Maneuvering a Horse Through Feel & Release


Leslie prepares to ask Calle to   turn on the forehand, through feel and release.


To move this 9-year-old-mare, I first decided what feet should move for the maneuver to be a success. In this case, I think out my plan: I will ask her to load the forehand so her hind feet -- all the way up to and through the hips and ribcage -- are light and mobile in the turn on the forehand to the left (this means her hips move to the right, since that is what positions her head and neck in the left-facing direction.) 



Leslie asks Calle to move her   hindquarters, through feel and release.


Instead of twirling a rope at her hindquarters, or crowding her hips, I release her hindquarters from left to right by taking two short steps to the left (mine) as I face her. This way, she can keep track of me easily in her left eye. Use the bulldozer tread marks on the ground as a reference, and you can see that her front feet remain in pretty much the same position.





She settles here, with a soft arc throughout her body from nose to tail, until . . .





... I ask (release) her to take a walk out to the end of the lead in an arc to the left.



Calle knows how to follow Leslie's   float, anywhere, for any particular job she has in mind.


The connection to this mare's mind, shown in the preceding images, is what enables me to rely on her for a job like this. She knows how to keep the float in my lead rope even as I leave in the car, because I have not taken the float out of the rope in any previous efforts to move her feet. By “asking” or “releasing” the forehand and hindquarters in both directions at the foundation level of training, a horse does not learn how to resist a “demand” to move, or to fend off “crowding” behavior that many people adopt when they want a horse to move its feet.