One of the essentials of working with horses is having a fundamental understanding of pressure and release. Without perfecting this essential there will be many days of stress ahead for both you and your equine partner.

Pressure: is defined by any cue you give to your horse from the softest spoken word to a firm tap with the whip.

Every action around a horse is teaching the horse something, be it how to do the right thing or how to do the wrong thing. Provided you treat every moment as a learning experience you can get a better idea of the value of pressure. The key to developing a soft but effective cue is combining timing with the proper pressure and under no circumstances nagging or allowing your horse to do the wrong thing  in response to the cue!

For example: You want your horse to go from a halt to a medium walk. The proper sequence of cues is a light touch with both heels (light = barely an ounce of pressure), wait maybe a second or two then intensify the heel pressure, if your horse does not immediately walk forward tap firmly with either heels or whip. And when I say firmly I mean firmly! Now the key to this is learning to release all pressure the instant your horse moves and knowing how fast to move through the sequence. If you go to fast you will seem harsh to your horse if you go to slow you will be nagging your horse. Both are equally bad! Generally I wait no more than three seconds before intensifying the cue. Note, that this time varies from horse to horse. With a young, nervous or untrained horse I will wait longer.

Remember, suggest softly then ask firmly!

Warning signs of nagging: if you find your horse sluggish and or unresponsive to your cues chances are you have been nagging him. Nagging teaches a horse to ignore you. For example let's say that your horse likes to break gait. If you know that and you constantly click to or squeeze your horse without a release then pretty soon your horse will ignore you completely. The same thing applies to if your horse likes to go to fast. If you hang on his mouth or ride around saying whoa all the time your horse will learn to ignore these cues.

Lastly: remember that if you must give a firm cue make it firm! Your horse will not hold it against you but if you give a soft cue when you’re trying to be firm your horse will disrespect you and find you unworthy to be a leader. Say what you mean and mean what you say.