In the world of what has come to be known as ‘Natural’ Horsemanship, 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 — that if you ever use more than two ounces of pressure, you’re going to make your horse heavy.

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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 truth is that if you’re being super light when the horse is being heavy or pushy, he will get heavier.

And, if you’re being heavy when the horse is being light, he will get heavier. So both of these scenarios create a ‘heavy’, unresponsive, dull horse.

OR the horse could get lighter when you’re heavy handed and lighter when you’re light handed.

The CRITICAL key is the TIMING of when you’re light and when you’re heavy.

A good horser can feel when the horse is pushing through and when he’s being responsive — so he’s light when the horse is light and heavy when the horse is heavy.

We all want to be light-handed riders, but to get a horse to the point where that is possible, there will be times when you get heavier.

Here’s a quick video to show you an example:

(This video is part of the Timing & Communication series on Horse.TV. Click here to get a free 7 day trial to Horse.TV and watch the entire series!)

Say you’re using two ounces of pressure, and the horse starts pushing on that — if you don’t increase the pressure, he doesn’t have a REASON not to push on the two ounces. So the result is a horse that is always pushy.

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.

Imagine there is a boss mare in a herd of horses.

A new horse comes along who doesn’t yield to her like the other horses do. At first she will simply look his way and maybe pin her ears back.

But if the new horse doesn’t respond, she’ll come in there and nip at him and let him know what she expects.

So the next time the boss mare looks his way, the new horse turns an about face and heads the other direction.

The boss mare no longer has to get ‘heavy’ with the new horse. He now understand to respond when she is ‘light’.

We can apply this same concept that horses do with each other.

More pressure doesn’t mean jerking or snatching — there’s no preparation in that, and it’s rude to the horse.

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

The goal is to be light as possible, but as firm as necessary.

Carson James
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.