Working with Feel
When it comes to horses, working with feel is the only way to truly operate. Feel is really all the horse has to go on. When you look for it, you see this in horses from the very beginning. Sometimes a mare will touch (nuzzle) her colt while he’s lying down and he’ll stay there. She might touch him, in what looks to be the same way, and he’ll get up and follow her. It’s this feel (that is already there in horses) that we’re trying to work with.
Having said all that, I’ll say that working with feel is the hardest thing in the world to explain to someone. It’s hard to teach it in person – let alone with words. Kara and I have spent quite a lot of time discussing working with feel and trying to put it together in a way that will have meaning to someone. Which is hard because just as each horse (and their particular “feel”) is different, so too are people different. What kind of feel I work with on a certain horse and have things going my way, might be different for you even on the same horse. Or the same horse may feel or need a different feel on the same day. We’re not talking about direct feel
(my hands on the lead rope/reins) or an indirect feel
(me pushing the horse around the round pen.) This is much deeper – down inside of us as well as the horse. Dang, it sounds complicated! (Almost a tongue twister.)
Two examples of ways that I’ve seen working with feel come to have meaning for people are listed below:
For Women with Children
My wife and I after discussing this (working with feel) at length one night had one of those light bulb moments. I was tying to put into words, what working with feel meant to me. We we’re actually discussing about what other word would work in place of feel. She asked if it was like being in tune. at this point my dumb question was with what? Kara begin to talk about our two sons and how she could at times just feel where they were operating from. When our 3 yr old would act out, instead of just making him sit in the “nowhere chair” (cause being naughty gets you nowhere), she could tell if he was excessively tired or getting sick. I, on the other hand, wasn’t picking this up. Instead, all I was catching on to (or feeling) was the behavior. It amazed me because she was right on. That’s really what it is. Not just the behavior, but what lies at the root of it. She is in tune enough, and can feel what’s going on inside them. Even before they realize it, or even if they (the kids) don’t even know what’s causing it. Because of her love for them and being alert to what makes them tick, individually she is able to do this. (Now, where not saying bad behavior should be allowed in horses or kids – just working to get at the root of it) This was a light bulb moment for me for several reasons. One, maybe I can help someone catch on to what I’m saying when I use the word feel. Two, I again realized that working with feel is a way of life – with horses, people, kids or really anything.
For Some Men
A buddy of mine and I were talking one night about working with feel and of course, there’s always good discussion. (Bill and Tom Dorrance called this “talking things over”) One of the ways it meant something to him was as follows: Todd used to race mini-sprint cars, and did quite well. He was telling me how you feel your car. There would be guys that would take lessons, race for years, have the best equipment money could buy – and still not win. They weren’t consistent, had trouble not crashing at times, and we’re pretty slow. He told me, “Rick, they just couldn’t feel (get with) their car. They spent a lot of time sliding around, tuning their car up the wrong way – and never got it. Todd talked about how you could just feel your car in relation to the track, and you’d make adjustments accordingly (to the car and how you drove it.) This made a lot of sense to me.
There’s a phrase you hear a lot today “in the zone.” That’s somewhat how it feels when you have this (working with feel) going for you. You and the horse are becoming more and more like one being. When your horse is starting to get troubled over something, you’re able to help him out before it ever becomes an issue. (That’s how it’s supposed to go anyway.) It is difficult to do this with just one horse, and if you ride a lot of different horses, it is even more so. Tom Dorrance said, “You want to feel like you could ride your horse up a telephone pole, or down a badger hole, not that you’d do either one, but just fee like you could.” When your ideas and the horses ideas begin to become one, there is nothing like it. The horse puts a feel out to you as if to say “where are we going,” and you put a feel out back to him saying this way…And you both leave together. That’s true communication!
When there’s almost no time between your ideas and the horses actions.
It sounds deep because it is! You can spend a lifetime thinking about it and working on it and at times wonder if you’re any closer. All of a sudden, you’ll have a day when it’s just right. Your horse is happy to be with you – his ears are forward, you feel like you know right where he’s at mentally, and its perfect. It’ll make you work for that again and again. May not happen every day, but someday…
For questions about working with feel, please contact us.
Return to Training page
Return to horsetrue Homepage