The title of this essay is above. Release, Relief, Reward. As a rider I have not separated these terms in my head until recent years. I learned to ride and train horses in a traditional manner and embraced the “Classical Dressage” principles as the basis for my riding and training for decades. Always working on becoming better at my craft and emulating the riders before me that I admired.
In most riding and training we apply the aids or cues in the form of some pressure from the legs, hands, seat weight or driving spine into the seat/saddle. This pressure (aids/cues) can be very light and vary all the way up to forceful and powerful leg/hand actions and escalate to spurring and violent use of crops or whips and bits. I have applied all of the above for years.
The application of these aids no matter how subtle falls into the category of pressure. Then the corresponding removal of the pressure the “Release”.
The timing of the Release, along with the clarity in the horses mind of the movement wanted by the rider is what becomes the effectiveness of the riders training and guidance of the horse under saddle. Along with excellent rider balance! These two principles are predominant in riding today.
So the rider’s train of thought goes as follows ( my train of thought while riding):
Apply the aid(pressure) the horse responds, release the aid, the horse finds relief and therefore Reward!
So here is the question….Does the horse find the Relief...Rewarding??
What if I did not assume that relief is rewarding and sought a truly rewarding action for the horse?
This is where the concept of adding a reward, something I am sure the horse would find rewarding and of value comes into my thoughts.
The concept that Relief is not rewarding….its just relief, and it may not be good enough. I may be able to do better and actually add something to my dialog with the horse….something the horse really values, not just the removal of pressure.
By adding something I am sure my horse values to the training and riding process could really enhance my horses clarity and motivation. Two things that can be elusive in the daily and long term riding partnership.
If my horse has true clarity and also motivation, I could bring the horse and rider partnership to a higher level. I could also prolong the career and health of the horses I ride.
So, going forward in your riding ponder on the terms Release, Relief, Reward.
In future essays, I will explore how just the subtraction of pressure may not be enough to be rewarding. I will continue the theme with how to add a true reward to training the horse.
Please contact us if you would like more information about riding using the methods described above, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia Lincourt and Charlie in Los Angeles February 2021.