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Getting Things Unstuck

I responded to her presentation in a way I can’t say I planned. Feel is not about that list of instructions on how to do something right, but about… well, Feel.  Or rather, a little creativity within a set of clear principles.
If I had changed my presentation at all in that moment, it would have served only to confirm her confusion and lack of sureness about moving forward with my float. This might seem confusing, because we talk a good bit about adjusting our presentation to fit the horse.  In this case, I adjusted to inspire her sureness by offering an unchanging feel of release – in this case, that meant I kept my tempo the same, my life the same, with a feel for her to leave the area 15ft behind her tail.

I kept walking, on a path that looked rather like she was lunging me. She continued to offer all four feet in place, rather like a cat, without traveling forward, but actively picking up each foot as she pivoted around her center to stay with my float.

I had no plan around escalating anything – just a tempo to rely on and life to tune into and follow with her feet in the direction of the feel of the float. There was a feel of release offered in the float – pulling, or even taking the slack out at all would have served only to bury her shoulders even more. I continued on around in this fashion for a circle or more, as she continued to offer her feet in a pivot without actually following. Suddenly the hesitation in her expression  changed to a clear decision to follow, and she walked towards my float with some sureness.

This might seem like a ridiculous amount of time to allow a horse to not be in complete compliance with my request. But let’s consider for a moment, why did it take this much time?  Because this mare needed that much time to clear the fog of uncertainty and confusion of the past few months, to gain confidence that she was not under pressure to meet a requirement, which gave way to seeing clearly again, as she began to trust in the meaning carried in the feel. That takes in quite a lot, and it is no wonder it took a short while. Then she was able to tune into the moment and its feel. And that was when, as Bill Dorrance helps us understand, she “got ready”. After that the feel just went to her feet.

Her confidence was not well rooted yet though – like someone trying something for the first time.. “I think I can”. My commitment was for her to be clear that following the feel was the job. It was obvious that her minimal confidence in her decision meant she would likely not travel very far. I adjusted after a stride or two and we blended together to a stop. That way, she experienced following a feel and being right for a second time.
I started the mare out on the other rein. She freed up into a trot with a gentle ease about her, showing how available she could be, if shaped to offer it through her body.  She was light and offered to keep that amount of life going without any need to drive her forward.

I shaped her to release her into a new turn. She tried to turn, and now came to a similar stop in this direction, as she had earlier. I offered a similar presentation for her to follow my feel, as I kept the same tempo and life without escalation, and allowed the time for her to sort this out. This time it took less than a circle for her to make the decision to follow the feel of direction. Again I blended with her to a stop, as she followed my feel.

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