My first trainer was very wise when she reminded us, “What you think of as pressure and what your horse thinks of as pressure may not be the same.” I spend a lot of time wondering about the nature of pressure and the need for it. How to train and ride with it and without it. Especially while writing myRoutine Tasks…post, which made me feel awfully guilty about just about everything I’ve ever done with a horse.
Cheryl Ward at I Feel Good, My Horse Feels Good has nailed the definition. No need for me to struggle to reinvent the wheel.
Here it is:
What is Pressure?
Let’s jog on over to a natural horsemanship clinic.
(Before I begin, I have a disclaimer. The only reason I have disclaimer is when I tell people I predominately train without pressure, they tell me, with their fists clenched, that it’s impossible and they look like they want to punch me.)
Disclaimer: I am not against the use of pressure. I am against pressure being disguised as gentle, warm and fuzzy or a force-free alternative. I am against negative reinforcement being the only line of communication with a horse. I am advocating a balance of using attraction based methods and pressure based methods in the proportion that horses spend using each during their day. I am for using attraction-based methods to introduce pressure to a horse. Often when I train this way I don’t have to use pressure. I am for understanding the differences between using pressure and using attraction.
Okay, now let’s jog on over to a natural horsemanship clinic. The basic gist at one of these clinics is that horses communicate with pressure and that their deepest heart’s desire is the release of pressure, to be left alone. The conclusion is that the release of pressure is the reward. This theory has left me empty.
Pressure is defined by Merriam Webster online as:
The burden of physical or mental distress.
The constraint of circumstance.
The application of force to something by something else in direct contact with it.
You’ll have to visit the link to Cheryl’s blog to read the rest. It’s SO worth it! She has a wonderful counter-definition of the concept of ATTRACTION.