Feel and connection are twin beacons of hope for the horse and the humans that work with them.
When Jade asked me to do an article about feel for Cavalletti, I said “Yes!” thinking that this would be so easy to do. It’s easy for me to teach “Feel” for your horse, so it should be easy to write about it hey?
Well it turned out to be not so easy to write about as I thought.
Good Feel is in EVERYTHING worthwhile having with your horse. Feel is that thing that turns a plain horse rider – even a good horse rider – into a real horse person. Tom Dorrance talked about it being “the inside of the man knowing the inside of the horse.” Nuno Oliveira considered that Feel came even before learning the rein aids because applying the rein aids without Feel is a recipe for developing avoidance or bracing and resistance in our horse.
Every great horseman or horsewoman that I have come across has it and without it, people are just good technicians and their work is missing the special unity with the horse that comes from good Feel.
Feel is that thing that sets apart all the great riders of the world from the people who are wrestling their horses into submission with bits and spurs and repetitive techniques.
Connection is inseparable from Feel for our horse.
Connection is that thing that allows our horse and ourselves to feel each other and to respond in the moment – to seek and be a union of two minds, bodies and spirits – to express that union in pleasurable movement, whether that be the joyous expression of true dressage or the smooth, economical movement of a long trail ride together or the superbly timed explosive power of a horse working with cattle.
Feel could be described as good instincts with a horse, knowing where to be, what to do in the very moment that something is happening, when to keep on asking and when to change it. How to feel for the very moment – the very tiny instant moment – that our horse is willing and able to do what we ask – that is Feel. Having the stability in your riding seat to be ABLE to feel the very edge of what a horse is willing or unable to do for us – that too is Feel.
It’s knowing or feeling the horses emotions, their energy, the physicality of their posture and balance, noticing the thoughts and ideas that are crossing their minds, having no blame or judgement on the horse for whatever goes “wrong” but knowing and understanding what is going on BEHIND every problem, every resistance, every behaviour, so that it’s EASY to support them for positive change. These are all examples of Feel.
The long term good health of your four legged best friend, is also dependent on your Feel. Great riders like Frederic Pignon for example, know that it’s too hard to separate training the horse from healing the horse – and it’s Feel that makes that combination of training and healing possible.
Feel is widely considered unteachable.
And that’s because when a person is trying to teach how THEY feel so that someone else can do it as successfully as they do, the student is almost always doomed to failure. Trying to copy someone else’s version of Feel, is a recipe for failure and feeling like a failure.
Just pause on that thought for a moment because it is incredibly important.
If you’ve ever left a riding lesson feeling like a failure because you couldn’t achieve what your teacher achieved, then I expect that you were trying to copy THEIR way of doing it – and that is ALWAYS doomed to failure. It leaves us feeling like we are not enough.
It’s not your fault.
Feel is unique to each individual and even unique to each horse and human combination. It’s what I call your Inner Guidance system and it comes from Inner Awareness – an awareness of what your body feels like, what’s going on inside.
I know… we’re talking about feel for your horse and I’m talking about feeling inside yourself. Well that’s because feeling inside yourself IS how you feel for your horse. If you aren’t aware of your own body, your own energy, your own emotions, your own thoughts, then you won’t be able to notice what changes as your horse comes into the connection.
THAT folks, is the Key to the Kingdom of Horses.
That simple concept – awareness of what your OWN body feels like, your OWN energy, your OWN emotions, your OWN thoughts – is what enables you to notice what changes in your horse, so that you can ride the very edge of positive change together and get better and better every ride.
In the next article, we’ll talk in detail about the five ways of feeling for your horse so that you can start figuring out YOUR OWN unique feel.
Jenny Pearce credits her horse Bobby for his courage and persistence in teaching her how to listen to horses and her background as an alternative therapist for over 20 years, for her success in teaching people the supposedly unteachable “Feel” for a horse. “The time is ripe” she says. “People are sick of pulling and pushing their horses around for years and years and feeling crappy about it. They want to feel good on their horse, they want to feel the connection with this amazing animal and to be in such harmony with their horse that their minds, bodies and spirits are as One. “Feel” is the key to that and anyone can achieve it”.