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A Filly out of the Start Gate

Spring was a 2 year old, imprinted filly. She lived on 10,000 acres of mountainous ranch country, in a herd of about 50 horses. She was a quarter horse of excellent cutting horse bloodlines. Her early handling supported a foundation necessary for her intended job on a 40 strong string of trail horses, whose main responsibility was to keep their inexperienced and honored guests safe in the mountains.

ranchcountry
Photo 4: Spring lived on 10,000 acres of mountainous ranch country, seen in the background, carefully preserved, serving as 24 x 7 turnout and offering superb trail riding. The ranch spans 118,000 acres in total.


The goal of Spring’s early foundation was to teach her that if her instincts and life bubbled up, she needed to remain calm, and replace the thought of flight with the thought to stop her feet. However Spring had struggled with this expectation, due to her peppy nature.

Her ‘try’ was of the highest order. In her efforts to stay true to that early training, she had learned to contain her vivid desire to move by traveling on a braced front-end, when haltered. If an extra bubble of life came up, she jumped with all four feet in the air, rather than move out forwards, or anywhere in fact: she would land her feet in the same spot, in exact accordance with her foundation.

My quiet approach to her wither had her escaping with her hind quarters, front feet planted to the spot: she tried to be still, but there was just too much life in this sprightly two year old for her to contain.

These continuous efforts to try to contain her instincts had built up into a livewire tightness, which then manifested itself in other ways.

Her response to my touch anywhere on her front leg was to snap her foot up in a thought to escape, while simultaneously swinging her head around with bared teeth and offering a lightning strike with her back leg.

When it came to turning her out, her pent up energy would spike as her thought reached for her friends on the mountain. In her angst, she would pitch her shoulder towards me and get ready to fight with her head and neck.

The ranch had bred a beautiful filly. They also wanted the best for her, and had taken her out of training for the string, when it became clear that the natural "life" in her was just too much to fit the program. She was thought to be better suited as a performance horse, and certainly had the looks and athleticism for that. She was ready for a fresh start and eventually a new owner.

Spring had a strong mind, a strong sense of dignity, and despite layers of misunderstanding, she wanted to get along. I liked her and was grateful to the ranch trainer for assigning her to me.

This article reports clinic experiences only and is not intended
for instructional purposes.

Colt Starting Through Feel, by Karen Musson, 03/20/2009 V2.1
© 2009 All rights reserved

 

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

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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