Riding well requires something that horsefolks refer to as ‘feel’. It’s when you know how to ask the horse to do something or react to what the horse is doing in an intuitive way. ‘Feel’ becomes a conversation between rider and horse. Often, it can turn into a beautiful dance.
There are many riding instructors that try to teach people how to develop feel. I’ve watched dvds that break training horses or how to ride into small chunks using a step-by-step program. It’s good to have the security of developing those practical skills in linear format but horses, like life, are not linear.
I got to see a good example of that over the weekend. I had two different riders on Nootka. The first was a professional dressage rider that has trained and ridden the higher levels of dressage. The other was an amateur, who has ridden off and on for many years.
The first rider got on Nootka and immediately started the conversation politely and then began asking Nootka for more to see where her training level was. When Nootka didn’t know what she was asking or couldn’t hold it for long physically, the rider backed off and tried something she could do. In a matter of fifteen minutes or so, Nootka was gaining more confidence and was engaged in the ‘conversation’.
The second rider was more tentative. She wasn’t sure what to ask Nootka to do so she walked around to gain her own confidence. When she decided to trot, Nootka said, “yes, ma’am” and threw the rider a bit off-balance. This conversation was more trial and error and required more regrouping. The first rider offered suggestions on what to do to the second rider and helped guide this conversation to several good moments of partnership.
In my ‘old’ career I felt like the years of gaining knowledge and good old-fashioned experiences helped me develop a great deal of ‘feel’. It was such a good feeling to know the answers and be super confident in the work. I liked it! Now, I feel like the second rider on Nootka. I feel like the start-up is much more trial and error and that I have to repeatedly regroup and think of things differently. It’s not a linear step-by-step process. It often doesn’t look pretty.
Could the lesson be….Trial and error along with creative thinking will lead to creation of beauty?