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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: The Lightest Amount of Pressure Possible

No matter what you’re asking a horse to do you must always ask with the lightest amount of pressure possible. Even if you know the horse isn’t going to respond correctly at first, you still need to give him the benefit of the doubt by asking lightly. If he ignores you, then you’ll gradually increase the amount of pressure until he responds correctly. You’ll ask him and then you’ll tell him, until one day when you ask him, there will be no need to tell him.

You may pick up on the rein 200 times with one ounce of pressure and the horse will resist it, and you’ll have to increase the pressure. But eventually, you’ll ask with one ounce of pressure, and he’ll respond immediately. However, if you always pick up with 10 ounces of pressure straightaway, you’ll always have to pick up with 10 ounces of pressure – the horse will never get any lighter.

Most people want to start with a low amount of pressure, which is great, but when their horse ignores them or doesn’t move his feet, they don’t increase the pressure. First you ask the horse to respond with the lightest amount of pressure possible. If he chooses not to respond, you’ll increase the pressure until you get what you’re looking for.

My mentor Ian Francis explained it to me like this: You ask, you suggest, you insist, you enforce. Regardless of how you phrase it, the real goal is to ask with the least amount of pressure and increase that pressure until you get the response you are looking for. If you start gently and finish gently, then eventually being gentle will be all that’s necessary to get the job done.

You’ll do what you have to do to get the job done. You’ll do it as easy as possible, but as firm as necessary. If you always ask gently, then increase the pressure as needed, over time all you’ll have to be is gentle.