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5. But When I Watch Leslie, I Sometimes See Pressure, How is that "Just Release" ?

When Leslie begins working with a horse 'pressure' clearly shows up sometimes, yet if you watch the horse, he does not experience 'pressure', he experiences 'release'. How can this be, and why is it important? 

To me, it is important because what he experiences delivers the whole horse back into the horse we have under saddle: his grace, pride, dignity and lightness. These are qualities the horse should not have to compromise for our pleasure. Better still would be to leave this all in there from the start, during our colt starting. Here, we are talking more about rehabilitation of the horse from compromising effects that can occur as a result of many common training practices. Compromising effects which unwittingly impact the holy grail for every horseman -- a light and easy ride.

So what is this pressure in a 'just release' approach? And how can the horse experience pressure as release? I offer my interpretation of when pressure is pressure, and when it isn’t(!), from my observation of the horses I've watched Leslie work with, and my own experiences.

Leslie sometimes uses quite sudden ‘pressure’, at times, one could think, "coming from nowhere".  Again, watch the horse, and he will tell you that there is something very different in Leslie's delivery, which he finds quite liberating. The most crucial difference is in Leslie's intent: her presentation has a different context, different purpose, different timing -- she offers a different feel  which results in reawakening the true horse within. She is preparing the horse to tune into 'feel'.

The context and purpose of this brief moment of 'pressure' has nothing to do with a request you have in mind to ask of the horse, it has to do with having the horse available to you, and to himself. The true horse is so often shut down at some level as he lives what he learns and fills in around our expectations of him: for example, when his life comes up, many handlers are apt to shut this down right there, so the horse learns to mask out natural feel from his existence around humans. An obvious example of this is a horse that has had a job for years on a string of trail horses: he has shut down a good deal of his natural being. Compare this with the zest for life and lightness in an unhandled colt.

Leslie's presentation releases the horse from within: he sheds the  dulling cloak he has learned to wear when handled by humans. This "cloak" can manifest itself in many different ways. One example is that horses often learn to carry themselves on the forehand when around humans. This can be the result of handling style around the head and neck, or riding style, or both. The life that goes with lightness in the shoulders was not wanted, so he learned, or was caused, to "fill in" by weighting his shoulders. A horse who has learned to carry himself habitually in this way has killed his capacity for lightness. The unfortunate yet very real consequence is that his stops, departs, turns and transitions - all maneuvers - are compromised.  Leslie might release the shoulders (in this case), giving life to this part of the horse to reconnect lost form and function. She goes under the radar of prior training, by judiciously raising the horse's awareness of this zone of his body: feel and timing absolutely come into this, as well as a presentation that is unfamiliar to the horse.  Because it is unfamiliar, the horse has no learned response, all he can do is operate in his language: feel. And that is the point, to restore the horse's natural mode of operation. The horse's life comes up, in a way that may not have been acceptable in his prior training, and at the very moment that this shapes up in the horse, he feels a released float, instead of the pressure he expected for his reaction, as well as release from every cell in Leslie: body turned away, releasing more rope - yes, be the horse that you are. Watch the horse when Leslie does this: the release and reconnection he experiences inside is in his face, in his posture, in his being. He becomes fascinated by this human:  the whole horse is now 100% present.

With the whole horse restored, he is operating naturally again, through feel: he's proud, moving gracefully as all horses can, with suspension and lightness, and dignity. He is light and available mentally and physically: now Leslie shapes this life through "just release".  When the horse is in this state, pressure is no longer needed in requests of the horse. Instead of going to a spot and directing pressure at the horse to cause him to move, you release him off that spot (or often a spot much further away). By doing this you stay with him mentally, rather than creating mental distance through pressure. When he is with you mentally, through release, he stays light.

In the phased approach of "pressure and release", the horse sees you delivering the pressure, and pressure still exists between you in the refined communication. Therefore it lives in your partnership. If you set the horse up to succeed and only use the release part, there is no pressure in the refined communication.  Pressure does not live in the partnership.

By Karen Musson

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