used a steady pull, the horse might just lean on the rope and pull back. Because he is stronger than you, he can withstand quite a bit of pulling, and can outmuscle you.

Since you are weaker than the horse, you must find a more effective way to change his mind. Rhythmic, gentle bumping, creates more discomfort than a steady pull, and does not require as much strength from the horseman (or horsewoman).

The discomfort of rhythmic pressure may be enough to cause the horse to seek relief. A stubborn or insensitive horse may require harder bumping before he seeks relief. Pressure should always start out gently, but if ignored, should quickly be increased until the horse responds.

Using a rope halter is another way to increase the pressure. Being narrower than a leather or nylon halter, it concentrates the pressure into a smaller area, so that either steady or rhythmic pressure is more effective.

The rider will continue to use this method when the horse is being ridden. The horse will learn that gentle pressure from the overall system of aids--on his mouth from the snaffle bit, on his sides from legs, stirrups, heels or spurs--will mean, "There's something you're not doing right. Try something else." He doesn't know yet what you want, but he begins to search and compare.

You wait patiently while the horse tries different things, maintaining the pressure. And when he finally tries the right thing, the pressure is released. You should strive to be so sensitive to the horse that you release the pressure the moment you sense the horse beginning to try the right thing. The horse learns from the release, not from the pressure. The release is the reward.

As pressure is consistently used, along with the instant release of pressure, the horse learns to recognize this pattern. He learns to use his brain to think things through, to solve problems, and to get himself out of jams. A horse that has never been allowed to think but has always been forced, may have a little trouble making the transition to this type of response.

Some may wonder why you would want the horse to make decisions; why not just coerce the horse to do what you want? The advantage is in the horse's attitude. The horse that is forced is a slave, and his resentment can be seen by the expression on his face and his other body language. A horse that is given a choice will be a willing partner. If you treat the horse with patience and respect, he will be more likely to also respect you, and be your friend.

God uses pressure to get us to seek. When small trials do not get the right response, He may give us bigger trials, or we may find ourselves undergoing the same trial over and over, as in rhythmic pressure, to get us to seek.

Psalm 27:8 When Thou didst say, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee, "Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek."

God has given us free will, and He holds us responsible for the choices we make. We will reap what we sow. In the Old Testament, things were spelled out in detail. The believer did not have to think much about what God would want him to do in this situation or that.

But for the New Testament Christian, no longer under the yoke of the Law, we have freedom in Christ. God wants us to think things through, and to actively seek His leading in those areas that are not spelled out in black and white. The believer is not to live in the realm of do's and don'ts, but by the law of love: to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves.

When things are not going good, how do we respond to the pressure? Are we looking Him up? Are we seeking Him, asking Him what He would have us do, how He would have us change?

If not, the pressure will probably continue. We may respond to the pressure as just a part of life we must resign ourselves to, in which case we do not experience spiritual growth. Or we can respond properly to life's pressures, pushing on to spiritual growth.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…

Have we learned what the pressures and trials are for? Are we learning to learn?

Copyright 1998

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