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Moving away from pressure!
Foal  Training Equipment

By: Marge Spencer, CM™  Equine Products, Norco, Ca.
Move away from that pressure!  Control the horse’s movement!
How young in too young? 


You have probably heard these instructions from almost every trainer and clinician.  If I evaluate all of these instructions I get one common meaning.  Pressure – move away from pressure, whatever kind of pressure that may be.    Each of these talented trainers or clinicians has perfected their technique to cause this type of response, but don’t think the learning process to cause the effect you want is easy.  This takes practice, not just practice, but consistent practice.  Consistency is doing one thing the same way every time.  If you picked out one word and changed it every day do you think people would understand your meaning?  Say you took the word “STOP”, the next day you say go, the following day say hello, or green, you get the idea.  You would really confuse anyone you talked to.  So if you give different signals to your horse every time you are with them and then expect them to understand that this signal meant the same as yesterday, you are dreaming.  Consistency creates clear communication.

NOW WE WILL TALK ABOUT THE WORD PRESSURE – The dictionary lists pressure as:
1.  The burden of physical or mental distress: the constraint of circumstance.  
2.  The application of force to something by something else in direct contact with it. There are many more listings the first two are what we see in training or teaching equine.
Are there different kinds of pressure?  There are two basic kinds of pressure. 
Pressure caused by some kind of physical touch and pressure caused by intimidation (or as the definition says mental distress).  Both types of pressure can cause movement, whether it is a slow withdrawal away from the pressure or a quick flight response.
Pressure without physical touching is a perceived pressure caused by intimidation.   A good example of this type of pressure may be when someone gets so close to you when they are talking to you that you feel forced to back up.  This is a type of intimidation that forces you to retreat.  You have heard the old saying “too close for comfort”.  This type of pressure causes movement by intimidation in order to feel comfortable.

Pressure caused by physical touch is evident and typically causes a movement away from that pressure in order to cause a feeling of “comfort”.  Physical pressure also includes any annoying repetitive pressure that causes movement away from the annoyance.  We have all had someone come up to us and poke us on the shoulder to get our attention.  Our immediate response would be to move away from this poking pressure and look at or address the person doing the poking.  The poking does not hurt us, just annoys us.  Did the person who did the poking get our attention ? Yes.  Did we give him our full attention?  Yes.  Their objective was to get our attention and they accomplished that, if even for just a moment.
If you look at the revolution of all types of  “Natural” training techniques as well as the “traditional style” of training you will find that we all teach horses to  “move away from pressure”, wherever we apply that pressure or whether it is a perceived or physical pressure. Why is moving away from pressure so important and how does it relate to the language of Equus?
Is body language the same as pressure? My explanation of the language of Equus is communicating in a way to establish respect by means of intimidation or perceived pressure and by physical pressure, when needed, accomplished by the use of a variety of body positioning and/or body language. 
We all know that horses are herd animals and need the comfort of the herd and are lead by the most dominant.  Books on animal behavior teach us what different motions of the head and mouth may mean to the other horses and perceptive trainers have learned to read those motions and apply that knowledge in training techniques.  We believe that the horse has two main goals in
life, comfort and food.  Comfort includes companionship of the herd, shelter from the hot sun or cold of winter, safety from predators. I believe that both types of pressure are applied with body positioning or body language to achieve the understanding and result we ask for in our equine friends.  So body language or positioning is key and the pressure that is applied varies in order to cause the correct response, without undue anxiety to your horse.  Used correctly it causes just the opposite, comfort.  The comfort in knowing you are a strong leader and your equine partner is willing to follow and will not leave you.

How soon does the equine learn to move away from pressure?  Not long after birth, the mare will cause movement by pushing or nudging her foal. Nudging on the rear for forward movement, on the shoulder to move over.  It is never too early to begin training your equine partner.
There are all types of media available that have taught us that equine are a precocial species, which means they can see, hear, and are fully developed at birth.  Unlike human babies, puppies,
etc., they must be ready to run shortly after birth or they will not survive.  From my experience, I concur with Dr. Robert Miller that the “critical learning period” is the first two weeks of life.  I have watched foals develop from birth knowing that they need food and comfort. They find food and the comfort of the mare’s protection.  Although they are fully developed they do not have any experience in life yet and this is where the mare becomes the teacher by example for the foal teaching them how to survive with her skill of being evasive.   They watch the mare and learn to eat, they find they can run, kick, stop fast, turn fast and practice these skills until they are very good.  Why not teach them now to accept and be comfortable with everything we may ask of them the rest of their lives.

Many say “let them be horses until they are old enough to train” or “they are only babies”.  I say they are old enough to train at birth because that is the way they were designed by nature.   However, a word of caution:  if you are not skilled in the language you can do more harm than good, so please evaluate your skills well.  Many ranches now practice Dr. Miller’s “Imprint Training” procedures on all of their foals, and then pasture them until time to train, or sell as weanlings.  This is wonderful for the foals, but there is more that can be done now to help them become a safe partner in future training.

We have developed a system called the CM™ Lead & Drive Training System that takes the foal at two to five days of age and incorporates all types of pressure to teach the foal to move away from pressure, wherever that pressure may be.  The system establishes a comfort zone or area of respect as some call it.  I prefer comfort zone because that is exactly what it is to the foal ; comfort.  The area where there is no pressure and they can stay without any pressure. They learn very fast.  By using the system as soon as the foal can stand, they explore the feeling of pressure and respond immediately by first trying to push through, then finding the best way is to move away , thus finding comfort.  It is an amazing process to watch and be a part of without causing stress to your foal. . We have finished the first of a series of video tapes that show the first session of young foals and how they react to pressure and solve each problem given to them without anxiety or stress with our system.

Moving away from pressure is just the beginning result; this system teaches to accept the saddle and gives you complete control of movement in order to communicate with the foal.  There is a learning period for the person using the system in order to use the lines correctly in training.  The result is creating fun, interesting training sessions with the foal to ensure your equine partner will be just that, a partner, now and continue that partnership when old enough to ride. If you break down steps of all training techniques you will find that they all involve moving from some type of pressure. ( bit, legs, seat bones, etc.)  Think about each step ahead of  time and the reaction you are seeking.  Movement caused by pressure is the key.  My system is a tool to teach us how to help the foal learn to focus and learn.  Teaching how to learn is a direct benefit to the equine when they are old enough to ride because they will already know how to focus and learn faster without the typical resistance we see today.

See our advertisement under Training Aids, or visit out website at
© all rights reserved, CM Equine Products 2004

Contact: Marge or Charlie Spencer
CM™ Equine Products
Norco, California 92860
Phone: 888-431-7771

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