Soft Eye, Soft Feel, Soft Feet; Part 1 in Balanced Horse Balanced Ride
- March 11, 2015
- Lynn Kohr
A horse’s eye tells his story…where there is a soft look, he is content and light to handle, and his feet move easily and evenly. An eye with a strained, concerned, difficult appearance has sticky, glued to the ground feet that have rigidity to their move.
Taking the lead rope in hand, can you just take the slack out from side to side and will their head follow that feel? Will your horse, keeping his head level, eyes on a plain parallel to the ground, turn and follow the weight of the lead rope to look you directly in the eye? That’s soft. And rare but attainable!
Often, some resistance happens, some non-engagement happens, and at times nothing happens, when asking a horse to flex and turn their head to follow the gentle weight of the lead rope. As it turns out, the motion of a horse turning his head is a complex flexion of the cervical spine, from the C7 to the skull, with increasing angulation closer to the skull involving many small muscles, requiring all to be supple and relaxed. Any tension or reservations the horse has, appears to us humans, as resistance and straightness as they try to turn their head with a certain hard, strained look to their eye.
With gentle, calm guidance, starting with the feel I want in the end, I step to the side, about at my horse’s point of shoulder, and pick up the lead up, maybe about an inch. That is where I want to end and with that slight movement, I want my horse to calmly and easily turn and look me in the eye, squarely and confidently. If that bit of weigh does not elicit any response (a look is good for me to start with) I will add pressure only until I get a change (meaning a flick of an ear, an eye roll), with any change I release whatever pressure I had exerted. As the pressure that is needed gets the response desired, my horse appreciates my sensitivity in releasing that pressure, and quickly lightens up and softens up.
As my horse’s movements happen with very little pressure, his eye gets a deep gooey look and any tension melts away. With that look in eye, and the soft feel in the turn of his head, his feet are ready to move.
About Lynn Kohr
I am a barrel and pole horse trainer, giving springtime barrel racing and pole bending clinics and workshops, competing in barrel racing and pole bending futurities while marketing our horses for sale. I am a Mom of 3: Sage, Cedar, and Stratton. And wife of...