Thursday, 12 February 2009

Living with the Dinosaurs

Some years ago I heard Mark talking about sitting on his horse and how he could feel this energy underneath him ready to go in any direction he asked. I imagined it would feel like sitting on a ball that could roll in any direction. Now, some time later, I can see and feel this myself. I can look at the horse being ridden and see which way the energy is falling, or not. I can see that the energy we add to this 'balance' is crucial. To watch a horse in balance and in movement is a very pretty sight, far more beautiful than the list of regulated moves that have become the benchmark used to prove horsemanship.

When I was with Mark last year, I noticed he was working really hard on getting people to feel the communication between them and their horse down the reins. We were talking one evening and I said to him that I thought it was really cool the way he was doing that. He said to me that it is interesting that a lot of the 'top' horse trainers say that you can't teach feel, it is something that you have or you don't have.

In our next clinic I started to do the same thing. For some people it was a revelation that such a small thing could be so powerful. For me that is one of the beauties of horsemanship - less is so often more. We are working slightly differently now, using that feel to reach a different level, but the feel is still the same thing.

So where to go from there? I am more and more convinced that the goal itself is the feel and the balance. As soon as the goal becomes something further on and we sacrifice the feel and balance, it is all too easy to get into a 'this must happen' mentality. There is a fine line between that pure communication and a pull, and why do we pull? I think it is because our focus goes beyond the feel and on to some other target. Things like us looking good, having horses in outline, winning stuff, mastering specific moves, and so on, take over at the expense of perfect feel and perfect balance.

For me, I see horsemanship as like life itself. It is difficult to build good stuff on dodgy foundations. But put in a good foundation and the good stuff can come along. With dodgy foundations, I don't think it ever truly can.