Just about all horse language can be summed up in the term “pressure and release”. When you observe horses in a herd in their natural hierarchy state, the lead or “boss” horse demonstrates and executes their “bossyness” by moving all the subordinate horses around. She does this with body language and pressure and release. First she will often make a mean face at another horse pinning their ears, then move towards like she might bite. If the other horse still is not moving off this pressure, the next step is maybe to turn and kick at the delinquent. As soon as the underling moves off the pressure the boss is applying, the boss will “release” the pressure and stop asking. This is how a horse learns. They want nothing more than to be left alone, free of pressure. So, when working with them, you have to become the boss. Horses are herd animals and the need to have a boss. If you aren’t the boss, they feel like someone has to, so they will be. At that point you are either being pushed around, walked on or worse, along for the ride. This is never a good thing.
The timing of your release is very important. Every time you ask a horse to do something, you are either desensitizing or sensitizing them. If you ask and ask and ask and get no response and then release, you’ve taught them that you don’t want them to respond. This is also called desensitizing. On the other hand if you ask, ask harder quickly and release only when you get the desired response, you are teaching them to move when you say so and making them more responsive and respectful. Always a good thing!
Much more on this topic to follow.