Pressure & Release

I had every intention on tacking up yesterday…but then the sky opened up and it rained. And rained. And rained. And rained. What was supposed to be a little shower in the morning and sunny the rest of the day was more like rain nonstop until it was dark.

My pasture. My round pen.

Muddy messes.

So, riding is put off. I’m hoping it’ll be dry enough to do some simple work tomorrow. I’m extremely eager to ride Red because of the groundwork we’ve been doing. I told my mother, it seems silly thinking it’ll make a difference, since it’s just simple work, but then I showed her how he’s doing. And my horse, he listens to me super well on the ground when he decides to be nice. And for a week now, he’s given me his all on the ground. His mind has been 100% on me, and when he’s like this, I know it transfers to under saddle. I made my mother watch us work a bit yesterday evening when we were having a moment of no torrential downpour, she hadn’t seen him work since our first day of groundwork, and she was like, wow, serious complete turn around on the ground. For instance, last week, getting him to back up on the ground was a bear. I’d have to give him a ton of pressure, and keep it there. And after a few minutes, he’d release and back up a foot. Then he’d be stubborn again. For flexing, he’d have a stiff neck and wouldn’t want to flex far enough, and when he did, he didn’t want to release. He was just kind of giving me his entire head like “here you hold it and do the work” Which was definitely 100% my fault. I hadn’t been teaching him pressure and release. I released way too late and he didn’t understand. With Red, if you work on his wavelength and keep at it for a few days, he’ll listen, and he’ll take things in. I could’ve already had him working perfectly like this, with all the groundwork I do. But I didn’t get how to do it properly, so of course, he didn’t know what I was asking.

Now, he will back up until I tell him to stop, with literally no pressure. I give him an extremely light bump on the inside rein, and he backs, I release as soon as  he goes to that first step, and he keeps going until I ask him to woah. I ask him to turn on his haunches with that light bump, he turns until I ask for a woah. I ask him to flex, he flexes and gives to me super quickly. Now, it’s time to start asking for a lower head. But a lot of that he’s come by just by himself.

Standing at your horse’s left side, take the slack out of the rein and ask for the give. As soon as he gives to the bit and turns his nose toward you, offer a short “mini-release” to reward him. Take the slack out of the rein again. Now you’re looking for the tip of his ear to go down. He’ll probably give to the bit again or move his head around in different directions at first. Just hold that same rein pressure. When the ear goes down even a fraction, release the rein. Then, repeat the routine.

Think of this as a two-phase process: First, get him to give to the bit and give him a brief release; then, take the slack out of the rein, wait for his ear to drop, and give him a real release. After you’ve repeated this many times on each side, you’ll begin to see a new pattern develop: Your horse will consistently drop his head as he moves his nose to the side. It will become a single motion. Along with this give, you’ll begin to notice that he’s relaxing the long muscle in the side of his neck. This is exactly what you want.

How low should his head be? As a general rule, you want the tip of his ears to be more or less even with his withers. If he lowers his head too far, you can teach him to raise it using the same cue you used to lower it. Just maintain steady pressure on the rein until you see the tip of his ear come up and then immediately release the rein. – sourceJohn Lyons 

He’s definitely come a really long ways on the ground in just a few days of working with him. So hoping I get a few minutes in the saddle this week to start working with these things on him. And here’s hoping the second part of the process goes as easily as the first and he gets the hang of lowering his head and using himself better!

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