“You’ve really crossed over the line into depth of feel.”

Hello! In honour of the above feedback from my Saturday instructor, after I thanked her for the years’ work and how much I felt (ha) I had improved, here is an excerpt from Many Brave Fools, from the chapter six, ‘Feel’:


I was Googling something called “horse feel.” I’d heard someone at one of the barns I rode at talking about “feel,” and it sounded to me like another one of those ineffable qualities that equestrians had…and I wanted it. 

But as I typed in variations of the phrase, I wasn’t coming up with much. Or all I was getting was an expanding number of people who were not able to tell me, directly and clearly, how to go about getting it. I wanted it to be as prescriptive as all that sciencey-brain stuff was regarding feelings, bit it was yet another example of equivocal horseperson-talk. If there was one way to do something, there were at least three optional approaches that didn’t exactly negate each other. 

It was like those conversations I’d had with Roisin at what I now considered my “home barn,” when I was talking about whether or not to buy my own horse; when I was waffling between a mare or a gelding, and trying to decide if a horse who’d only hunted was a good choice for me. There was never a direct yes-or-no answer to any of the possibilities I’d mooted, and Roisin talked me in and out of every proposition, every single time. 

This guy has played a big part in my depth of feel.

This was not the way I approached solving regular-life problems, but it was beginning to make sense to me as regarded equines. You obviously wouldn’t know what you were dealing with in a horse until you rode him, so to project a whole bunch of problems onto one, before you’d even met him, was a waste of time. You also had to keep your mind open, because the subtleties of how I’d communicate with a horse would vary. Here’s Bill Dorrance via Leslie Desmond, a noted horsewoman herself, who acted as co-author for his book True Horsemanship Through Feel (Dorrance is considered to be one of the founders of the natural horsemanship movement): 

What a person has in his mind to present to the horse needs to be something that’s possible for a horse to actually do. Then the person has to be able to understand it themselves, through feel, and apply it in a way that the horse can understand. This is difficult because no horses are the same, and there’s plenty of adjusting a person needs to figure on for this. Even if the picture they have is okay, when they handle a horse with more firmness than he needs, they’ll get a wrong response nearly every time and think the horse is at fault. When that’s their thinking, they’re liable to just apply a lot more pressure on the horse—which really mixes him up. And from the horse’s response, the person can get the idea that he doesn’t want to do what they’d like him to do. This is correct in a way, but it’s want him to do, because he doesn’t understand that pressure-feel they put on him in the first place. What makes this so bad is that those horses—I’ll say most horses—would cooperate if they could only understand.

I totally get that. When I first read it and considered it for the book, I… didn’t grasp it 100 per cent. Or even  50 per cent. But I get in now, because I get in both my mind and my body. Past-me is not going to like this, but I doubt I can explain it any differently, and certainly no better than a hallowed horseman like Dorrance — but I can tell her she’ll know it when she feels it (sorry, Suse!) and she won’t feel it until she ridden and ridden and ridden…


Many Brave Fools: A Story of Addiction, Dysfunction, Codependency… and Horses is AVAILABLE NOW.

Preorder your copy today:
> In the US, click on over to Trafalgar Square Books’ site.
> In the UK and Europe, visit Quiller Publishing’s page.


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