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You are here: Home Resources to Explore Articles: Applying Feel The Feel of Release: Riding CALLE 8. A foundation that preserves, accesses and shapes the feel of a horse

8. A foundation that preserves, accesses and shapes the feel of a horse

The finesse available in Calle went from one end of the spectrum to the other – she responded as instantly to my requests for a gallop depart from a standstill, as she did to offer a square and well-balanced full stop on a float (slack in the rein) from any gait. It was like flipping a light on or off – both transitions available on a release in one stride. Simply put, to leave at a gallop, I livened up as if riding a gallop, and released my heels away from her rib-cage slightly. To stop, I cut my core energy and set my rein down. Anywhere – whether in the arena or out in the desert.

Leslie also trains her horses to come to a soft stop in the event of an unplanned or emergency dismount. If she steps off at a gallop, without pulling on the reins, her horses stop before her foot touches the ground – with visible pride about this important job. The safety implications of this fundamental preparation are clear.


A little background... there are many small layers to deliver the whole. If this is how much it takes to ask for a foot on the ground, this availability will also be there under saddle. Photo by Adriaan


A little more background... Calle's willingness to free up her feet and all through her body as she commits to her job of keeping the float in the rope (above), also demonstrates a nice foundation for free movement, a float in the rein under saddle, her available mind and patience. Photo by Holly Clanahan


There is a difference between pressuring or driving a horse and releasing a horse. Here, Leslie asks Calle to leave the mountain in the direction of the trailer, vs. pressuring or driving her towards the trailer. Photo by Holly Clanahan

 

Calle showed me unequivocally during that clinic something less obvious about the special importance Leslie assigns these two maneuvers: the finesse and lightness Calle had in both extremes, delivered the finesse and lightness in every up/down transition and every maneuver in between.

Such uncommon access to the horse is inherent in the layers Leslie builds in to develop these maneuvers – like baklava: an end result that depends on each and every layer of filo as well as the dedication of care, attention and time.

Leslie carefully sets the horse up to accommodate not only an "anytime" request for full access to all four quarters –  including elevated shoulders and lateral/longitudinal function of the hips – but also sets the stage for ready-access to either diagonal. Most horses depend on this for balance during transitions and in most maneuvers. She teaches about the need to retain a sensitivity to ‘feel and release’ on the horse’s shoulder grooves, which opens the way for a well-educated, precise response to the feel of the rein in that area between the bit and the hand.

However the real key to achieving these willing and light physical responses is in the way Leslie unlocks the mind first, via the root of the neck. A physical release in the root of the neck naturally and instinctively opens the connection with the horse’s mind. It also prepares him for freedom of movement in the next maneuver (see Dr Deb Bennett, Principles of Conformation Analysis). In essence, a release in the root of the neck delivers the whole horse. A tightening in the root of the neck reduces or shuts off that flow between you. When tuned into this, the contrast in the feel of the horse is clear. Leslie explained that it is not possible to achieve the ride I had on Calle unless the slightest physical stimulus – adjustment in the rider’s body alignment, stance, or posture – can affect a physical release in the root of the neck. In other words, the feel of the rider shapes the feel of the horse via the mind.

"The mental connection is critical to my safety, and to the safety of my horse," Leslie added. "To deprive any horse of its access to a full range of motion interferes with the horse's ability to think clearly. I always hope to retain a connection to the horse's mind, at a level and in a way that has real meaning for the horse, whenever I am on or with one. Otherwise, the safety features of feel and release are reduced to merely topic of discussion."

“What we do here, when the neck is adjustable, is access the diaphragm.” Leslie said,” We increase oxygen intake levels, and in this way it is possible to ask the horse to make a conscious decision about how and when, where and at what speed, to move any part.”

 

 

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