The 'Feel" by John Foley
Feel is a word often talked about in riding circles. This "feel" is an essential component of an harmonious and confident relationship between a horse and rider. While it comes easily to some, it is a fallacy to think you can never achieve it - with practice you can.
Feel is really the ability to judge the cause and effect of the horse's reaction to the rider. Examples are being able to give as the horse responds; being able to spot potential problems and deal with them before they become an issue; and being able to tell whether a horse is simply being disobedient or is just nervous. A lot of this comes with experience.
A well trained horse is the best professor of feel as it will teach a rider, literally, how good it feels when he or she gets it right. A good instructor will always communicate the idea to his pupil by asking, "How did that feel ?" The novice rider has to go through something of a learning curve of trial and error to find out what it takes to make it feel right and how then to achieve it consistently in the future.
If you look at a very good horse and rider combination at work, it almost seems as if the rider is doing nothing, while the horse looks happy, balanced, performs with brilliance and is in complete harmony with the rider, who will feel as if he or she only has to think and the horse reacts. It takes a combination of attributes, one of which is good training of both halves of the combination, to achieve this "state of grace". Feel in a rider can be described as a mix of concentration, quick reactions, sensitivity, adaptability and a feeling for rhythm and movement, with the added ingredient of a relaxed and sympathetic attitude.
Riding is really the art of communicating between a willing horse and a sympathetic rider. It is never a matter of force.Instead finesse, skill, training and coordination result in perfect partnership and harmony.
horseback riding by J. Foley