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What is "The Feel of Release"?

chasetrail"The Feel of Release" refers to an ease of connection, alive in an ongoing flow between horse and rider, whether riding around the farm, out blazing a trail or in the show ring - the better the feel of the connection, the better and more enjoyable the performance.

We all face challenges with our horses at one time or another - perhaps he bucks, runs off, won't go, doesn't pick up a canter bayrunawaylead well, resists our requests for a particular maneuver or we just cannot seem to get his attention.

It is important to note that virtually ALL tricky spots have one thing in common - our horse's resistance or tension: "brace". 

But here is the Catch 22. We often respond to "brace" with an escalation of pressure or of the aids. However in our application of pressure, we usually hold our breath and become tight as we offer tension - we reciprocate the brace we were seeking to eliminate. Not only that, brace between horse and rider practices a lost connection - which is the part of riding that brings up the most anxiety or concern, and is then apt to amplify the disconnect.

And that... is not fun.

bayreleased While brace produces more brace, the good news is release produces more release - and with it, access to the mind, feet, and a mellow, available horse.

The key is that there is so much more to "release" than the kind that implies a release of pressure (brace). An ongoing Feel of Release does not offer a "braced" feel, so does not create it or empower "brace". It is a feel that releases "brace" if it exists, to restore or maintain an open connection between horse and rider/handler.  An escalation of the aids and the need for submission are replaced by a closer connection in which the horse seeks to follow your feel, because the ongoing good feel shared between horse and rider/handler has become rewarding in itself.

That better connection through feel serves in all things, from going out to feed at night, trimming feet in the pasture or caring for an injury, to riding in the woods or jumping a fence.

Watch the video clip on the Home Page to give you an idea of how The Feel of Release works!

 

Mark Rashid

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"I see an 'opening' as anything that allows us to help guide, however briefly, an individual in the direction we ultimately would like to go. An 'opening' can be, and often is, a very subtle form of communication between horse and rider that can easily slip past us if we're not paying attention. 'Openings' can and do work both ways. [...] It amazes me just how small an 'opening' can actually be, whether working with horses or with people, and how easy it can be to create an 'opening' when one is needed."

Mark Rashid

"I truly believe developing the ability to see and use 'openings' effectively is only one piece of what one might refer to as the 'harmony in horsemanship' puzzle. When this idea of understanding 'openings' is brought together with the understanding of two other simlar ideas - making a connection with another indvidual, and the role distance plays in overall communication - I believe it is then that harmony in horsemanship becomes a much less daunting concept for us."

Mark Rashid

Leslie Desmond

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"Bill knew about a place I did not know existed, or could exist, between a horse and a human being [...] Bill included each one of my horses in that information exchange. Over the course of many months,... he took each one by its lead rope and, later, by the bridle reins. Using what he called his 'better feel', Bill showed me and each of them exactly what he meant by what he did [...] It was not long after I made the switch from force when needed (often) to always customizing the feel I offered to a horse, that two tough horses I had misunderstood for years developed into my most reliable mounts."

Leslie Desmond

The lightest hands carry intent that is recognized instantly by the horse, as seen in the maneuvers he chooses to make with his feet. Whether that horse is ridden or handled, the lightest hands can purposefully influence the speed, direction and sequence of each foot with accuracy, in a manner that is reflected in the horse's body and on his face.

Leslie Desmond

Bill Dorrance

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"The Real Masters Understood Feel [...] For example, De Kerbrech, (French officer in the cavalry of Napoleon III) really understood horses. He had it fixed up so the horse could succeed. [...] The first time I read Beudant's book was in the 1950s. The way he explained things, there was no doubt in my mind about what a person needed to do to get these little things working for them and their horse."

Bill Dorrance

“Feel, timing and balance: sometimes it’s best to talk about feel, timing and balance separately, and to learn how to apply each thing separately on the start. But when you apply these three things a little later in your training, then you see that each one of these things supports the other. They are interconnected and all three are real important. You really can’t get along without all three.”

Bill Dorrance

Faverot de Kerbrech

FaverotBookCover

“...plus le deplacement du poids est facile dans tous les sens, plus l'equilibre est parfait. En vertue de ce principe, on dit que le cheval est 'en equilibre' quand de simples indications suffisent au cavalier pour modifier a son gre la disposition du poids sur ses colonnes de soutien”

Faverot de Kerbrech

[Translation: ...the easier it is to shift the weight in any direction, the more perfect the balance. By virtue of this principle, the horse is 'in balance' when a simple indication from the rider is sufficient to modify the distribution of weight across the columns of support (four quarters) accordingly]

Duke of Newcastle

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"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else."

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

"A confrontational approach ‘Astonishes the Weak Horse […] makes a Furious horse Madd; makes a Resty Horse more Resty […] and Displeases all sorts of Horses’. The alternative however is not ‘to Sit Weak […] but to Sit Easie’, in the understanding that ‘The Horse must know you are his Master’"

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle