We need to be precise but delicate to train a horse and we need explicit clarity, exactness of timing and touches and absolute precision on both left and right sides. It isnt easy to get this right all of the time, but luckily horses are forgiving creatures. The aids should aim to be fine, discrete and gentle and I think that whilst we are allowed to slightly irritate with a tickly or vibrating touch, we must not take this too far and anger the horse, or become too insistent and demanding.
If our horses can be helped to first understand that a small response to a little gentle ask (and not a command) that their response will gain them a valuable (to that horse) reward, the horse will begin to offer more than is asked for. This has a snowball effect and can be taken to any part of equine training and behaviour.
The first rule is, that you cannot train pain, but once you have taken reasonable steps to rule out pain, you can work on improving anything from the style of your horses knee lift and bascule over a jump to loading, lunging or improving piaffe steps – or whatever floats your boat.
The second rule for me is, you must never diminish the horse and ask him to make a movement which is demeaning, pointless and trained movements definitely must never be physically harmful to the horse. The horse must feel emotionally empowered when he works with you and he must feel genuine physical muscular benefit from the gymnastic effort too. Otherwise it is worse than worthless.
Bent says, “Our goal is not to impress an audience. Our goal is to spend time well with our horses and refine what they already have from nature, both physically and mentally. ”