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'Jumping the Tracks' & Lightness

I’m not sure what happened while those ladies went and got their horses, but on the drive home later, my student come co-pilot that day commented that no-one had made a deprecating remark about themselves or their horses for the rest of the day. Each commentary voiced was a simple observation, and their creativity had been alive and flowing.  There had been a mutual energetic shift among them, and it had fueled itself – just as it had before. They had all ‘jumped the tracks’. The day had not started out with this promise.  The burning desire in these ladies had been an inspirational catalyst for a good dose of wonder entering our day together.
It was one of those days that stayed with me. It sharpened the focus on another perspective I had been noodling on, in how I thought about of ‘feel’. 

Bill Dorrance points out that genuine lightness is the kind the horse naturally has when he comes into the world. If we want a truly light ride, we need to leave that intact, connect with it and shape it. Well, here’s the thing: it is not just about leaving lightness intact or restoring it in the horse. The feel in us of right and wrong or pass and fail kills lightness on both sides, because it kills true feel – we are ‘in our heads’. To experience lightness from the horse, we need to offer lightness. To shape a horse through release, we need a feel of release *in us* to offer - only then can we receive the feel of the horse "through" us, and back into our hands to shape what small change fits next. True feel is not applied by us "to" the horse but "through" us from the horse.

And when true feel is flowing, there is just nothing quite like it. The channel opened offers a deep source of joy, and has a way of flowing right into every other aspect of life.  Pretty worthwhile stuff.

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