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Part 1: 'Thicket Riding': A Mutual Trust Revealed

chasementorWebSome of you will remember the story of Chase and Bug barely making it out of the woods for trees falling behind them during a storm a while back... and the normally bold Chase thereafter  immediately losing his cool (aka leaping up and down in amongst trees, not so great to ride) when the trail petered out and he wasn't 100% sure where to go....

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Well, I am enjoying a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling today after riding in the (very un-tended to) woods, where there isn't much difference at the moment between the "trails" and the deer paths... we soon came up on a fallen tree blocking our way. I rode 'off road', definitely no trail, closer to riding through a thicket with branches crossing at chest level and barely room for my knees as we wiggled through. We had to go a ways like this as it turned out "into the unknown".

He has long legs, is fairly tall and was in a slight hurry about this predicament. Just a bit fast for sensible maneuvering in the circumstances.

For a moment I did wonder if this was a bad plan, but then I realized to my utter delight - he was with me, going exactly where I asked unless I hesitated for a split second, at which point he did not, and chose the next 'squeeze', so took over momentarily BUT with such CARE: never bumped a knee, never got caught on a sapling, he never put a real branch in my face (only the soft leafy bendy ones!) and I did not bump my head on a nearby tree as I ducked under a few branches either. 

It was rather exhilarating in fact, to feel this connection - his MIND so totally focused on our shared goal, despite his slight concern (given the history) and the other horses calling him to boot.

For those who were on our recent on-line course session re: teaching a horse to slow down, think and feel back to you within a confining feel vs. speed up and react - here is an example when it meant the difference between Chase hanging in there and not. His mind was available as he applied himself most carefully and the feel of the connection remained present - despite him 'co-piloting' at times - because we remained totally in sync with a shared plan :)

So all in all, just a ride in the woods really! But I am posting to hereby make note - notice! which I have historically missed more than once (and in so doing, Not been Present to the connection Chase was offering at times for far too long, nor Receiving his true offer) - where we actually are Today, what we have clearly Moved On from.

It did not feel like or even occur to me we might have a problem - except for a brief moment when the 'Head Advisor' suggested I was off my rocker. The 'Head Advisor' was easy to over-rule and in fact served to bring a wonderful level of awareness - and in the moment 'Receiving' of -  the absolute mutual trust we had in each other 'on the job'. And that... felt Awesome :) 

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

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

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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

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“...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