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Working Things Out

I noted that she had moved freely in the first stride or two before the tightness came in and short-circuited her flow. I had not directed pressure towards the mare in my initial request, I had just released her forward. When a horse has been taught that pressure of some kind is always in a request, there is often a spot to work out, when releasing that horse without the pressure.  The pressure is still anticipated, but is absent, so in a sense, the expected timing is all off - he is already right and has done what was asked, simply by following a feel of release in the moment.  This can leave him wondering where the pressure went, and you might see his normal, but displaced response to that pressure he is expecting, or a slight concern around his sureness that it must be coming.

The mare was in that spot: a little confused about the change in feel and timing. She had instinctively followed a feel and was already right. The normal reference point of a release of pressure marking her correctness was 'missing' - as was the pattern of "wrong" until you find "right" sequence that accompanies it. This actually caused her to be unsure about whether she was right. Since a lack of sureness in her understanding of a request was normally associated with a judicious and therefore predictable increase in pressure, this caused her to stand tight as she anticipated the pattern of pressure. Yet all the while, the pressure anticipated was not forthcoming.

For all these reasons - or particles of feel - it is also characterizes a golden moment in process if the handler can offer the feel and timing to ALLOW it. What does this mean? We have reached a moment in which the horse is right on the line between flight (or fleeing inward) and curiosity about this change in feel and timing. It is a delicate spot, where instinct is heightened. It is also a wide open doorway to that horse and the opportunity to for a connection of a very different kind. We just need to learn how to be invited through that door - through feel.

The common temptation would be to have the so far incomplete circle I had planned drive our next move. I could have done that, as I surely would have at one time in this journey, and she would have made it somehow - BUT I would also have confirmed and built on the established awkward staccato of misunderstandings, manifesting in misinterpreted brace. ANY suggestion that she ought to be doing more (towards that circle I had in mind), no matter the presentation, would have carried a feel of pressure at that moment - and slammed the door closed, by adding to her brace and sending her (in this case) inward, back to a quietly closed state.

The alternative would be to support her sorting through the shift to release her curiosity. If I am able to feel of a horse to achieve this, he/she will invite me right through that door, and I will find myself in that magical spot where we are together in lightness through feel - and it weighs nothing, becaused it is offered and received. A golden moment to be sure, and that is why I call this "The Vein of Gold".

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