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Old 04-11-2013, 11:10 AM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 30
Default Themes and Lessons from The Dorrance's, Ray Hunt, and other great horsemen

I was discussing horsemanship with a very competent rider the other day. We began discussing the central themes that the Dorrance brothers, and Ray Hunt would teach. I know that they would argue over this themselves, there was a time once when they got in an argument about feel, timing, and balance. With Bill saying all you need is feel and tom quipping back, feel means nothing without timing. I thought I would start a discussion to see what people think the central message of these great horsemen was. Or what is one of the most important lesson you have learned from them?

Here is my contribution:

I believe the essence of what the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt taught was that, when a horse is in a comfortable state, he is able to be teachable and can look "for you." And I think a lot of people misunderstand, don't know, or look to marketing tactics to learn what it takes for a horse to be comfortable. Many of the things that the Dorrance brothers taught wasn't necessarily revolutionary they were just different than what most people had been taught, this is one of the reasons why there message didn't really take off until later. For instance when Tom advocated that people ride with a shorter seat, most people didn't listen. We shouldn't allow marketing tactics or science to decide whether something makes a horse comfortable. We need to learn to observe horses and allow them to teach us and let us know when they are comfortable.

I think getting a horse comfortable takes effort. The gear you use won't necessarily make a difference, except for when it causes discomfort to the horse. I was deeply impressed when a man I was riding with last week spent ten minutes adjusting the curb strap on his horse. This wasn't something he would do each time he rode, he was switching out bits with the horse and understood the importance of the correct fit for the horse. During the ten minutes he changed out the curb strap three times, each with multiple adjustments. The effort this man puts into making his horses comfortable shows when he gets on there back. In my opinion this man puts together some of the nicest horses today.

In the things I have learned over the years, if I want to have a willing partnership with a horse, I need to have the horses well being on the forefront of my mind. This is something I learned from the Dorrance brothers, and Ray Hunt. What is a theme that you picked up from these great men or other horsemen? I don't want to limit it to them, what is the greatest lesson you have learned from another horsemen and why?
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:10 PM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2011
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Default Themes and Lessons, etc

At one time, I thought feel was everything and then another time thought timing was everything - now I believe they are interchangeable sometimes. I find that you can use timing to get feel. But if you can't feel what's going on then you can't use timing very well. So they both are necessary, but probably the most important is feel. There are 2 types of feel tho and I haven't really heard anyone explain this very well. One is you have to be able to feel - feel the horse through your body, to understand what is going on with the horse and in the horse. Then you also need to understand how to get feel - that is the reaching of the horse to you.
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:08 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 157

On timing and feel. For me, timing is the ability to discern the moment when the horse is physically and mentally prepared to do something. Working a horse from the ground, it is easier to see what is taking place mentally, by the horse's expression, and we can see his body prepare. But from the saddle, it a different thing. We cannot see what is taking place. We have to feel it, and be able to interpret what we are feeling through experience and education. We have to feel and know what is taking place through our seat. We have to be able to go with the horse, even when its not what we want, and not ride in opposition to the horse. Then we search and feel for the right moment to act, or not act. The timing is being able to ask for something at the right moment. That moment is, or should be, just before it actually happens. In this way, a horse can learn our aids by association and feel, not just from the pressure and release. What happens repeatedly before something happens becomes the signal. So in riding, our position in the saddle becomes in itself a signal. It is important to feel down through the reins and feel what we have when we ask for something. We should be able to feel the level of response or resistance, and make adjustments from there. The horse can feel, some more than others, but we have the brains. We have to think.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:10 AM   #4
Join Date: Apr 2012
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Balance, balance, balance. Physical balance, emotional balance.
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Old 04-18-2013, 03:13 PM   #5
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
Posts: 87

Administrator, thanks for waking up this forum.

I have to confess, a lot of the knowldgeable discussions on this forum are on a plane so far above my head, they're inaccessible.

I think the discussion you've opened could become something that anyone who truly wants to improve their horsemanship by looking for feel, timing and balance could relate to, from the most tentative, beginner-level rider, to the most advanced. Ray Hunt could communicate aspects of his vast knowledge and experience, so can Buck Brannaman.

One of the problems is trying to communicate what we mean by these terms. It's the sort of thing that makes Tom Dorrance's book read a lot like Zen . . .

From my own kindergarten-level of understanding, I'd say feel and timing are integral . . .
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:40 PM   #6
Join Date: Apr 2013
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Not long ago I read somewhere that Tom Dorrance was asked the question, if he had to choose, which one of the 3 (feel, timing and balance) he thinks was the most important? He pondered for a long time and then said that if he absolutely had to choose, it would have to be balance.

From what I have just learned to a greater depth from this past clinic (Buck Brannaman) as well as from my horse is that balance is hugely important to the horse. Without it it cannot feel well-being. I think now that it is the most important thing to the horse. The human needs to develop his/her feel and timing in order to achieve balance with the horse.

I cannot say that there was just one great lesson, there have been so many, and many more are to come. And all are important. "The last thing you learn is the first thing you needed to know" also seems to always apply.

Flyingcollie, the first time I read Tom's book I didn't understand much of it at all. Much of this is nearly impossible to put into words. I didn't really understand some of the concepts until I experienced moments of them, felt the change. It cannot be understood at an intellectual level. I am still very far away from getting those moments consistently and for longer than just moments. Most attempts still are way off in their feel and timing. It takes a ton of practice and much trial and error.
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Old 04-19-2013, 10:06 AM   #7
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
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That makes perfect sense. The three (feel, timing, balance) are so intertwined when you're trying to operate a horse, I don't think you can isolate any one of them from another while you're astride. But I'd hazard you can't have much feel at all, much less good timing if you're out of balance.

Trainer I've been riding with twice weekly through the winter put it this way; He said, " . . . figure a reasonable load for a saddle horse is a fifth of its weight, so at a thousand pounds or so, your pony is carrying around 200#. Say YOU weigh 200# . . . a fifth of your weight would be 40#, and if that weight is in a good, tight back-pack with comfortable rigging, you're good to go, you can keep it balanced. Now, say that 40# is a little over five gallons of water in a half-full container where it can slosh around, and see how good your balance is, packing it around on your shoulders."

Ilam, you're so right. I've read and re-read Tom Dorrance's book several times, and each time I do, I get another little glimmer of what he's about, mulling over my riding experiences.
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Old 10-22-2013, 08:17 PM   #8
Mares Tales
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 19

and balance.

I think of a flock of birds, a school of fish, a herd of bison. They are all in their respective groups; flying, swimming, galloping. What keeps them from crashing into eachother when they are traveling at high speed? How can they all change direction TOGETHER as one, without bumping into one another and causing chaos? The reason is they have to "feel" for eachother. They feel for what the distance between individuals has to be (space) in order to operate as a functional mass of individuals. They can time their swift change of directions because they have feel for eachother as if it were a shared consciousness, not just of the individuals right next to them. The balance is the comfortable safe distance between individuals, to be able to pull off the whole ballet. Also the number of individuals in the group enters ito the balance part.

In my humble opinion of where I am now in this journey, I would have to say that feel needs to be in place first. Watch a good horseman from this philosophy get careless on purpose so that his horse finds him interesting......he is not really worrying about timing.......he is careless afterall and unpredictable on purpose. BUT........that horse is feeling back to him and he is aware of and feeling of his horse, they have a connecting energy.

Tomorrow I may have a different opinion because THAT is where I will be in this journey from where I am now. What I described above is a portion of what "it" is and as Ray said, most people miss it.
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Old 01-09-2014, 10:14 PM   #9
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Cottonwood, CA
Posts: 2
Default Monkey Wrench

Timing, feel and balance are like a triangle. You need all three together. Let me throw in another word for you all to ponder: "awareness".

I sometimes get to work with a natural horsemanship guy who makes me feel like such a bafoon (in a good way). He will point out things that I'm doing wrong, and I'll say, " I didn't even notice...". His awareness of his horse, his body language, everything around him is incredible. It's like a spidey sense. I've been working so hard to increase my awareness and it has helped me to become a better horseman.
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Old 01-16-2014, 12:16 AM   #10
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: A German in Switzerland
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Fortunately there are more and longer moments when I am in the saddle that I can feel that I am in balance (with the horse's movement) and then my timing (for signals, cues) can be right.
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