Have you ever had someone tap you on the arm to get your attention? Your response was probably to turn and see what was going on.
But sometimes, we are in the middle of something and we can’t respond right away. Most people stop tapping if we don’t respond.
But let’s pretend like they didn’t stop. They just kept tapping. Let’s also pretend like we absolutely could not give that person attention for a couple of minutes, but they kept tapping anyway. What would happen? Chances are we would grow numb to the tap.
Our horses are the same. If we ask for a leg yield from a horse and he gives it to us, but we don’t release the pressure, pretty soon he will grow numb to the leg pressure.
Horses get numb in their mouth, or on their sides because we don’t release and reward them for a try or a clear response. Maybe we were too busy talking to someone else or thinking about something else. Pretty soon the horse says, “Nobody’s home here. I’ll just push against the bit.”
Or maybe we got impatient and didn’t wait for our horse to respond, so we released the pressure when they were pushing against our hands or feet. In this case we just reinforced them for the “numb” response.
Horses are largely trained by release of pressure. That is one of their biggest rewards.