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“How strongly should I apply my aids?” The horse determines the strength of your aids. Observe a couple of horses turned out together. Horse #1 is quietly munching hay when the alpha horse, #2, decides he’s hungry. He’ll walk toward the hay pile and if horse #1 holds his ground, #2 will lay back his ears and continue to move toward the hay. If #1 doesn’t respond by moving away, #2 will back up the flattened ears with a hearty nip. If #1 still chooses to stay put, #2 will wheel and kick out. By this time horse #1 has usually decided to take up residence in some other part of the pasture or county.
Now, who determined the intensity of the confrontation? Horse #1 -
The first pressure of the whip must always be a touch – we don’t want the horse to fear the whip but he must respect it. If the first pressure is simply a touch, your horse will never be afraid of the whip – this pressure requires him to do nothing, it simply calls his attention to you – “I’m about to ask you to do something.” Next begin to vibrate the whip – now you expect the horse to respond to the gentle vibration. Quickly increase the intensity of the vibration (sometimes it’s necessary to progress to a hearty slap) until you reach the level at which the horse responds by moving forward (sideways or whatever). Immediately stop the movement of the whip.
The horse learns from the cessation of the aid, not its application. “Huh?” You say. As soon as the horse figures out what it takes to get you to stop applying the aid he will quickly do just that at the slightest hint of that aid. This leads us to the next important point – as soon as the horse responds correctly to your request – stop asking him to do it!