As we ride or train our horses, we give our horses mechanical cues so they can perform mechanical maneuvers. In the early stages of training, this is necessary for our horse to comprehend what we are asking. As we progress in our training things should become less mechanical. When our horse is comfortable with what we are asking energy and feel should be more prevalent. How do we feel our horses and how do we direct our energy? Feel is both physical and emotional. We need to be aware of how our horse feels in body and mind. Energy is something that is in us and around us. It flows through us into our horse and back to us. We relay our energy through our hands, legs and seat to our horse. When we ride, our horse feels us. How does he interpret the feel? What does it mean when your legs touch his side? What does it mean when you bump, kick or squeeze? Is there energy in your legs when you bump or is it a mechanical movement? He knows the difference but do we?
Intention and focus are valuable when trying to train with softness. Intention is knowing what we want to do. Focus is concentrating on the intended maneuver. By focusing on what we want we are directing energy. We direct it through our body to his body. If we have focus and intention, we can control our horse with less pressure. This will increase awareness of our horse and awareness in our horse. It should ultimately lead to a more trusting respectful relationship.
Can you feel the energy in your body? Our horses feel our energy so we need to feel theirs. When we can feel it, we can interpret it. Is it nervous energy, scared energy, focused energy, or relaxed energy? Creating a relaxed feel will have a calming effect. Putting more energy into our actions often gets a more energetic response from our horse. Energy and feel can be intangible. We give off energy without focusing or controlling it. Our horses sense it and respond to it. How does your horse act when you are scared, or mad or happy? They often reflect how we feel.
We should be aware of how much energy or life we are putting into how we ride.
How do we feel to our horse? Are we just luggage or are we riding with feel? If we are just luggage, we are probably not that comfortable to our horse. If we feel our horse, he should respond with more confidence. If we do not feel our horse, we are probably not helping him out as much as we could. When we know what position our horse needs to be in to complete a maneuver correctly we can adjust our position so we are riding with our horse. If we do not feel our horse we are in the way and it will be difficult and uncomfortable for our horse to be athletic. Have you ever doubled someone on a bicycle and had them lean the wrong way in a corner? It is not impossible to make the corner but it is uncomfortable and unnatural. If we start to pay closer attention to our horses body and energy, we can help them do what we are asking.
When we start to feel the little things that our horse does, we can start to get in tune with him. When we tune ourselves in to him, he will really appreciate that we are finally aware of what we are doing. When we cue our horse for something our horse probably noticed three or four things that we do every time we cue it for that response. The horse noticed things that we do not even know we do. He probably responded and we did not notice. He needs to know that you noticed that he noticed what you did. To quote Ray Hunt “it is what happens before what happened, happened that is important”
Does your feel have life or is it just mechanical? When you pick up the reins can you feel how much contact you have with your horse’s mouth or are you just pulling? When your feel has life, softness and rhythm, you can expect a softer more willing response from your horse. Having a feel for your horse, he will be more responsive, more respectful and more comfortable.
© 2003 Will Clinging