When training a young horse, the first lesson you teach him is how to give to pressure. If you push him, he should step away. If you pull him, he should step toward you. It’s all about pressure and release. From a young age, we teach horses to take the path of least resistance.
Pressure and release is a simple concept to humans. If you want the pressure to stop, you must move away from it. Horses, however, lack logical reasoning skills. Their first reaction to any stressor is to panic and bolt. A common bad habit in young horses is what we call “pulling back.”
To safely work around horses, we often tie them up to a wall, a fence, or a post. If the horse tries to walk away while tied to something, they’ll feel the pressure of that tie on their head. Suddenly, they find themselves in a stressful situation. To an inexperienced horse, that pressure means “I’m stuck, this hurts, I need the pressure to stop.” So, they panic and bolt in an effort to free themselves. They “pull back” away from the tie with all of their strength until it snaps and the pressure releases. It’s scary to watch and unsafe to be near. You’re left with a loose (probably frantic) horse and a broken rope.
A trained horse who understands how to give to pressure would handle the same scenario very differently. That horse would feel the pressure on it’s head and think “I’m stuck, this hurts, I need the pressure to stop – I have to move forward.” We’ve retrained him to respond to pressure with calmness rather than panic, so they understand that with one simple step forward, the pressure would be gone.
Unlike horses, people are born with those logical reasoning skills. Even with those tools, we still pull back. When faced with a stressor, our emotions heighten. We’re scared when we can’t find an immediate solution, so we overreact, panic, and bolt. The truth we’re too overwhelmed to see is that we don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Relief is found on the other side of that pressure. All we have to do is take that one simple step.