To pet, pat, or stroke… what do those things mean? Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition
1.Pet: (verb) to touch or move your hand gently over an animal or a child in a kind and loving way
2.Pat: to touch gently several times with your hand flat, especially as a sign of affection
3. Stroke: a gentle touch, an act of moving your hand gently over a surface, usually several times; to move your hand gently and slowly over an animal’s fur or hair.
There are three kinds of touch in classical work; light, gentle and firm. There is a fourth quality which also applies; non-touch. To these simple ideas, we can add the idea of duration and cadence.
In general, human petting, patting and stroking are both too harsh and too rapid. It is useful to consider that the at rest heart rate for a horse is half of the rate of a human. When we engage the horse and work around the horse, our normal rate of motion is too fast and while a tame horse has learned to accept the speedy humans, it is much better for us to slow ourselves down.
1.Petting is done at any time and anywhere. It focuses the attention. In general, it may be considered to refer to both the pat and stroke. The purpose is relaxation or attention.
2. Patting is mostly used in concluding the session. It is always gentle and usually applied to the base of the neck or behind the saddle.
There is another form of patting which is used to increase attention and blood flow to a specific area. It is cadenced with half the beat rate, at the beat rate which naturally occurs in movement or double that rate. Usually it done in a series of 2, 3, or 4 repetitions if needed. It can be used to “force” relaxation and eliminate resistance of force.
3.Stroking is the primary activity. It can be a reward, but it is also used in auxiliary effects to support a primary aid or relax and release in general or at a specific location or vertebra. The hand, fingers or whip may be used but the tempo is always slower than the cadence found in the movement. It gives confidence.
There are a lot of different kinds of touch which perform other functions. Energy is roused, directed and quelled with the qualities of the touch. There are a lot of details and a broad range of textures which can be used in training. Good dressage is the conscious use of touch to communicate intention. Intentions are always made clear by touch and always good. Punishment is so rarely done that it is not a subject worth exploring. All touch is an affirmation of good intent. So it is that through touch dressage is always welcomed by the horse. If this is not so, then your training is something other than dressage.