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SWR Blog: The Importance of “Feel”


In his book “True Horsemanship Through Feel“, written with Leslie Desmond, Bill Dorrance starts off Chapter 1 with a powerful description of Indirect Feel and Direct Feel.  “Indirect feel” is described as when a person is not physically connected to the horse, but the horse will react to or ignore the person depending entirely on the person, the emotions of the person, or the body energy being outwardly directed toward the horse. “Direct feel” exists when you have direct physical contact with the horse, by means of your body, a halter, or a rope connected to him in some way.

This notion of feel is one of the most challenging aspects of improving one’s horsemanship. It is forward thinking and indicates an awareness of yourself (physically and emotionally), and the manner in which the horse responds to your feel, when extended to him.

I was a full time farrier for years and it was during this time that I learned to feel the whole being of the horse and as a result, he felt me. It was unspoken but extremely satisfying. Translating this into my personal horsemanship has proved more challenging, but with help over the past 10 years….I think I finally have it. I bet most of you are quicker learners than I am.

I can surely recommend this book to all of you. Bill Dorrance was an American treasure. You might just pick up a new concept!

– True Horsemanship Through Feel, Bill Dorrance with Leslie Desmond, Lyons Press, 1999 (1st Edition) and 2007 (2nd Edition) Guilford, CT

Dr. Karl Cloninger
Director of Products & Programs

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