Horse Training - Understanding "Feel"

Posted by HERD Institute on February 12th, 2020

Horses are very social animals. They live in groups called herds. To a large degree, when living in the wild, their survival depends on the effective functioning of the herd. Each herd has a leader and a pecking order that falls below that leader. The lead horse needs to effectively communicate and direct the herd for it to function effectively. Horses communicate with each other in a variety of ways. One very important communication tool for the horse can be described as Feel. Feel is a nonverbal form of communication. It involves body language, and shares intent, energy and focus points. Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy Training

Feel is commonly used in describing how a human interacts with or handles a horse. A person is often described as having a good Feel or a lack of Feel. Just as a herd of horses needs a leader, when you are working with or riding a horse, there has to be a leader. To be effective at Horse Training you have to develop a set of skills that will allow you to effectively interact with your horse. Developing a good Feel for being a leader for your horse is very important.

There are a variety of skills that need to be learned when handling horses. Learning those skills is a significant part of becoming a skilled Horseman and to be effective at Horse Training. How you apply those skills is to a large degree, determined by your Feel. I have seen folks who have learned the technical skills of handling horses, but lacked Feel and that limited their effectiveness.

A very important part of your ability to communicate with a horse is a technique called pressure and release. We apply a specific pressure with a desired response in mind. When the horse responds to the pressure with the desired response, we release the pressure. At first the horse's response may only be a small step in the direction we want. That is ok. We reward that try as the horse begins this learning process. As time goes on we will look for a more advanced response before we release the pressure. Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy & Learning Certification

One aspect of Feel which can be quantified is the amount of pressure we apply to the horse. Some horses do not respond well when there is a lot of pressure applied. Some horses are very sensitive and with a very light amount of pressure, perform extremely well. On the other hand, if a significantly higher level of pressure was applied, their response was unpredictable and often undesired. Other horses need a much firmer hand and at times a significantly higher level of pressure. It really all just depends on the horse, their level of training, the skill we are working with them on. The intuitive use of Feel is very important in knowing how much pressure to use on a specific horse in a specific situation so you can be effective at Horse Training.

The Horseman must be aware that this is a two way communication between horse and human. If you pay attention, your horse will communicate many things to you. Some will be positive, some not so positive. Often when a problem occurs, the rider indicates that the horse gave no warning or indication of a problem. What actually happened in most instances is the horse did send the message. The rider just did not pick up on it. The horse used it's instinctive language of Feel to communicate, and the rider did not comprehend the message.

So how do you develop your feel for the horse, enhance your communication with him and be effective at Horse Training. First thing to do is to spend time with your horse. There is no substitute for this. Be award of what your horse is doing and watch him in the pasture with other horses. You will see them communicate. Some times in very subtle ways and at other times in very obvious ways. EFL Training for Individuals

Learn the technical skills of horse handling from an experienced, qualified trainer. Watch other Horsemen and observe them with horses. If you watch you will be able to spot the ones who have a quiet hand and the horse just seams to get along with. Spend some time with these folks. If they are a professional and offer lessons or clinics, that would be something to consider.

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HERD Institute
Joined: January 15th, 2020
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