Page 72

READING REFLECTIONS A Series by Dawn Jones-Low Books have always been important

trian skill.

core principles in Bill’s book.

Working

to me. As a child, I spent countless hours

True Horsemanship Through Feel by Bill

on the timetable the horse needs rather

reading at home and at the public library.

Dorrance and Leslie Desmond addresses

than imposing a rigid time frame for any

Growing up in the suburbs in a non-hors-

the basic foundation of horsemanship

particular training goal is just one expres-

ey family, books were also my main entry-

as a dialogue of “feel” between horses

sion of the theme of respecting what the

way to the world of horses and provided

and people. This book was published in

horse can offer at that moment rather than

fuel for my dreams. Several decades into

1999 when Bill Dorrance was in his 90s

imposing expectations that may be out of

adulthood, books are still a treasure to

with a lifetime of working with horses.

sync with the horse’s physical or mental

me as they continue to inspire and inform

Bill’s unique vernacular and the candid

capabilities at that moment – or with the

all areas of my life – including riding and

biographical anecdotes that he shares of

rider’s ability to make a clear request to

horsemanship.

learning “a better way” to ride and han-

the horse.

Quite often the focus of books about

dle horses are integral to the book’s mes-

“What a person has in his mind to pre-

riding and training is directed at the me-

sage that anyone who wants to improve

sent to the horse needs to be something

chanical aspects of riding and/or a set of

their interactions and communication with

that’s possible for the horse to actually

systematic exercises described in a man-

their horse on the ground AND in the sad-

do. Then the person has to be able to un-

ner much like a recipe book. Little atten-

dle can do so.

The content of this book

derstand it themselves, through feel, and

tion is given to how to address any con-

is not discipline specific, but it touches on

apply it in a way that the horse can under-

fusion, evasion, or resistance that arises

the universally powerful notion that, by

stand.” Page 15

because the assumption is that the book

communicating with your horse through

“…punishing a horse when he doesn’t

is providing touchstone information that

a dialogue of empathetic “feel” conveyed

understand what you want him to do is a

will be augmented by access to a skilled

through both body language and physical

real direct route to a whole list of other

instructor who can mentor the rider

contact, you can achieve a higher quality

problems that are based on his confusion.

through the more complex nuances of the

of work, performance, and basic interac-

This is caused by a misunderstanding of

real life application of the principles and

tion with your horse. The concept that

the feel you present and when that horse

techniques. While studying with skilled

building understanding and skills piece-

has no knowledge of your intentions or

equestrian mentors remains essential to

by-piece with a reliance on basic princi-

desires. Some people say that the horse

developing both riders and horses to their

ples that hold true from the foundation

knows what the person wants, ’but he just

maximum potential, books that explore

to the highest levels of refinement will be

won’t do it.’ When he understands what

the subtleties of the communication be-

familiar to anyone involved in the sport

you want him to do through feel, he will

tween horses and their human partners

horse disciplines.

do it. I haven’t seen any exceptions to this

can help illuminate enriched pathways of

“Listening” to the horse and setting

progression of horsemanship and eques-

things up so the horse can succeed are

yet.” Page 330 Bill spends a lot of time outlining some

August/September 2013  

The August/September 2013 issue of The Arabian Sport Horse Magazine.

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