Release & Pressure (R/P)
Learning To Learn
How does a horse learn?
You must convey your intentions without words. You must show them what you are asking without them becoming alarmed and going up into the Sympathetic Nervous System. Once they escalate into "Fight or Flight" mode there is NO learning. The most effective way to teach your horse is through baby steps and then allowing the neurochemical process to happen by waiting. This takes much longer than most people assume. It is now known that a horse can take between 1 to 3 mins to completely process a thought. You can rush the process but it usually ends up taking longer because the horse must be shown the process over and over.
When teaching a new idea to your horse, how do you build on the previous thought? They have no words to let you know they got the information and can execute that information. So how do you convey your intentions and then let them know they are on the right track?
What you have in your mind can be completely different than their understanding of the request. If you keep asking for them to perform a certain task, and you up the pressure without the correct release, there is a good chance the horse will experience stress, will go up in their Sympathetic Nervous System and will not be able to learn anything. At this point, no amount of additional pressure will work.
When first introduced to a new cue or routine the release, and the timing of the release, is everything. The release is the “yes“ answer for them.
In reality, communication with a horse begins as soon as they become aware that you are nearby- WAY before you enter the paddock, enter the stall or put the halter on. When they first see, smell or hear you, the pressure is already there, so the first thing we need to do is make sure they feel us in the release position (homeostasis) first. Then we can begin.