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You are here: Home Resources to Explore Articles: Applying Feel The Feel of Release: Riding CALLE 1. Exhilarating riding & connection with the horse

1. Exhilarating riding & connection with the horse

Leslie’s invitation to ride her beloved saddle horse resulted in a lasting experience and a pivotal time in my horsemanship and riding. Calle offered a full immersion into what Leslie means by ‘feel and release’.

It’s not that I hadn’t enjoyed some exhilarating rides… whether flying over a ski-jump; galloping downhill to a ‘bounce’ (two jumps with no stride in between) built sturdily from telegraph poles; hugging the post at just the right angle over a corner-fence to escape otherwise certain doom; or a dicey moment as your horse recovers on the buckle, after tripping at a gallop – these are the everyday experiences of event-riding and are thrilling to many.

Those horses were mightily conditioned, knew about the start box, about the red and white finish flags and they too, were exhilarated by the gallop and challenges in between. It was often a fine line to ride, with admittedly only limited influence over speed and ‘collection’. You just rode until you got to the end – the horses stopped just fine after the finish flags… The momentary butterflies I’d feel when the booming P.A. called us up to the start box likely reflected a knowing of the risk in this – but then, in a flash, we were just out there together, turf flying by under foot, clear-headed and focused only on the fence ahead.

Karen and her beloved Storm Bay, Tweseldown Racecourse (above) and East Whipley Farm (below) in Surrey, UK.


The true exhilaration for me was not in the risk though. It was in the connection with the horse. A vital connection, and one that carried us through these adventures unscathed for years – a partnership of absolute trust, mutual respect and heart. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

 How inspiring it was then to discover that this was only the tip of the iceberg…

Calle showed me that the feel of exhilaration and connection in a great ride can be all the more scintillating when the natural feel of the horse is preserved and released to the rider. It is hard to put in words. The taste of your basic carrot is pretty good, right until you taste the sweet, tender, full of life flavor in a freshly cooked one just picked from the garden. A great ride is a great ride, right until you discover a ride that exists on another plain. Nothing will diminish the joy in those earlier rides, but Calle inspired me to feel of a horse in new ways – and for me, there was no going back… 

Mark Rashid

RashidBookCover

"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

LDaudiobook

"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

bilsbook

"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

CavendishBookCover

"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