Filed in Category: horse training
Timing, Feel and Balance?
I have been reading your web site for months now and after you recommended the Bill Dorrance book to somebody I decided I had better read it too. I have been discussing parts of it with my instructor who wants to read it after I’ve finished. Anyway, we were discussing the section on timing, feel and balance. I asked her what she thought was the most important part for a horse. I said it was timing, but she said it was feel. I figure you are the best person to ask to settle this debate. What do you think?
Also, do you have any copies of your book to sell? If not, can you tell me where I can get a copy? I love your Walt and Amos stories from Chaff Chat and your stories about Satts too. I find I can read them over and over again and still see new things that make me think. Thanks so much for all you share. Most trainers just want to tell you how to fix things, but you try to tell us how to think for ourselves. I wish more people were like that and it is a shame not more people know about you.
Trish you make me blush. There are many better horse people around than me. But I do agree that most web sites are all about either “how-to” fix something or so Zen-like that the work is more about the people’s feelings than the horse’s needs. I’m very glad you find this site worth coming back to.
With regard to my book, I’m quite short of copies. I assume you are in Australia and if that is the case, there is an excellent online shop that stocks “Old Men and Horses.” It’s called One Stop Horse Shop and I recommend them highly. If you are overseas, you can also get the book at Amazon.com in both the US and UK.
The timing, feel and balance debate is an interesting one. I’m not sure it is possible to separate them into which is more important to getting along with a horse. For starters, the best from a horse can only come from a rider/trainer having all three elements at their sharpest. It’s like asking which is more important to sustaining life – the brain, the heart or the liver. Well, you’re dead if any of those are not functioning. And it’s a bit the same with trying to help a horse achieve the best he can be if a rider’s timing, feel and balance is not up to the task.
However, if the aim to just help a horse through a specific problem then it is possible that the issue stems from just one or two elements of the trio being not good enough. You could discover that fixing a trot transition requires better timing on the part of the rider, whereas getting a horse softer in the backup may need a more finely tuned feel on the reins. It’s going to be different from horse to horse and will even vary with the same horse from moment to moment. So I don’t think it is possible to give a definitive answer to settle the argument with your instructor.
But just to throw the cat among the pigeons, I will say that if I had to choose just one talent to be good at with horses it would not be timing or feel or balance. I’ve talked about this once before, but it is probably worth repeating. I would choose consistency.
I believe that consistency is the most essential element around horses. It is my thought that even if you have poor timing, minimal feel and lousy balance but you are extremely consistent in how you apply those - given enough time and repetitions a horse can work out your meaning. There is no doubt that it will make learning very much harder for a horse if you don’t have good timing, feel and balance, but strong consistency can overcome those hurdles in many cases. On the other hand, even brilliant timing, feel and balance cannot compensate for very poor consistency in how you use them. A lack of consistency will drive most horses bonkers. The more sensitive a horse is the more consistent he requires you to be. I believe one reason some people don’t get along with Arabs is due to a lack of consistency – something these super intelligent creatures require from us.
Anyway, I don’t think I’ve helped settle your debate, but it does make for a good conversation over a glass of red wine. And I’m very pleased that you are thinking about these questions and the meaning they have for a horse. Bill’s book is an excellent read, but even there we all need to examine and think about what is on those pages rather than just accept it because Bill said it.
Thanks for your excellent question.