I am not a big Parelli fan, but I do like this quote. Horses have to think to be soft and they learn from the release of pressure. But you do have to apply the pressure to teach.
The word “soft” when referring to horse training is usually referring to the horse pulling on the bit. If I hear this from someone I am giving lessons to the first thing I ask is can your horse side pass? I get a lot of strange looks and questioning why I am asking this. I believe that if a horse is “hard mouthed” the problem is coming from behind his withers.
There are two parts to this. First “soft” has to do with a lot more than where or how the horse holds his head and second “soft” refers to how pliable or bendy the horse’s body is from the ques you give him. Horses can be “hard sided” as well as “hard mouthed”. Actually, I believe the two are connected or intertwined.
Where and how the horse holds his head to me has nothing to do with soft. I believe that soft is the feel or reaction you get from your horse when you lightly pull on the reins or press a leg on his side. If the horse responds to light pressure on his mouth by giving his head toward the direction of the pressure that is soft regardless of where you are asking to put his head. Some people say the horses head is too high or too low. I don’t care where their head is. Does he respond to light pressure? If so, then he is soft. The show ring has made where a horse’s head is positioned a bigger deal than how responsive he is to the riders requests. I think that is wrong. A soft horse will carry his head in a comfortable position and most of the time it is an aesthetically pleasing position.
A horse that is not soft to the bridle is usually not soft on his sides either. (I actually believe most of the time not being soft sided is the reason for not being soft mouthed.) Think about it like this. A person does yoga and can touch his toes with his nose, he can arch his back and he can balance on one foot. This person is more willing to sit Indian style than a person who cannot do these things because they are more flexible. If a horse can move their hips around their shoulder or their shoulders around their hips their spine and ribcage will be more flexible and because of this their neck will be more flexible. So naturally it is easier to give to the bridle by bending their neck.
The horses head and neck also work as a counter balance to their body. The more you move the horse’s parts (shoulders, ribs and hips) around the more they are balanced on their feet which make them able to adjust their head to a position and be comfortable.
What are your thoughts?