(last edited 10/05)

THE SOFT FEEL



Before you ask the horse to walk off, you need to first get his attention. He needs to get ready. When you pick up the reins, his head should come to the position of giving to the bit, to your hands. His body should feel like he is ready to move any direction you choose. He gives you a feeling of softness, of readiness. He acknowledges that you are in control and that he is prepared to yield instantly to your wishes.

The rider first asks for this soft feel when the horse is standing still. You ask by picking up the reins and shifting your own body into a position that feels like you are ready to do something. If the horse doesn't respond, hold the reins in that position of light contact until the horse gives, even slightly. If he leans or bobs his head against the pressure, forward, up or sideways, don't release. Just keep holding until the horse tries the right thing, dropping his jaw slightly, giving to the bit. Reward the right thing by releasing quickly and completely. Soon the horse will find this spot quicker and quicker. The instant he gets soft, ask him to take a step.

When you ask him to stop, ask again for a soft feel. Don't accept a stop with his nose and body leaning out against the bit. Hold until you feel him give again, drop his head, and soften his whole body back into your hands. You might even ask for a shift or a step backwards, especially if the horse is pushy. Then release instantly.

Later, you can ask him in the same way while he is walking. Ask him to give and soften just for a step. Ask for a step at the trot and later at the lope. When he understands how to give in this way, later you can ask him to hold it for a couple of steps at a time. Then even later, you can ask him to hold it for half a minute, or a minute. This becomes collection.

Don't ask a colt or green horse to collect. This is a common mistake. Because people want a horse to eventually go in a collected frame, they sometimes try to start him out that way, before he understands collection. But first the horse needs to learn to go forward freely, to move his feet in an uninhibited way. Asking for collection and forward at the same time with a green horse is confusing. He feels you stepping on the gas and brakes at the same time and can't sort that out yet.

Developing collection in a horse comes over a year or two or three. Trying to get it too soon, by putting a horse into a "frame," builds false collection. It might put the head into a certain position, but it doesn't have meaning to the feet. The horse may appear collected, but he doesn't feel collected in his body and feet. The horse may also learn to give you a false soft feel if you continue to release just for the drop of the head and donít start getting the softness all the way back to the saddle horn. The first year or two, just start to build on the soft feel until the horse understands how to continue going forward freely while giving his mouth, feet and whole body softly to the rider's hands and body. Soon you will have his feet right in your hands. You offer him a feel to follow, and he responds with a soft feel back to you--a feel following a feel.

In the same way, God wants us to yield ourselves to Him, but He doesn't expect us to do it all at once, right from the start. He knows we are not capable of that. At first He just asks us for a soft feel, to give a little here or there, to acknowledge Him. Sometimes that is hard to do, and He has to hold the pressure while we search for the right response. At first we don't understand what the pressure is for, so instead of giving Him our attention, we get upset and struggle in wrong directions. All we can give at first is the head; the feet might not come until later. We start with head knowledge, with words, but over time these start to translate into actions and attitudes. Be careful not to fall into the trap of giving Him a false soft feel, head knowledge that never gets to the feet, to the inner Self. Others may be fooled but He is not.

Later, as we begin to see the pattern in the pressures in our life, we give Him our attention more easily. We look to Him in the pressure instead of struggling against it, and say, "OK, Lord, what are you wanting from me? I'm trying to listen." It takes less and less on His part to get our attention, and we give Him that soft feel more often. Eventually, we find ourselves yielding to Him, finding that soft spot He offers, and we can hold it longer and longer.

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Jesus tells us to start our prayer by giving God a soft feel. When we talk to God, start by recognizing who He is, by honoring Him. Too often, we start our conversation with God by saying, "I need this! Do that!" Instead, start by giving that soft feel, that dropping or bowing of the head, that humbling of Self.

"Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Then we can go on and ask Him for our daily needs, for forgiveness of our sins, for leading, guidance and protection.

"For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen." Mt. 6:9-13

End your prayer the same way, with a soft feel, thanking Him, recognizing who He really is--Lord of your life and Lord of the universe. When He has our attention, our feet, our whole Self, we are ready to move any direction He asks, with just the touch of a rein.

Copyright 2003 Jan Young

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