One of the most important foundations in horse training is the concept of “giving” to pressure. When you apply pressure, your horse should give to that aid instead of working against it.
Riding a horse that resists pressure is difficult and not very enjoyable. Think of a horse who raises their head when asked to back up or one who plants their feet when asked to move forward. These are both examples of resistant responses in which the horse is not giving.
The Non-Giving Horse
Many common training problems trace back to this same core issue. The rider applies an aid, the horse resists, and so the rider applies a stronger aid. Eventually, the horse may give the response that the rider was seeking. However, that response is usually forced and reluctant. And the rider feels like they really had to fight and work to get the response. This is not what riding your horse should feel like.
Here’s an example of a resistant response compared to a giving response. Imagine you’re on the ground, asking your horse to back up. Your horse raises their head and plants their feet. So, you push them back with more force, perhaps leaning into their chest with your shoulder. The horse eventually backs a few steps as you rub your sore shoulder. This is a resistant response. Now, imagine that when you ask your horse to back up, they lower their head and calmly step backward. This is a giving response.
At Easy Horse Fix, we have training videos to help with teaching your horse specific skills, such as backing from the ground. However, before you dig into these specific training videos, we recommend starting with our Foundational Flex 7 Video. This video teaches your horse the basic concept of giving to pressure. Once you and your horse understand these basics, it will be easier to teach more advanced skills that also rely on the concept of giving.
Teaching a Horse to Give
In our Foundational Flex 7 video, we’ll go over seven related exercises for teaching your horse to give. The first three exercises are performed with you on the ground and your horse in a rope halter. These halters, which you can find at most feed stores and tack shops, apply pressure to just the right spots on your horse’s nose. As you work through our first three exercises, your horse will learn to give to the pressure applied by the knots in the rope halter.
Once your horse learns to give in to the rope halter, we’ll show you two more exercises to perform on the ground with your horse in a bridle. These exercises teach your horse the foundations of giving to bit pressure. A horse that gives to bit pressure on the ground will have an easier time learning to do the same under saddle.
The final two exercises in Foundational Flex 7 are performed with you in the saddle. After a few training sessions, your horse will master these exercises. Riders are often amazed at how much more supple and responsive their horses feel under saddle after working through the Foundational Flex 7 routine.
If you have a green horse or one you’re restarting, we highly recommend using the Foundational Flex 7 as the basis for your training. You’ll be setting your horse up for success by teaching them to give from the very beginning. You’ll also be forming a strong relationship with your horse – a relationship in which they trust you and are working to please you.
These exercises are also perfect for an older horse who has some resistant behaviors to work through. It’s often helpful to step back and re-establish the basics of training before directly addressing a specific problem.
If you’re just beginning your training journey and want to see what Easy Horse Fix is all about, you can rent the Foundational Flex 7 video individually or subscribe to become a member and gain access to ALL of our training videos.
Giving: The Easy Horse Fix Way
At Easy Horse Fix, teaching your horse to flex and give is not just one exercise we do. It’s the basis for our gentle, trust-based approach to horsemanship. Riding and working with your horse should be enjoyable, and it should feel like a partnership. Our members love working with their horses because they can see and feel the results. Learn more about our membership options HERE. We hope you join us!