Feel is a concept, which is your responsibility as a horse owner or trainer. You need to learn to distinguish when your horse has responded and how to reward this. What feel means is the ability to tell when a change has happened with the horse, adjust and reward the horse. Change may be good or bad, you have probably heard people say they are looking for a soft feel from the horse.
An example of this would be asking a horse to bend at the poll while standing still. While on the ground, if you use the knot at the bottom of the rope halter to pull down and your hand on top of the horses neck at the poll (just behind the ears). Ask the horse to lower it’s head.
Immediately when the horse drops its head, release the pressure on the rope. You just followed the feel of the horse!
Don’t take, don’t pull, ask. What do I mean by that? Are you a rein puller? Can you ride your horse at a walk, trot and canter on a loose rein? You’re probably thinking, what kind of stupid question is that? If I let go, the horse will run off somewhere I don’t want to go. Well, if you are constantly holding on to the reins with a “death grip” you are teaching your horse that they should be tense with the pressure from the rein. This is the surest way to develop a horse that pulls on the reins or pushes their nose out. Relax, from a standstill ask the horse to bend at the poll with the reins. When the horse responds with a proper bend, immediately release the rein and reward the horse. This is a feel too. Do you want to teach your horse to collect himself and be on the bit? This is the first step. What you have to do is follow the feel of pressure, release and reward.
Feel is more difficult for you to learn to recognize than the horse. When you are starting a horse, and you are asking for a backward yield it may take 100 pounds of pressure on the rope in order to get a horse to back up. You initially want to ask with 1 ounce of pressure, but if it takes 100 pounds to get the response you want – that’s what you have to do. Buck Brannaman had the best quote on how to visualize this concept ” you want to do as little as possible but as much as it takes.”
Always start with what you want to end up with. This may sound strange, but if you want a soft horse that responds to small changes, you have to set this up from the start.
Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond have written a book on this subject “True Horsemanship through Feel” that is outstanding. We have found no better book, video, or training material so we aren’t going to try and go into too much depth on this topic. This is an expensive book (around $50), but is worth so much when you put it into the context of how much time and money you can waste on misguided lessons and flailing around on your own.
To order this book, please click on the following link:
and then go to the “General Training & Horsemanship” section.
After that click on page 2 and go to the bottom of the page.
To order Natural Horse Supplies and Products visit: www.naturalhorsesupply.com