The Feel of Release: RIDING CALLE
Karen Musson, Trainer, Coach and Clinician, recommended by Leslie, relates her experiences riding Leslie's horses during her apprenticeship, in particular CALLE, whom she found to be quite an excellent coach! Click here to download printable version
4. Adjusting to Calle and the reciprocal feel of release
Leslie was working with Bill Dorrance on his ranch when she purchased Calle as a four-month-old foal. She told us that it had been her aim to raise and train her in accordance with the philosophy and training methods she was learning from Bill at that time (1998).
One of the most compelling aspects of riding Calle had been to discover within minutes and with crystal clarity how innocuous seeming things such as a nudge of a rider’s heel or picking up pressure on a rein really feel to a horse. My lower leg applying pressure to her rib-cage got in the way of her hind leg reaching forward and pressure on a rein restricted her neck and blocked her shoulder.
Calle’s responses were all feel-based and offered back to me with great care and attention. This included, for example, thoughtfully jumping her hips up in the air in response to a nudge from both my heels! It was not unseating, Calle was not resistant, tight or resentful. The feel of a nudge from my heels on both sides, with the associated slight shift in my center of gravity, caused her to dump her weight forward, and left her with a confining feel on each side of her rib-cage – effectively blocking the path forward for both hind feet as I asked her to liven up! When you think about it, her response was perfect – in terms of feel. It was a lapse on my part – that old muscle memory… My own horse had alerted me to the actual feel in this rider presentation, by simply ‘stalling out’ on the forehand. “Why do you ask him to stop?” Leslie had asked. After applying real thought to what I was doing, his response made perfect sense. It was a good day actually – I understood that what I had been interpreting as ‘stalling out’ was in fact my horse following my feel!
As I felt Calle’s hips up there in the air, at the exact moment I was aware of my muscle memory ‘foul’, it made me smile quite a bit – she could not have offered an ounce more clarity about this, nor with such sincerity! Calle was quite effective at re-setting that wiring in me for good, right there: not unlike touching an electric fence - some fast conditioning not to repeat!
It is astonishing that the feel in such common-place presentations to the horse, is often really quite contrary to what we actually mean the horse to do! No wonder surprising things happen sometimes when the true feel in a presentation actually gets down to the feet. Many horses will fill in for us, right until they can’t – due to our impact on their balance and freedom of movement. What adaptable creatures they are.
Calle guided my rapid adjustments to riding through ‘feel and release’ at this first trainers’ clinic with Leslie. The changes felt good. “Ride like you need to leave room for a credit card between you and your saddle” Leslie had said. When I put a little more lightness in my core, as I released my lower legs a little, Calle offered a smooth transition forwards with her shoulders free and hips engaged. It made so much sense – this presentation made it easy for her to elevate her wither and shoulders (as I did mine) and lift her back, while ‘opening the door’ for her hind-quarters to reach forwards freely.
Her many such lessons seem to be appreciated by the other horses I encounter too – each horse I’ve ridden since has preferred what Calle wired into me that day. She was (and has continued to be) an outstanding coach, and we quickly found our way to a connection that felt good.
The Art of Riding © Karen Musson 2007- 2010, All rights reserved.
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