Below I have an example to apply this exercise with the use of the phases and to let your horse move his head and neck.
○ Phase 1:
Stand next to the horse’s neck, express determination with your body language and place the rope over your arm (so that it does not get in the way, but you can still grab it quickly). Put one hand on the nose and your other hand on the shoulder of the horse you have very light pressure only on the hair.
○ Phase 2: Increase the pressure slightly on your left and right hand, to pressure on the skin.
○ Phase 3: Increase the pressure slightly on your left and right hand, to pressure on the muscles.
○ Phase 4: When the horse is not moving, use even more pressure, press the bone as it were. As soon as the horse moves away, if only just a little – Release !!
In the video below you see the beginning of a whole 360 degrees turn on the hindquarters, only the turning of the head and neck.
In the video below I show with Noa how the end result can look like.
Turning the front and back of the horse with appropriate respond to physical pressure which I apply with my hands.
One step or more and then more and more
When you start to teach the horse to give way to pressure, don’t be too demanding. First ask for one step, then two or three steps. If this goes well, you can expand it slowly. So don’t ask five steps until two steps go well. In this way the horse learns to accept better what you want and he also becomes more certain. Expand it further, be progressive and practice it frequently so that you can take 10, 20 or 50 steps in a few months. More dominant horses have more difficulty moving the front than the back.
There are many different directions that you can practice with this exercise. Such as: backwards (on nose, chest etc.), forward (on the rope, on the halter, on the foreleg with the string of your stick), Left (forehand and hindquarters), Right (forehand and hindquarters), Up (head), Down (head). You can also ask the horse to respond to pressure in different areas of its body (for example, where your leg is when you ride)
In addition to your fingers, you can also use a “stick” for this exercise (depending on which part of the horse you want to make sensitive to responding appropriately to pressure ). Often it is also easier with the stick than with your fingers because the stick is hard and does not yield, the pressure often remains the same as with your fingers. It is good to use this especially in the learning phase, because you are also more safely able to apply pressure without standing directly next to the horse (due to possible biting, kicking).
Below is another example of applying light pressure to raise and lower the horse’s head. This exercise is very useful later for the gymnastics exercizes. More about this in the Online Gymnastics Basic course.
The opposite reflex is a defensive reaction of the horse when it pushes against pressure instead of giving way. It is important to realize that this is not disobedience, it is a “right brained” (fear) instinctive response. A horse that bites or kicks when you start exercising, reacts with an opposite reflex. The worst thing you can do at that time is punish him for this or reduce the pressure or remove it. If you do not immediately put yourself in a difficult position, keep increasing the pressure until you get a positive response. If you do not do this, you will teach the horse to react to pressure in a dangerous way.
It is important to continue in the right position, to keep your pressure on in whatever phase, until the horse has figured it out and knows how to act. The moment the unwanted behavior stops, take the pressure off immediately and stroke it if necessary until he licks his lips (the horse licks his lips when he changes his behavior and starts thinking) and relaxes. Then start again at phase 1 etc. and keep repeating this until the horse learns to respond positively and gives way to the pressure.
In the video below you see me with my young PRE (26 months old) mare Correza. She already knows the exercises a little, but there are still plenty of “what if challenging moments”. So it might be interesting for you to view.
In the video below you can see another video of the learning process. Beau is a funny horse and he has learned quickly.
The lighter and softer you can be with the groundwork, the better this is reflected in the saddle. Your horse learns to first respond lightly to the exercises on the ground. This is the first step and this also ensures a connection with you from the saddle. It’s all about developing feel for both you and the horse.
In the long term, you will become more effective in learning certain things first from the ground, so that they will ultimately be clear when you are riding.
For example, with exercise 2: responding to pressure on hindquarters of the horse. In the first instance you touch the horse from the ground on its hindquarters. Because you cannot reach that far from the saddle with your leg, you can gradually touch the horse further forward from the ground until you can let it move away from the point where your leg is when you are riding.
When we teach the horse new things, we do this first from the ground and later from the saddle, this way the horse only needs to balance itself in new exercises and that is easier than with a rider on his back.