Every horse should yield to pressure. In my opinion, this is the foundation of our relationship with horses. It is the most fundamental dance step. Once both horse and person develops the timing and feel of this communication, the door is opened to everything else.
I have divided this skill into several related exercises. The first is pressure on the halter at the poll, in which downward pressure is applied to the lead rope, looking for a yield by the horse. The second is asking for lateral movement with a step over. The third is moving the haunches away from pressure with fingertips.
All of them test your timing and feel. When you have accomplished these three variations, you will find that you can ask for any other variation on this core concept.
Exercise 1 - Pressure on the Halter at the Poll: Maintain moderate pressure downward on the leadrope, no jerking. By doing this, you are asking for something, a yield. You send the message and you keep the message there and you wait, and when the horse shows the slightest attempt at yielding to the pressure, you immediately release. You then give the horse 10 seconds of rest as reward (and maybe a rub and a soothing word) then try again.
Within a few tries, the horse should drop away at the slightest pressure. Stop and move on to another lesson. At all times, if the horse is becoming more resistant, or this exercise is becoming more difficult, you are doing something wrong. Either try a different approach or stop altogether until someone can help you.
You can do the same thing with lateral flexion of the neck, and asking the horse to flex at the poll.
Exercise 2 - Step Over: Now stand to the left side of the horse with enough room for the horse to step over toward you. Apply pressure on the halter and wait for a step over. Instantly slack when you get the step. Reward.
Exercise 3 - Move Haunches Over with Digital Pressure: Now do the same thing, only this time you are pushing with your fingertips. Press sideways into the horse's ribcage or hip area with your fingertips. Do they move away? If not, lean more heavily on your fingertips and wait. As soon as there is an attempt at moving away, you stop.
If you cannot get a response after 45 seconds of fingertip pressure, you may need to use your keys or other less forgiving object for increased "signal." You should only have to do this once.
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