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NATURAL HORSE BLOG

THE PRINCIPLES OF PRESSURE…...AND OPERANT CONDITIONING…….

Most good horse trainers will be happy to tell you about how horses learn through the removal of pressure....but a lot fail to elaborate on exactly what that actually means to you and your horse…..and how best to implement that within your training protocols.
So to talk about this in more detail.....

"PRESSURE" to a horse certainly does not have to mean physical touch by the rider, or another horse.... As even looking at a horse can feel like pressure to the sensitive perceptions of these intelligent prey animals.

This is because "PRESSURE AND RELEASE” is an innate behaviour that all horses understand, which is because this is how they behave towards each other.....

Therefore if we can copy this behaviour into our interaction and training with horses, the horse will have a much better chance of understanding what is required of him when we present it in a clear way as part of our approach to the horse's natural behaviour.
So to explain this concept from the horse's point of view:

Firstly the Alpha horse in a herd does not give all the subordinate horses in his or her group a positive reward when they do as he asks...... so as nice as it is to believe in positive conditioning, it is not the way of the horse, as horses do not work like that at all.....so there are no apples handed out and no cheers of “well done” by the boss horse, nor does the Alpha congratulate these subordinate herd members for doing as he wanted....

No, the reward that all horses understand is called "THE RELEASE" which is when the Alpha horse stops all stimulus towards the Beta horse!

So the boss horse simply leaves the underlings alone when they comply to his/her requests, and all stimulus and threat responses stop at the exact second the beta horse does as is asked....

For example...the boss horse tells the members of his group to go to the water trough, which is relayed by him/her driving the other horses through a mixture of posturing, and body/facial gestures towards his subordinates within her/his group.......see photo 1 for a example of this with my grey towards the clydie, which will increase into bites and kicks if these signals are not obeyed by the lower ranking horses.....as seen in photo 2.

See photo 3 for a perfect example of the release being given after the interaction is all over.....as the Alpha(the grey) gives the reward of release and takes all the pressure( perceived or physical) off the clydie...
Gandalf the grey start to apply Gandalf the grey applies increased








Gandalf gives Otto the

And to understand how a horse's psyche works, as shown...... all these gestures and instructions from the Alpha are read by the beta horse as the "APPLICATION OF PRESSURE" as pressure does not need to be physical with horses, as it's the threat of touch.....so physical touch is unnecessary, though they will increase to that level of pressure if their request aren't met.

So if you want to do better with your horse…. train him in a language he understands with “feel” and “timing” with the removal of pressure being his biggest reward.
Ask for any type of manoeuvre from your horse, wether on the ground or ridden..... and when he complies- STOP EVERYTHING to give him the release....and watch how much better things go from there.