I'm sorry, but if this is for advanced riders and horses, shouldn't horses be past the point of being nervous and tense? By that I meant that's what the horse innately is. An innately unconfident horse, one who is shy and timid, LEARNS how to be confident in himself and in his rider. Some horses don't need to learn confidence, some have too much for their own good! Lol. Take Pat's mare Magic. She is an innately RBI horse, however when Pat rides her she appears very confident. That is a skill Magic has learned. Even watching her interract with other horses, her innate characteristics match that of a RBI. Shouldn't my horse already be busting with confidence? Also, if the horse is so soft to seat, let, and hands, then how are we to recognize compensation patterns that would be masked by the horse taking themselves away from the pressure? The cradle does not use excessive pressure (unless the rider abuses it, but that's with any bridle), so if the rider is using it softly and correctly, then the horse will have no reason to evade the pressure and compensate anywhere in their body. I do want a horse to move when I ask it to move, but I don't want it to be so light to the pressure that it may need to be comforted in order to take a contact. We want our horses to be sensitized to pressure but confident at the same time. Being super light, as in what you are describing, would be hyper sensitive and that's not what we want. We want the horse to be soft and light yet still go into the contact when we ask him to.
Also, with my experience, every horse has a full deck of cards, the introvert can rapidly become an extrovert once you break through that first defensive pattern. If we have prepared the horse well on the ground, then transferred that to the saddle, the horse shouldn't have any defensive patterns whatsoever. We want positive reflexes, having the horse say "Yes" instead of getting scared or arguing with us. What I would consider a well grounded horse is one that doesn't show any of those imbalances from one side to the other, and I have yet to meet a horse that is incapable of always being in that calm, willing frame of mind. I agree, no horse is incapable of being in a willing frame of mind. The horse is only "incapable" of it if the rider isn't doing what he/she should be doing. How can you label a bit to a horse's personality type when what we are labeling as "personality" are often times simply defensive patterns? Again, a horse properly prepared should not have defensive patterns....because we shouldn't be giving them anything to feel defensive about. If we are making progress with our horses, shouldn't they be more adaptable and no longer need the reassurance of more pressure like a nervous cow that is settled in a squeeze shoot? Depends on the horse's innate characteristics. More and more pressure doesn't calm a horse down, it makes things worse. Or, shouldn't they be able to handle a little more pressure even if they were extremely skeptical of that pressure in the past? No, because that is human logic. If the horse was skeptical of pressure in the past, then that was a confidence issue that the rider has failed to fix. Also, if my horse has been doing so well to get to an advanced level, it doesn't seem like we should need too much pressure that we would need to distribute it so much. Say you ride with 8 ounces of pressure in a regular snaffle bridle. With the cradle, that 8 ounces is evenly distributed over the 5 areas, thus making the overall effect even softer (because there is no excessive pressure in one area) and it's much more clear to the horse. Actually, in my experience, we concentrate pressure when we want a response. When you mention distributing pressure, I think of the purpose of a saddle on a horses back, to distribute the constant pressure of the rider. This makes it seem like the cradle bridle would actually fudge the commands, allowing the horse to fall into the pressure, which is the reviews that I heard on the bridle from trainers who have worked with it. When the rider activates the reins, the first areas to receive contact is the poll, nose and chin....so you could say this is a preparatory command to the horse that we are trying to communicate something BEFORE the bit is actually activated. I myself have the cradle with the C3 bit and my horse goes very well in his snaffle, he doesn't lean, he's soft and stretches into it, yet when I put the cradle on him everything is much more subtle, he comes through nicely, he certainly is not evading, his ears are back and attentive, he foams a little bit, his flexion remains soft...and I'm using hardly any pressure on the reins at all. It's not because the bridle is harsh, it's because I don't NEED to use much because the bridle makes everything so much more clear. My horse is a VERY honset guy and if something pisses him off he lets me know! Lol. He has never once opossed the cradle. I think of a contact as more of a feel, almost like holding hands. Absolutely :) I completely agree. My husband can feel me squeeze his hand, he can feel if I get nervous, or anxious, just from the feel of my hand, so doesn't it make sense that with quiet hands, our horse could decipher those same messages, just as we can from them? Sure, IF the horse is in a learning frame of mind. If he's unconfident, we can be soft all we want to but it won't make any difference if we don't get to the root of the unconfidence and fix it. Say the horse is spooky at one end of the arena. We could ride him past that spot all day, with nice soft hands, never getting any firmer, but it wouldn't necessarily cause the horse to become more confident. He needs us to approach and retreat that threshold, but that's another topic :) If we are consistent, then communication shouldn't be a very hard thing to figure out, nor should it require excessive pressure in one place, right? Of course. Again, a lot of this lies in the horse's preparation as well as the person's. Like I said, the cradle does not use excessive pressure.