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"You allowed the horse to get self release. Not good if you want to control the horse"

This week I got some interesting comments on this video (included below) of Maia at liberty, which had me realize it's pretty confusing to watch through the "eyes" of pressure and release - which is afterall where most of us have most experience. There is room for some explanation and insight here about what is actually happening... So here you go :)

"I used to use pressure and release and get why this video looks odd from that perspective. An "Alpha" based strategy can certainly be used to cause a horse to stay with you at liberty. The downside for us of that approach is that the horse's primary motivation for staying is to avoid the discomfort (promise of pressure) of leaving. Hannah wanted Maia to join her at liberty without this negative/aversive motivation (nor did she want to rely on food rewards - she just felt something was missing).

When watched from the perspective of the horse's experience, this video shows a distinct shift from Maia seeking to "escape" the handler and the space (looking for safety from the other horses etc) to making a clear decision to buddy up instead. This was not achieved through "dominance" or driving pressure (and for this reason herd hierarchy and the drive-line are not relevant). The result is achieved through me "alerting her" where not to be (so she feels safer where she goes) vs. driving her into a space (where she would feel more pressured) and then more specifically guiding her feet where not be vs. where they must go. Yes, a mind-shift - and the same degree of influence on where she actually goes, just a different presentation.

Maia follows this guidance through Feel, no training, it's what horses do - with no pressure to avoid or promises around food, just a natural response to Feel which happens to be heightened when the horse's instincts are up (this can come in quite handy). She's really just seeking to feel safe anyway, and every time she finds herself following my feel, she feels a bit safer. That ongoing good feel builds, because it *connects with her concerns*, offers her a *better feeling solution* than the escape strategy she was fixated on at the start - which is exactly what she seeks. This instinctively inspires her shift in focus to the source of that better feel. I "get with her" as Bill Dorrance put it.

When she comes, she brings heart and spirit right with her with her own plan to stick with me - which is our goal with this (vs submission)."

 

I'm constantly inspired by what horses have in them to offer when we simply offer a better feel that fits - a different kind of leadership through connection first. Developing our feel and timing in this way has real value for those seeking a better feeling connection with their horse or for whom being "Alpha" is just not congruent with their personality and/or reason for being in horses.

Horses are fascinating creatures - dominance is not *required* for clarity about who goes where and when and at what speed.

 

Mark Rashid

RashidBookCover

"I see an 'opening' as anything that allows us to help guide, however briefly, an individual in the direction we ultimately would like to go. An 'opening' can be, and often is, a very subtle form of communication between horse and rider that can easily slip past us if we're not paying attention. 'Openings' can and do work both ways. [...] It amazes me just how small an 'opening' can actually be, whether working with horses or with people, and how easy it can be to create an 'opening' when one is needed."

Mark Rashid

"I truly believe developing the ability to see and use 'openings' effectively is only one piece of what one might refer to as the 'harmony in horsemanship' puzzle. When this idea of understanding 'openings' is brought together with the understanding of two other simlar ideas - making a connection with another indvidual, and the role distance plays in overall communication - I believe it is then that harmony in horsemanship becomes a much less daunting concept for us."

Mark Rashid

Leslie Desmond

LDaudiobook

"Bill knew about a place I did not know existed, or could exist, between a horse and a human being [...] Bill included each one of my horses in that information exchange. Over the course of many months,... he took each one by its lead rope and, later, by the bridle reins. Using what he called his 'better feel', Bill showed me and each of them exactly what he meant by what he did [...] It was not long after I made the switch from force when needed (often) to always customizing the feel I offered to a horse, that two tough horses I had misunderstood for years developed into my most reliable mounts."

Leslie Desmond

The lightest hands carry intent that is recognized instantly by the horse, as seen in the maneuvers he chooses to make with his feet. Whether that horse is ridden or handled, the lightest hands can purposefully influence the speed, direction and sequence of each foot with accuracy, in a manner that is reflected in the horse's body and on his face.

Leslie Desmond

Bill Dorrance

bilsbook

"The Real Masters Understood Feel [...] For example, De Kerbrech, (French officer in the cavalry of Napoleon III) really understood horses. He had it fixed up so the horse could succeed. [...] The first time I read Beudant's book was in the 1950s. The way he explained things, there was no doubt in my mind about what a person needed to do to get these little things working for them and their horse."

Bill Dorrance

“Feel, timing and balance: sometimes it’s best to talk about feel, timing and balance separately, and to learn how to apply each thing separately on the start. But when you apply these three things a little later in your training, then you see that each one of these things supports the other. They are interconnected and all three are real important. You really can’t get along without all three.”

Bill Dorrance

Faverot de Kerbrech

FaverotBookCover

“...plus le deplacement du poids est facile dans tous les sens, plus l'equilibre est parfait. En vertue de ce principe, on dit que le cheval est 'en equilibre' quand de simples indications suffisent au cavalier pour modifier a son gre la disposition du poids sur ses colonnes de soutien”

Faverot de Kerbrech

[Translation: ...the easier it is to shift the weight in any direction, the more perfect the balance. By virtue of this principle, the horse is 'in balance' when a simple indication from the rider is sufficient to modify the distribution of weight across the columns of support (four quarters) accordingly]

Duke of Newcastle

CavendishBookCover

"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else."

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

"A confrontational approach ‘Astonishes the Weak Horse […] makes a Furious horse Madd; makes a Resty Horse more Resty […] and Displeases all sorts of Horses’. The alternative however is not ‘to Sit Weak […] but to Sit Easie’, in the understanding that ‘The Horse must know you are his Master’"

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle