Big questions we get: "once you get the horse *motivated* to move (through play), how do you *improve* the horse's movements? If the horse has autonomy, how do you work on his balance and collection? If you can't use pressure, how do you influence and guide the horses movement? How do you get the hind legs to step more under? How do you help the horse not be so crooked?" And on and on... all great questions.
Our answer is this:
* * We DO use pressure. We just don't use it until AFTER the horse fully understands and trusts his right to refuse. But...
* We don't use pressure to directly *fix* the horse's movement, but rather to change the task in some way, and it is the task and environment together that will improve the horse's movement as side-effect.
* We work very systematically on improving the horses motor control, by first improving proprioception and mobility. This *alone* can often help automatically "correct" asymmetry dysfunctions.
* Next we work on improving the horse's core stability, which WILL NOT happen by micro-managing the horse into a "correct"-looking movement. We challenge the horses balance in safe positions, to improve stability in pretty much the same way you improve human stability-- by causing the brain/body to reflexively *turn on * stabilizers.
* THEN we can start creating activities by changing the task and environment in ways that will cause better movement as a side-effect. For example, slow transitions facing downhill are going to automatically cause the horse's movement system to develop the SAME patterns needed for collection.
* Bigger and more expressive trot strides? Give the horse an activity where that happens automatically, such as chasing the bag. Soon, you do not need the bag.
* Want the horse to be less crooked? First improve his mobility and stability and NOT make that "weak" hind leg take more weight. Which makes it worse in the long run. We never make or even ASK the horse to "step more under" or "take more weight" with one leg... we do not ask the horse to "lift that shoulder and shift your weight in this way..." but instead design an activity where it is automatic. Only THEN will the horse "own" it. 💪