How To Create A Super Responsive Horse

In some circles of the horse world, there is a prevailing thought that if you ever use more than featherlight pressure, you’re not a good horser (my word).

People have adopted the “natural” philosophy and assumed that to create a light horse, you must handle them lightly all the time, and if you ever use more than two ounces of pressure, you’re going to make your horse heavy.

So, well-intentioned riders treat their horse with kid gloves all the time, and the horse ends up getting the bad end of the deal because communication is hindered, and the horse is never enabled to reach his full potential.

The critical key is the timing of when you’re light and when you’re heavy. The goal is to be light as possible, but as firm as necessary.

Always offer the horse “the good deal” first.

To do this, you’ll always start out with very light pressure, and then if nothing happens, turn up the heat and start adding more pressure until you see a small change.

In the illustration below, I’m offering the horse a lighter pressure at first and lightly shaking the lead rope to try to get him to back up…and he’s just standing there.

So after offering the “good deal” first with no results, I amp up the pressure until he takes one step back.

It’s important to note that in order for this to work, your timing is critical.

As soon as the horse does what you want, you must release all pressure or he won’t learn anything.

This gives the horse a reason to respond to the lighter pressure and teaches him that, if he’ll just respond to that lighter pressure first, the heavier, more uncomfortable pressure won’t come.

But if the horse doesn’t respond to that lighter pressure, and you don’t follow up with heavier pressure, you’re going to have an unresponsive horse.

You just have to apply it in a way that is fair to the horse and within his level of understanding.

I see so many people who almost got their horse to make that positive change, but they just gave up too early.

Don’t give up. Hang in there until you get a change.

Imagine you’re wanting your horse to start moving as soon as you lightly tap your heels against his belly.

You tap your heels and nothing happens.

Or you tap your heels and he thinks about it for a minute, and then slowly starts walking.

This is a PERFECT example of when being “light” is not gonna work.

Here’s a video example:

About The Author

Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship. For the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. He was often in situations where he either had to figure out how to help the horse understand, or it could easily turn into a life or death situation. Carson now travels the country putting on training clinics teaching people the fundamentals of Horsemanship. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.