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Day 20 - The Relaxed Cowboy

100 days

The thing that first struck me, on my first day of the John Lyons Certification Program, was how relaxed Josh's horse was.

I'd come from a discipline where we 'hang on' to our horses all the time, for no reason!

It took less than one day for my horse to learn that if I drop the reins, you just stand there and relax, just like Josh and Taz above.

Wow, that was actually a huge revelation to me and led to SO MUCH more. 

Whether we're sitting on the horse and standing still, riding at any gait, leading the horse or even grooming, if the horse is doing what is asked, then there should be no pressure.

Taken to its natural endpoint, this is SELF-CARRIAGE!

Good training involves pressure - correct movement - release. So, all pressure, be it legs, rein, lead rope, seat or voice, MUST change or move something and then it must be released when this is changed or moved.

Any unrelenting pressure (i.e. pressure that does not get released on correct movement or some change) will only serve to habituate the horse to that pressure, meaning more will be required to elicit the same response in the future.

Next time you're with your horse, check and see if you sometimes 'forget' to release pressure. Here are a few common times:

1) Continually asking for trot (or any gait) when the horse is already trotting. Stop clucking when the horse trots. If you want more speed then have a specific cue for that and stop when you get more speed.
2) Holding a horse in frame when riding.
3) Having pressure on the lead rope while leading, even when the horse is leading well or standing.
4) Leaning on the horse while tied (usually chatting to a mate!).
5) There are, of course, tons of others - what are some of yours? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

As soon as you start being aware of pressure, you will find those times that you don't release. Sometimes we don't even realise we have pressure. For example, your voice, clucking a horse on or walking behind a horse to encourage forward movement in the round pen, lunge or long reins.