Reflecting on another wonderful three day workshop at Oakfield Farm in Dorset:
As ever, Nick and Mo have been the most amazing hosts, housing and feeding all course participants, and providing constant tea (or cold drinks, we had glorious sunny weather) and great good humour!
The course participants this time had all been together here last April so we all now know each other and it was great to catch up on what everyone had been doing in the interim. On that previous workshop, the key word that emerged was sloooowly. This time our keyword was ‘release’.
What does release mean? The dictionary says it’s a verb meaning:
To allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free
To allow (something) to move, act or flow freely.
I really like the image of letting our horses free to flow.
So when did we need to release? Every time we activate a lead rope or reins to ask for a behaviour and feel the slightest try or first movement (the lean to go forward, or even the chest muscle twitch for back) that’s our moment to release.
The release says ‘yes! You got that right now just keep going until you hear a click or I ask for another behaviour. In that way the release is also encouragement to continue.
Release does not mean simply drop the lead rope or reins, rather it means give it back tactfully. Our human horse work gave participants the opportunity to feel the difference between simply dropping the reins (rude and abrupt) and giving back the reins smoothly (gentle and reassuring).
The release should be complete. In some situations walking alongside their horses, handlers were happy to release their front hand but were still holding up the other hand. We likened this to driving with the handbrake on! When we let go completely we can move off smoothly. However it can be hard and so initially we had handbrakes left slightly or half or even fully on. What’s important to remember is that, having released fully, you can always pick up that rein or rope again when and as necessary.
Release does mean you are trusting your horse, whether it’s just for that fraction of a second before a click or for the time it takes to walk half a circle together….. We all, including our horses, appreciate being trusted.