Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More on Undoing the Brace: Pushing and Pulling

Sorry for posting twice in one day! A couple of days ago, I did a post called On Undoing the Brace. If you haven't read that post, you might want to read it now because this post is a follow-on to that one. One of the things that I struggle with is how to describe what I mean in ways that will make sense to other people.

In a comment on that post, Juliette of Honeysuckle Faire wrote the following:

My husband calls this "pushing vs. pulling". I know that sounds completely opposite of what you are talking about [I had been talking about pulling against a pull by the horse as creating a brace], but really I think it is right. He always uses setting the table as an example: some people push the plates down, slamming them loudly. Or you can "pull" the plates up as you are putting them down. The same with shutting a door - you can pull it shut loudly or push it back as you pull it toward you. It is this balance that I use when riding or leading. I lead Pie in and he is hot. I try to equally push and pull in a perfect balance so it seems like I am not even holding the lead - it is like he is walking in beside me without being restrained. If he jumps at something, I try to go with it in a push/pull movement so there is no tension. I try to do the same when I ride.
I wanted to particularly highlight this comment because it said some things about bracing in a way I didn't. Thank you Juliette - this comment really got me thinking more about braces and how to undo them, or not create them, so things can be accomplished with softness. I think what Juliette's husband is talking about when he says pushing is very much the same thing I'm saying when I use the word brace - a brace can be a push as well as pulling against pressure. I think what he's saying is that when a brace is a push - like his examples of slamming a plate down or pulling a door shut in a loud way - that you need to avoid the push by softly using a pull. One example that I've heard Mark Rashid use, which is almost the same as the one Juliette's husband used, is walking through a door and letting it slam loudly behind you - that's not soft - or instead going through the door and using your hand to allow it to ease shut quietly - that's soft and the pull that Juliette's husband was talking about.

I also like Juliette's example of keeping the push and pull in balance so the lead line, or reins, are alive - no tension but mentally not limp either - live connections between you and the horse. That's what softness is, to me - it isn't an absence of bracing (as in a nothing), it's a live and attentive engagement without bracing.

Thank you again Juliette for your comment - I hope my thoughts are consistent with yours!


  1. Kate - You said it perfectly in your post! "Brace" is it exactly - that's what got me thinking about push/pull. Aren't horses great? They make us really think! I love trying to understand their energy and balancing it with ours!

  2. Juliette is right having horses and working with them makes us always try to think of the better way to communicate doesn't it.

  3. Really useful thoughts from both you, Kate, and Juliette. Thank you both!

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