Have you ever been in a very quiet place where there's suddenly a noise, maybe not even a very loud one, that grabs your attention? In that type of environment, every sound around you becomes more apparent as your awareness is heightened by the backdrop of silence.
Or have you ever had the opposite experience of being in a very noisy place where all the sound blurs into a general background hum? In that environment, with so many sounds running together, nothing really stands out as unique or attention-grabbing. You might even start to ignore all the sounds around you.
Now imagine these two environments from your horse's perspective, in terms of how you communicate with them from the ground or under saddle. Your horse could have an experience of general noise coming from you all the time, which creates confusion because your horse doesn’t know which signals to listen to. Eventually, your horse is likely to just tune everything out.
Alternatively, they could exist in a quieter world where the conversation you are having with them is clear because they're not trying to decipher the signals you are giving from the general backdrop of noise you are creating. Luckily, it's up to you which world your horse lives in!
I love the mantra, “Use an aid, put it away.” I also love the mantra, “Leg on, leg off.” Both remind me that I want the backdrop of learning I create for my horse to be a quiet space.
That way, when I ask for something in a very light way, my horse has a chance of hearing it.
In traditional training, the removal of any sort of pressure or aid signals to the horse that they have correctly responded to the question being asked. If I'm busy bombarding my horse with a flurry of signals that I hope will eventually lead to some change in their behavior (in other words, creating a noisy environment), it's very hard for my horse to decipher if and when they are appropriately responding to any one of the many signals I’m giving them.
I want to create an environment where I can apply an aid as lightly as humanly possible to elicit understanding from my horse.
I think this is what we all want. Nobody likes to go around clucking and kicking and flapping in the hopes that, eventually, their horse will do something they deem useful. We all want to lightly ask for the thing we would like to have and feel our horse respond in a timely and relaxed way.
A huge piece in attaining that relationship is learning to create an environment of quiet where you lightly apply an aid. And then learning to immediately put those aids away when the horse responds in the right direction.
You may have to be patient and wait a bit while your horse deciphers the feeling of your aid and translate that into a movement, but if you're creating that quiet environment, you will also have the opportunity to feel your horse’s response and know more clearly when to remove your aid. It a win-win!