Have you heard the saying “Herd Pressure” versus “Predator Pressure”? Both are methods of communication that many horse owners use today on the ground and in the saddle. One of which is too often used in the wrong way or more used in a language the horse does not fully understand.
Let us outline two different situations that will help you better understand this concept, allowing you to develop a willing partnership that will transform the way you communicate with your horse- you being the leader, you feeling safe and empowered with your horse’s trust.
Situation One: You are working a nervous or fearful horse in a round pen, you are equipped with a lunge whip or whatever tool you generally use for training. As you step to your horse you begin to swing your training tool and your horse moves off loping around the round pen, your body is chasing and all you are really focusing on is the driveline and that your horse is moving forward. You increase more pressure through your aid and you see that your horse is looking out over the rails, possibly pushing on the rails and seems to be running “away” from you, their reactions are quick, fast and possibly fearful. You have now tapped into predator pressure where your horse is only thinking about getting “away”, it may not be fearing for it’s life but it is moving away from you because it does not know what is coming next and nature is telling it to run. The horse in not “yielding” to you; we will discuss the concept of “yield” in a later issue.
Situation Two: You are working the same horse with the same tools but this time you step towards with intent leaving your training tool to the side only to use it if necessary. Too often people ask with an aid or tool instead of using their body posture and taking ownership of the space around them. As the horse moves off, your body and emotions own the space meaning you’re calm and sure of what you are doing. Being careful of how much pressure your horse can handle, but at the same time not backing down and giving your space away.
Watching their body will tell you a great deal. Think of horses herd behavior in the pasture, when a horse wants another horse to move they will take ownership of the space “not use an aid”. You will see this through pinning their ears, a stretched out neck and their body moving forward towards the other horse. That horse responds by moving away and “yielding” to the pressure out of respect and has understood that the other horse is the leader, as opposed to it moving away in fear.
It is my goal as a horseman to establish and maintain clear communication with my horses in the purest form. “Striving to communicate just as horses communicate with one another.”
Keep these two things in mind when communicating with your horse.
1) Never tap into predator pressure if you want to establish leadership.
2) When communicating; think of what you want your horse to do, have meaning and intent, present it and then follow through.
This will allow you to have a horse that respects you and will move freely from your space allowing you to stay safe and have an enjoyable partnership.