Pressure Motivates Release Teaches
This article was originally published in the August 2011 issue of Savvy Times magazine. Recent back-issues of Savvy Times are available for Parelli members in the Resources section of Parelli Connect.
Appropriate Application of Pressure Exquisite Timing of Release
-by Linda Parelli
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.
There are three ways to put pressure on a horse: mentally,emotionally and physically.
What is appropriate application?
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?
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.
When Pat says, “It’s the release that teaches,” this means that when you release is critical.
How do you know your timing is good, or even exquisite?
The quality of response increases, and the horse learns quickly with a minimum of difficulty.
How do you know if your timing was ineffective?
The quality of the response decreases. It takes longer to teach something, and the horse progressively feels more dull or heavy.
How do we release? Let me count the ways…
“Release” basically means you remove the advancing pressure, but there are different ways to do that.
Improving your “feel” is actually what improves your timing. And the way to improve your feel is to slow way, way down.
Ways to improve your timing
Improving your “feel” is actually what improves your timing. And the way to improve your feel is to slow way, way down. Go slower than slow. Going slowly increases your sensitivity. Not only that, but your feel becomes much more polite and well received by the horse. For example, light, quick hands on the reins are actually more disturbing for the horse than firm pressure applied very slowly. The difference is that your horse can mentally tune in to what is happening; it gives him time to think and interpret your message.
Better feel and timing improve the quality of response and speed of learning
When teaching horses, pressure motivates and release teaches. Remember this as you teach your horse anything you want him to do. As you learn to do this appropriately and exquisitely, start to notice how much more quickly your horse learns and how confidently and calmly he begins to respond. Even better, you and your horse will start to perform with a whole new level of grace and harmony at which your “aids” are virtually imperceptible. And that will be because you and your horse are feeling of each other and for each other so you can feel together.