What is Feel?

Feel is one of those words horsemen and women throw around somewhat carelessly.  It’s ill-defined, confusing, and to many people, has this ethereal mysticism surrounding it.  I think some people believe feel is unattainable to them, but someday, if they only ride in enough clinics, they can get some of this “feel.”  It sounds to many like this magical experience you can only have if you are a super genius.

Well, that simply isn’t true.  And the truth is, everyone is riding with feel.  A feel can be anything in between a light touch and a punch – to sound completely obvious, a punch FEELS like something right?  So if you’re sitting on a horse, you’re using feel.

I think a better way to describe the way you’re using your aids would be to describe what KIND of feel we want in that situation.  What we’re looking for with horses is a type of feel that just blends, feels good for both partners, and doesn’t involve force.  If you’ve ever danced with someone who swept you off your feet, you’ve experienced this type of feel.  If you’ve had to pound a nail into a wall, and then pet your cats head, you’ve used two different types of feel and you have the capability to adjust to what type of feel each situation called for.

Maybe feel can be better described as awareness, and togetherness.

A brief description of a situation in which feel was used:

I landed in Charlotte, NC and had 25 minutes to catch my next flight to Raleigh.  My flight landed late, and the airport was completely packed.  Of course the gate I needed was on the opposite end of the airport, so I speed-walked through the airport as best I could until I got closer to my gate.  I could hear my flight being announced, and different groups being invited on to board.  People waiting to board their flights were spilling out from their gates into the aisle way, and in front of me were swarms of people with no order t the traffic flow going toward me, away from me, stopping directly in front of me, turning around, you name it.  I was desperately trying to get to my gate on time but was completely blocked in by an unorganized flow of human beings in their own world doing their own thing.  I’d see a space open up ahead of me so I’d speed up, and then the person in front of me would stop suddenly to check their flight information, so I’d slam on the brakes.   The person next to me would lose control of their wheel-behind luggage, and it would swing toward me.  I’d have to move out of its way and still maintain forward movement.  Oncoming foot traffic, their noses buried in their phones, would walk almost onto me – I’d have to veer out of the way without bumping into the innocent folks beside me.  The only thing I had to go off of to get to my gate without running into anyone was feel.  It was an interesting experience to say the least, but as I got to my gate I was getting pretty proud of the fact that I hadn’t bumped into a single person.

I boarded my plane just before the doors closed to me and sat in my seat pondering feel.  I don’t think we need to frustrate and confuse our horses with erratic requests, but keeping them on their toes creates intense focus.  I didn’t have time to get frustrated or mad walking toward my gate – I was busy being aware of my surroundings and trying to get from point A to point B without knocking anyone over or missing my flight.


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