I often hear clinicians use the term “softness”. It has taken some time watching clinicians working with horses in all kinds of different situations to understand what they mean. So here is my attempt to explain it.
A horse is SOFT when;
· It is relaxed mentally, physically and emotionally
· Its body shows flexibility
· It is mentally engaged with the human
· It willingly responds to the cues of the human.
To attain this, the horse must have confidence and trust in the human and respect for the human.
As the level of softness increases the horses ability to learn new skills and to improve their performance of known skills also increases.
To attain softness in the horse the human must learn to demonstrate a consistently calm physical and emotional state when they are with the horse. If the human is feeling anxious, angry or frustrated the horse will know. You may kid yourself but you can not lie to a horse.
Kai is showing some of the outward signs of softness. His head is down, his eyes and ears show he is mentally engaged with his human and his body is relaxed. The next thing would be to check for responsiveness and flexibility.