Feel is very important for pattern classes, or even showing rail classes. I need to know where that back foot is, if the hock is under, if the hip is tilted, if the barrel is lifted, if the shoulder is lifted, if the neck is relaxed, just for a successful and seamless lope off from the walk. It can be the difference between an uncollected, head-bobbed, step into the lope, and a nice, collected, effortless departure.
I also want to be able to manipulate each part of the body with a tiny change of my leg. I want to be able to lift the ribcage and move it over, I want to be able to lift and move the shoulder, and then I want to lift and move the hip. Then I want to do multiple combinations at the same time...
Those who want to show or perform for judges need to learn this stuff. Those who don't, don't.
I have no desire to tell my horse where to put her feet. In fact, I usually spend some time on the trail reminding her to watch HER feet, because SHE is the one who knows how the ground feels as her foot touches it. I have no interest in moving her ribcage. I consider my horse to be my independent PARTNER, not my puppet.
If that sounds harsh, it isn't meant to be. Folks can do whatever they want with their horses. If they are having fun & their horses are healthy and happy, then I am happy for them both!
object to the idea that trying to manipulate my horse's body is a higher form of riding. The part of riding that fascinates me and that has motivated me to ride is when my mare CHOOSES to loan her body to me, or independently does something to further OUR goals.
It is like the time I tried to get my youngest to canter on Trooper. She was giving the right signals, but Trooper would NOT canter. Period. When she dismounted, she admitted she wasn't comfortable with cantering and was glad that Trooper disobeyed her. The riding instructor and I both believe the opposite happened - that Trooper DID obey - obeying her desires while ignoring her physical cues. I think the then 13 year old girl and her horse achieved a pretty high level of riding that day, with the horse understanding the young girl better than her Dad or instructor did.
Most riders have stories like that.
That is what I liked about tinyliny's post: "What is often amazing to me is that people are so unaware of where their horse's THOUGHT is". When I ride Mia, I am constantly aware of her feelings. Her enthusiasm, fear, energy, concerns - she constantly feeds those to me. I don't know how. But if I don't feed her something in return, she'll go bonkers with fear. She NEEDS to know I'm listening to her, and that I respect her feelings. In return, she will give me everything she has. Up to and including when she takes 5-6 steps back and pleads with me to get off her and tell her she is OK.
Those are not examples of high level competitive riding, but those are the moments that make me want to ride. Or, as the case may be, to dismount, let her put her head against my chest, listen to me whisper into her ear, and then lead her someplace she doesn't have the courage to face on her own. That is when I feel like I'm getting somewhere as a rider...