There’s that word again … “feel”. It can be so elusive. What does that mean? And most importantly, how can you develop it?
To me “riding with feel” means being so connected to your horse that you can sense how to communicate seamlessly with him moment to moment (like a dance partner leading the dance.)
For example, you show him what to do next with just the right amount of cuing. Or you detect what he is going to do next before he actually does it. You sense his muscles tighten or his body parts barely move before he actually changes direction. Because you sense these subtle shifts, you are right there with just the right amount of seat, feet or leg support to guide him moment to moment.
So how do you acquire this elusive quality of “feel” in an efficient way?
Well nothing replaces hours in the saddle, but there is an exercise you can do to help your quest.
First, riding a horse with “feel” is a “soft” skill.
In any endeavor (not just horses) a “soft” skill means being responsive to a constantly changing situation. What’s going on is never exactly the same … similar to a quarter back making moment to moment decisions play by play.
“Hard” skills, by comparison are the things you do over and over in the same way (for the most part) … like how you position yourself in the saddle, or how you hold the reins.
It’s important to understand that soft skills take longer to develop because it takes multiple exposures to multiple changing scenarios to develop accurate responsiveness.
It’s also important to know that it’s common to get frustrated as you learn soft skills because there’s no short cut to the time and experience necessary to learn them.
However, I do have an exercise for you that I know will help you develop “feel” by helping you become more mindful of your horse’s movements.
Step one is to walk your horse with your chin up, shoulders back and eyes up.