Let's discuss FEEL.
I have been re-reading the book True Horsemanship through Feel by Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond. The book is mostly how to get a better feel for your horse and you horse feeling of you. Now don't get excited thinking that sitting in the pasture reading a book will get you feeling your horse. It isn't magical it's a way to get more from your horse by preparing him in a better way.
Here is a short piece from the book.
To help the horse learn to understand what you want, you can make use of his nature. He is naturally curious and is apt to investigate things he hasn't seen or been around before. He is liable to run away from those same things. Thers's a spot somewhere in between (those tendencies) where an observing person can develop some skill at blending in thier plan for how they want the horse to manuever with the horse's willingness to do these things for a person. We can work with a horse this way because it's part of the horse's basic nature to want to get along. But the actual fact, as far as the horse is concerned, is that interaction with human beings is not natural. For a person to sit up there on his back is even less so. This is the reason we need to observe the horse and learn to feel of him and help him feel of us. To get the idea of feel, the horse handler needs to understand how the horse exists and survives in the world, which is through his senses. When it comes to cooperating with the human, we're talking about the feeling the horse has in every square inch of his hide and all through his mind, as it relates to a human touching him directly or in directly.
What are your thoughts on feel?
Do you have it?
Do you need it?
What happens when you don't/do have it?
I think those are very wise words. It's interesting, a lot of people can identify someone who has feel, but they don't know WHY they identify that person as someone skilled...they can't put their finger on it. When someone has feel, it's obvious in the horse's expression and in how he carries himself. He's proud, confident, exhuberant, playful, expressive, athletic....and the person mimics that. They are subtle, firm and friendly when needed, skilled and smooth with their ropes/reins/aids/etc, they are soft and quiet...it's like watching a dance.
Feel is something that can be elusive and you definitely have to work at it. Every time you touch a horse, you either use feel or you don't. You should put your heart in your hand and touch him with your heart...that's feel. Feeling the horse's thoughts and energy, watching for the subtle things that tell you which direction his brain is going. Feeling as though you are one being, with one mind, not two opposing forces arguing and fighting and resisting. Feel is a lot of things.
I think "feel" is exactly how Dorrence puts it; simply, it's understand the horse and working with them in such a way that displays that understanding.
I have encountered plenty of horsemen and women in my years of riding and training, and I've met few who actually have a true feel for the horse. It's not something that's 'book learned' as much as it's learned by spending time with, and learning from your horse, rather than simply putting harsh equipment or utilizing brute force to get the most out of him.
I think I would like to ready that book sometime... just that one passage sorta "spoke" to me ya know?
As for feel, I think I have maybe a vague grasp of it, which I need to get a hold of and refine through experience. My idea of feel is "think like a horse", not necessarily to get inside his head, but observe him and how he reacts, his tendencies and to work with them rather than try to correct them when you are working with him. Feel is the connection you have to the horse, you have a thorough knowledge of his body language however subtle it isand his thinking patterns no matter how complicated and you act in accordance to that language, you use it, not just look at it. Feel is an understanding between horse and rider, a mutual respect and appreciation, a willingness on both parts that begins with the person and their feel and translated to the horse.
That is what feel is to me.
When you do not have feel, you do not have a connection. You are just horse and rider, not a partnership. You see his nature, but you do not truly understand it. You realize his tendencies and quirks and think they need to be corrected, you think there is a cookie cutter mold your horse should fit into, and work to fit him into it. You can tell when someone does not have feel. There is not that calm finesse, that fluidity, that understanding that amazes us when we see a trainer signal a horse with the most subtle of aids and no matter the training of the horse, he seems to understand.
I would say that most people never notice the guy that's riding his horse with feel. He is not the one that is flapping his arms or lunging his horse for 20 minutes before mounting. He's not the one that has a horse prancing or kicking or running off. He's the guy that's waiting for everyone to get on thier horse so the work can start. He's the one that is calmly doing whatever the job is without any fanfare. The man that rides with feel is the man that is always in the right spot and is never noticed untill he stays home.
Honeysuga, you put it so well. If I could quote those words and call them my own, I would.
I'm so close to the beginnings of feel and connection, it really makes me so happy to see how far I've come in one year of really trying to ride! Some days I lose all my feel and I feel so helpless, as if my horse has stopped talking to me, or if somebody cut out my tongue and I'm rendered speechless. To feel truly connected and with your horse is the most beautiful experience of all, and the most rewarding.
Feel is the subconcious knowing of when to give and take, the real connection between horse and rider. To feel is to learn and speak language of your horse's body and mind, and it is the very base of what creates a great, happy, and willing equine.
Soft, kind, and giving riders should be what win at the shows, but alas it seems they are getting few and far between, and only the rare judge recognizes them. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how pretty you look in the saddle, the clothes you wear, the money you spend, how high you can jump, the fancy pirouettes you can do, or the shows you've won. If you are not willing to learn how to feel and put the horse first, you are not a real rider.
Well this thread should provoke some posts. Well done Kevin.
we need to observe the horse and learn to feel of him and help him feel of us. To get the idea of feel, the horse handler needs to understand how the horse exists and survives in the world, which is through his senses. When it comes to cooperating with the human, we're talking about the feeling the horse has in every square inch of his hide and all through his mind, as it relates to a human touching him directly or in directly. (and perhaps “by not touching him at all but by watching and listening”)
Dorrance is trying to explain a philosophy. ie his concept of how to work with and get to know a horse and its psychology. He is using the word ‘feel’ in more than one of its meanings. In the Collins dictionary the verb “feel” has 15 different meanings.
1 to perceive by touching
2 to have an emotional sensation
3 to examine by touch
4 to try to find one’s way by cautious exploration
5 to seem in respect of the sensation ie “it feels warm”
6 to sense ie “to feel it in one’s bones”
7 to consider and/or believe
8 to show sympathy and compassion towards
9 to “feel up” - to touch with a sexual connotation
10 to have an inclination for ie “to feel like”
11 to feel up to ie to be fit for doing something
12 the act or instance of feeling
13 an impression of something perceived through feeling ie “a homely feel”
14 the sense of touch
15 an instinctive aptitude or knack.
The noun “feeling” as only 13 meanings - mostly in line with those of the verb listed above. Some English language speakers will use the word “feel” as both verb and noun (instead of using the word “feeling”)
So what we read are the words of a very competent horseman, Dorrance, who with the help of a co-writer is trying to put across a complex issue which elsewhere would be under expressed by the use of the word “feel” only. Dorrance is expanding the meaning of the word “feel” as it applies to horses.
Therefore “ the feel of him” is not just how he feels to the touch rather it embraces the nature of the horse . And vica versa by touching the horse we humans give the animal some clue as to our own attitudes towards horse and our horse in particular.
“To get the idea of feel” is used by Dorrance to suggest that the word “feel” has a very broad range of uses when used in connection with horses . We as individuals must discover all the ways in which the word can be used to describe the emotions of a horse. Looking at the list I can see only one meaning which might not be applicable for use with horses - No 9
“about the feeling the horse has in every square inch of his hide and all through his mind” An interesting choice of words. He uses “hide” instead of ‘body’ - he uses “mind” instead of ‘brain‘. If the reader had heard the words spoken instead of written, then maybe the concept would have been easier to understand - any attempt by the likes of me to translate exactly and correctly are difficult without watching and hearing the man actually say the words - even though I believe I understand and indeed accept what he is trying to say/write/promote.
The books of both Dorrances are difficult to read and accurately understand partly because both men are speaking straight from the ‘heart’ as the words come out of the mouth. The co-writer has copied the words down as spoken without making a great attempt to make sure that the reader understands correctly what has been written. One wonders if perhaps a Dorrance book would be a good one for a student of literature to study.
It certainly would be appropriate to make the extract taken by Kevin from the book as the subject for a lecture/surgery/demonstration in an arena together with a horse.
My own contribution to this thread would be to suggest that the readers get out their own dictionaries, they look up “feel” & “feeling” and then ask themselves how each listed meaning can be applied to their own(human) relationship with their own(equine) horse.
I think Dorrance could have said that we should learn to feel our horse without necessarily using our fingers.
Good question Kevin - a bit heady for after lunch - best considered before midday. Remember I don’t speak or write quite the same language as you guys.
PS How does this concept fit alongside the idea that horses and humans should have “space” - a subject we have already discussed.
I find what I have read of what you have posted very interesting, by the way.
Feel is the difference between someone who works with horses and a real horse trainer. Kind of like speaking Spanish and thinking Spanish. A lot of people can speak horse but only a few can think horse.
Its that difference that creates "feel" and it is that difference that is the key.
Put trust and respect into the mix and the human and the horse become partners--each doing their jobs as a team. The feeling of this is why most do what they do with horses.
All of us have had that one horse that fell into place with us. A good trainer can re create this with most all of the horses they work with.
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