We have all heard that it is the release that teaches. However, there needs to first be a contrasting stimulation in order for the release to be meaningful, otherwise it is very hard to give the release in the first place.
After the horse offers a try, allowing him time to rest and relax can be a release as is sometimes allowing the horse to move. Rubbing or stroking the horse in a way the horse appreciates can be a release.
These concepts have great value to the horse and are much needed and appreciated if they have been physically and/or mentally stimulated.
When and if you are using a rub as a release, it has to be done like you mean it. Sometimes you may only be mentally stimulating the horse because you didn’t ask them to move their feet. In those times when you do ask a horse to move their feet, it should be to mentally stimulate them, not to play them out. We should always be striving to create a calmer, braver, smarter horse… not one that is just tired.
The key to this is to be sure to stimulate the growth in the horse mentally and physically. It is not possible to rub a horse smart or brave. But it can become a reward for them if done at the right time and feel.
Think about someone following you around the house rubbing your back where ever you went for no particular reason. Your back isn’t sore, but it is starting to get sore and a blister from all the rubbing.
On the other hand, if you were picking rocks all day, trimming horses, or weeding the garden, a nice massage might be very welcomed.
If you have been standing in one spot for a half hour and someone come along and said “Hey why don’t you stand still for another half hour?” it might be torture rather than pleasure.
But on the other hand, if you had been climbing a mountain for the last three hours and someone said “Lets sit down and take a half hour breather,” it would have some real value.
Most horses enjoy a good rub but many don’t. The dislike of being rubbed can be very obvious with horses that have not been handled much with no trust or understanding established yet. Being that they are prey animals and we are predators, it is not high on their list in the beginning.
It is possible that horses that have been handled plenty will not really enjoy a rub or rest, because they haven’t been stimulated mentally or physically and all the standing around and or rubbing just becomes an annoyance.
Another example of what I’m trying to explain is if you offer a piece of pie to someone that just finished supper, ate too much and has already had two pieces of pie and you offer them more, it doesn’t have the value as it would to someone that hasn’t had any pie for months and are still hungry from supper.
Asking a horse to do the same thing over and over when they already understand the exercise and have been doing it for a year is not stimulating for them unless you are some how asking them to improve how they are doing that exercise.
A rest for a horse when they are looking for one is a release. A rub when they are looking for one is a release. A well timed rub or rest after a horse has been physically and mentally stimulated becomes somewhat of an addiction for them and something they look for and crave rather than something they have to put up with.
Create a trying horse by mentally and physically stimulating them and then offering them the contrast that they are looking for. With the correct amount of ingredients mixed together it is nothing short of amazing the speed in which horses can learn. It is equally amazing how very little change there can be when components are missed or in short supply.