I, like most horseback riders, like working on the big stuff. You know stuff like: moving out, walk/trot/canter, jumping (in our case small logs on the trail), crossing bridges and creeks, loading, things that I can look at and say, we did THAT, the accomplishment is easy to see.
For a couple of years now I’ve heard Buck talk a lot about timing things/asks to what the feet are doing. Its info. that I took in but couldn’t really process or put into practice because in spite of the amount of time in the saddle I don’t really have a lot of awareness about my horse’s body. I could not call out what the feet are doing, don’t know how to time my asks for certain maneuvers and really had no idea how to influence movement and control over isolated body parts.
So about a month ago I took a lesson with a Vaquero style instructor. It had POURED the night before and their arena didn’t have the best footing. Instead of canceling I decided to take my lesson on this concept and finally try to figure things out. Since the lesson I’ve been playing with it trying to get a feel for it. It’s a good time of year to do it because things are wet, muddy, it’s dark when I get home from work and in general I just don’t spend as much time in the saddle. This type of riding doesn’t require much space, the slower the better, it is all about small movements, shifts is weight, moving a foot independently, sending the hindquarters in one direction, then moving the shoulders in another. Yesterday hubby and I took a clinic that was a follow up and progression on this.
So here is what I am learning….
You can get pretty far, accomplish a lot and do a lot of things with a horse and never have any idea about this stuff. Horses are incredibly forgiving and will compensate for a lot of what we don’t know. Horses will actually allow us to operate a long long way on their good graces. There is NOTHING wrong with never learning or caring about any of this. If yields, foot placement and body part isolation is not your thing…no big deal.
BUT in my opinion understanding this stuff is the birthplace of true horsemanship. It is where lightness lives and where dancing with your horse has to come from. True unity cannot happen if you don’t know how to operate your horse as an extension of you. Control, understanding, communication and access to your horse’s mind comes from getting to the feet.
As for us personally we have a long long long way to go. I’ve briefly glimpsed and teetered on the very far edge of where it can take us. We may never get it….but in the words of the master…”it is a good thing to chase.”