Q: "What do you mean when you say the horse is "lost" or "filling in[Pp: 321 - 322] " ?”
Bill: “It´s quite challenging to offer the horse a fitting response just when he needs it the most. This´d be when he´s upset or seems to be "lost" or if he´s panicked and unable to make it without some support. People might be liable to hand-feed him a carrot or offer him grain if he´s riled or upset, but what he needs a lot more than handouts is some direction and support that has a purpose he can make sense of. When life is surging up through his body it has to have someplace to go. His feed needs to move when he´s upset and agitated. He tells you this. Most people want to box the horse in, or tie him up and make him stand still if he´s upset, but this goes completely against a horse´s nature. And those handouts, especially at a time like this, why lead to nothing good.
This is the main reason a person wants to build feel [Pp: 318 - 321] into the foundation on their horse, and this is especially true with young or troubled horses. Get that built-in early, so when things get upsetting, the horse knows that you know how he feels. It´s good if he knows that you know what he needs. And what he needs is to know that you´ll have something to suggest for him to do in the way of movement. he needs to know that there´s a way to place his feet and position his head low enough so the very act of raising it up in the air and tightening his stomach and back doesn´t get him tense and frighten him even more. If that horse knows he can depend on you and the reliable feel [Pp: 318 - 321] of your hand, he will look to you for support when he gets into trouble or becomes unsure. you want your horse to know your mind, and for that to be possible, you have to learn quite a little about his. When you do, he´ll be looking you up, and not for handouts either.
If you have a horse, this is pretty much your job anyway. It´s this commitment from the human that helps a horse prepare for the future to a point where many of them will do something called "filling in"[Pp: 321 - 322] .
This is something a horse will do for certain people, Sometimes that person will be the one who prepared the horse to be able to fill in, and other times he´ll fill in for someone who´s bad hardly any experience around horses at all. Filling in [Pp: 321 - 322] can be a real good thing."
QUESTIONS ABOUT EXPERIENCE AND JUDGEMENT
Q: "Are good horsemen made or born?”
Bill: “There´s a little of both that takes place there."
Q: "What are the choices that the best horse handlers have?”
Bill: “The feel [Pp: 318 - 321] from the horse tells a person what that horse is understanding and not understanding. A good horseman uses his better judgment [Pg: 331] to make choices, based on the feel [Pp: 318 - 321] he´s getting back from a horse. Another way to say this is that his choices are unlimited, but one will be the best."
Q: "How do you get that good judgment [Pg: 331]?”
Bill: “Well it has to do with experience. That will include a lot of trial and error. You have to experiment to see what works. That´s where a student needs support from an instructor [Pg: 331] . We have to try to get that student to understand the feel [Pp: 318 - 321] they are getting from that horse, and then judge about how much firmness [Pg: 322] to use to help the horse make a change[Pp: 305 - 306]. The horse may not show any signs of change with the first application or even the first several times. But if your judgment [Pg: 331] is practical, why that tell you whether to keep presenting the same thing or maybe put a little variation in there someplace. That´s what it means to learn from the horse, actually."
Q: "Why would anyone who´s at the top of their field - for example, a winning cutting horse trainer or a Grand Prix jumper rider - have any use for this approach?”
Bill: “It would certainly give them more control of their horse, and that´s what everybody´s after."
Q: "Can what they call a "finished horse" benefit from this?”
Bill: “There isn´t any horse that´s living that doesn´t need to be exposed a little bit to learn to feel [Pp: 318 - 321] of us. As long as that horse lives, he can learn to feel of a person and to respond to a person´s feel."
Q: "My horse was trained the "old" way and I learned this way too, mostly on my own. Most of what I learned about works real well, but sometimes I get the feeling that my horse doesn´t really trust me the way I´d like him to. What should I do?”
Bill: “Helping the horse feel [Pp: 318 - 321] of a person is what instills his confidence in that person. Using force or fear doesn´t lead to anything good. When a horse is brought under control through force (restraining or leverage devices, electric shock, or self-tightening gimmicks), it doesn´t build anything good into the horse. And it never will. The use of fear builds in resistance [Pp: 347 - 348] too, because it brings out the horse´s need for self-preservation, and this is the very thing you need to avoid if the horse is ever going to be trustworthy. In order for him to be trustworthy, that horse needs to be trusting of you. See, it has to start with the human."
Q: "Can people overcome old habits?”
Bill: “Some can. And some can´t because they just don´t want to change[Pp: 305 - 306]. If change isn´t natural or easy for a person, they won´t get much out of this. They got started the hard way and might stay there. It´s not that they don´t have feel [Pp: 318 - 321], they do. They´re using it in a way to make the horse do something instead of helping the horse do it. There´s a world of difference between making and helping. But a person who has a strong desire to learn this, why they sure can learn it, all right. They´re just going to need to be willing to make some changes."
From: "True Horsemanship Through Feel” By Bill Dorrance with Leslie Desmond