Approach and Retreat This is a technique that we use to encourage the foals to grow in confidence and to trust in us working with them. By showing the foals respect, understanding and compassion we are encouraging them to be confident and willing and to want to be with us.
Example: To approach the foal from a short distance such as in the stable or coral. Here we use slow and rhythmic movement and maintain a low and focused energy. We approach one step at a time and are constantly aware of the effect that the approach has on the foal. We need to be aware of our own thoughts and feelings at this time as negative high energy can affect the results. If we are still in the mind and consciously aware, it enables us to be aware of the foals’ feelings and needs. By being aware of their body language, we can gauge whether we need to stop, slow down or retreat a little to allow time for the foal to adjust and except us near them. Timing in this exercise is very important. Signs that show us that we need to slow down, stop or retreat include the body becoming tense or the foal walking away, laying back its ears or turning to face the corner. This indicates that their energy is becoming high and that they are anxious to a point which can then become detrimental to their training.
When this technique is done well, the results can be amazing!
Pressure and release This is another very important technique. We apply very slight pressure and gradually build on this until we get a positive response. We reward this by immediately releasing the pressure. Precise timing is extremely important so that the foal understands what we have asked for. If the timing or this training aid is done incorrectly it can lead to a great deal of confusion and anxiety.
Example: To ask the foal to walk forwards: A gentle contact is made with the lead rope and/or on the hind quarters. This pressure is increased if necessary. As soon as the foal responds, even if this is only in a very small way such as a step, movement or even a ‘forward thought’, we release the pressure. This shows the foal that this is what we are asking for.
We continue to ask for a little more, provided the foal is ready, and slowly he or she starts to understand the request and to respond with confidence. We ensure we are using the correct body language and focus from within at this time. In the future the foal will recognise the very subtle signals and respond with finesse and lightness.
Phases of pressure are very important as a training tool. We start with the minimum of pressure, gradually and gently increasing it until the foal responds. We then release immediately. We always aim to use the lightens of pressure. Timing is very important.