View Full Version : Yes, you can LEARN to feel

Isabeau Z Solace
Jul. 26, 2009, 12:21 PM
I believe you CAN LEARN to "feel" in your riding. I do not believe it is a 'you are born with or you are not' situation. If you are having trouble learning to 'feel' or teaching others to 'feel,' then give this a try.


The full documentary is called Touch the Sound. You will get the most out of the film if you watch it uninterrupted on the highest quality TV + stereo system you have access to. They are running it on The Sundance Channel now. You can get the DVD from the usual internet sources.

Her website is


and this page http://www.evelyn.co.uk/live/touch_the_sound.htm explains more about the documentary in depth.

I am interested to hear from people who have seen this film (and I would like to direct people towards a potentially useful learning and teaching aid.) I find it to be a really excellent tool for explaining how to order the mind to receive input. The film is about different ways of 'hearing' in that the musician uses her body to 'hear' the sounds. I think it provides a good link to explaining how to 'hear' the horse (or 'feel' the horse.) There is much talk about the "Conversation" between horse and rider, but I find many riders cannot 'hear' or BELIEVE they cannot hear. They have not been able to find someone who can 'tune their ear' (their bodies) to 'hear' (feel) vibrations, tones, rhythms, changes in pressure, pitch, frequency, 'size' (amplitude) etc.

Jul. 26, 2009, 12:27 PM
I can't watch videos...


learning to 'feel' (I think you can learn how 'correct' feels vs. i'ncorrect,' and continue to add new models to the skill set) still doesn't make up for lack of reactive motor response.

Some people have instinctive reaction, some don't. You can 'train' the motor response to a great degree, but there still will be a fairly deep chasm between those with innate sense for whatever 'skill' you are talking about. Especially one that is as opposite our usual hand-eye-coordination as riding.

Jul. 26, 2009, 12:40 PM
I agree with PP that some will always be more adept at "feel" than others, but it can always be improved somewhat.

Jul. 26, 2009, 12:42 PM
Yes, you can learn. And one of the keys is a good ground person (instructor / friend / whatever) who can see the right moment and cue you with a 'now' to help you focus on the right feel at the right moment.


Jul. 26, 2009, 12:46 PM
To believe that you are born with a "feel" for riding a horse is somewhat ridiculous. Some just learn quicker/better than others, which is the same as most endeavours. Sound can work for some and not others, there is no great revelation in the documentary. What is your point ?

Isabeau Z Solace
Jul. 26, 2009, 12:47 PM

If you cannot (or will not) watch the documentary, then I don't think we can really compare notes on the films effectiveness in explaining what it does.

Interesting that you comment on only the title of my thread and miss (or dismiss) out on the larger part about the documentary. The documentary (and what it can do to help fill in the gaps in a persons understanding) is what I am trying to get at. By trying to hint at the goal I seem to have steered away from the path......

Jul. 26, 2009, 01:04 PM
For more on Glennie's 'worldview' / 'worldsound', try watching



DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Jul. 26, 2009, 01:24 PM
I can't download the video (new Mac, not all the software is uploaded). But as soon as I can...!

I do believe you can learn to feel, with the appropriate help. That has been my biggest leap forward - trusting that the "feel" will come, even if I have never felt it before.

If you had told me, before working with my current trainer, that I could tell you each foot fall in the gaits, while in the saddle, and what I was doing (or not doing) to better influence them, I'd have thought you were nuts.

spotted mustang
Jul. 26, 2009, 01:26 PM
of course you can learn. Some learn more or better than others, but all can improve.

The claim that it's some "inborn" ability that can't be taught no doubt comes from bad instructors who can't teach :lol

Jul. 26, 2009, 01:39 PM
IZS, I responded to your poll, then clarified through my written response.

No need to get huffy.

Ms. Glennie is a remarkable person and musician. I had heard of her prior to this, but had not seen video of her work, so thank you for bringing that to our attention.

As regards learning to feel the horse when we ride -- is that not the whole point? Is this not the goal of good students and teachers? Certainly because of her unique situation, Ms. Glennie brings a new twist on learning and feeling music. I had early musical training, which I like to think helps me with rhythm and tempo and "expression" in gaits -- at least sometimes.

Jul. 26, 2009, 02:29 PM
Oh, silly me. I thought this was a poll about whether feel can be taught or not.

I did not realize it was a documentary critique.

Sorry. Got out of *that* biz 10 years ago... :uhoh:

Jul. 26, 2009, 03:04 PM
Yup, PP, I feel like I got an "F" for the course cuz I didn't watch the movie...

Jul. 26, 2009, 03:29 PM
's ok Beas. We'll just be the annoying tangent that threads take... :p

Jul. 26, 2009, 03:35 PM
It definitely doesn't merit posting twice !

Isabeau Z Solace
Jul. 26, 2009, 04:56 PM
The documentary is almost an instructional on how to begin to learn to perceive sound in the way that Glennie does. This "how to begin to learn to perceive" is what I found very striking.

Human beings watched birds soar in the sky for many thousands of years before we learned to do (a somewhat) similar thing. Eventually, we got 'better' than the birds (if you count leaving the atmosphere and the planet as 'better.) But we had to figure out how to BEGIN to learn to do it. That beginning point is one of the biggest thresholds a learning rider will ever cross.

I found the documentary to be very interesting in that it teaches the viewer how to perceive, how to listen, how to hear, how to feel. And continues to guide the viewer to continue to explore further on a daily basis.

Especially for those of us who do not have an extensive (or any) musical education, this film could possibly fill a critical blank.

Now I need to find something like it to that teaches how to breathe.

Jul. 26, 2009, 05:42 PM
You must lead a really dull life.

Jul. 26, 2009, 06:17 PM
Take a Yoga class. Or Tai Chi. Or dance, music or karate. Cross-training of any stripe is useful for riders.

But, gee, I've been perceiving, hearing (listening) and feeling for 55 years now. Every day is the same but different, too. Every day I learn something new. My way of learning is not documentary-worthy but no less valid.

Glad the documentary gave you light-bulb moments.

Jul. 26, 2009, 07:04 PM
I think it's great that the OP is enthusiastic about this talented musician with a brilliant and fascinating idea.

Where she goes wrong, I feel, is in assuming that so much of 'feel' in dressage is a very simple matter, about learning a different way to perceive, ie, take in sensations. If you can take in sensations, you have feel.

I won't vote in the poll, because the poll is then used to support her contention: that this musician specifically, that this musician's concepts, can teach us 'feel' in dressage, and that it is a matter of taking in sensations.

Evelyn Glennie is a motivational speaker, a jeweler, a musician, an 'educationalist', according to her own web site. She sells wallets, t-shirts, posters, and mouse pads, as well as dvd's, CD's and books. Evelyn is fascinating, not only because she is a deaf musician.

She contends, in an essay on hearing, that it is the job of the composer to paint a picture to the listener. She describes hearing as being like the sense of touch. She reminds us that the deaf don't live in a 'silent world' and that the deaf can feel vibrations. She describes profound deafness as reduced volume, but also reminds us that the quality of the sound is reduced, so that for example she can often tell that people are speaking, but cannot because of the poor sound quality, understand their words. She also states when a phone rings, she hears a kind of crackle, not a ring. This and her speech, does not sound like most of the profoundly deaf people I know, but she lost her hearing at 12 (according to her website) so that may be the difference.

She is a gifted and very enjoyable musician and composer. She says that deafness is not something she is very interested in, and she doesn't feel it limits her.

She describes how the musician feels the vibration and sound of music, rather than how the listener does. She says she can feel sound more viscerally than just through ears.

She describes how she wants to teach people to listen to music with their whole body.

The idea that feeling the vibrations of music when one has impaired hearing, is like learning 'feel' in dressage, I think represents an extremely rudimentary and limited concept of what 'feel' in dressage is.

Unfortunately, learning 'feel' in dressage is far, far more difficult than this.

'Feel' does not, in fact, refer to picking up sensations, or even, learning to feel things you hadn't felt before.

It refers to the rider having a skilled responsiveness to what he feels.

He gets this from riding lessons.

Feel, or skilled responsiveness, is built upon a number of separate though interlinked elements.

1. The correct equipment for the horse.

2. The correct position of the rider

3. Mental relaxation, or 'open mind'

4. Effective aids

5. The ability to establish and maintain a steady connection with the horse's mouth and its back and sides with the hand, seat and leg.

6. The experience and knowledge, of knowing how to respond and what the significance both of what one is feeling and of one's response AND of the reaction to it.

Before the rider can develop his 'feel', he must have these ingredients. Without these ingredients, he can not develop his 'feel'. Those ingredients are the foundation of 'feel'.

When we see a rider with 'feel', he isn't someone who sits on the horse and shouts, 'aha! I can FEEL that!' Feel is not a passive taking in of sensory information.

He's a rider who takes what he feels, and responds effectively, sympathetically, tactfully, subtly and classically. He enters into a dialogue with the horse, and if he is very gifted, it is a very subtle dialogue that most people might even have a hard time seeing.

'Feel' consists first of a great deal of technical information and practical experience which becomes more and more an automatic habit.

And yes. I watched the film, and several others, by Evelyn Glennie.

Most of the time, people cannot take in what the horse is doing, because the horse is doing nothing. To create relaxation, rhythm, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection, the rider needs to learn to ride. He can't feel self carriage because he isn't creating any self carriage. He can't feel relaxation, because he isn't creating any relaxation.

He needs to spend a great deal of time listening to an instructor who yells, 'Trot! Canter! Sit up straight! Get your weight on your fanny, you've started leaning forward again!' and later, 'Supple your horse' and 'Use your leg!' and 'you're leaning to the left, stop that!' or 'You keep bending the horse LEFT - you need to bend him RIGHT!'

Gradually, with time, he learns what he should do at each level, and without really thinking about it, he takes in how correct moments feel. The less any of those ingredients above are in place, the longer it will take him.

Then he starts stringing those feelings together, often without even realizing it or being able to break it down and verbalize it, though that is also something he has to learn if he is ever really going to be good, or teach anyone else to be good.

Jul. 26, 2009, 08:41 PM
ppppssstttt... Hay! Beas! Come over here and sit on t'other side of slc :yes:

We'll do fine on the quiz! :yes: ;)

pponthebackendofadoublefeelingnaughtyinhtebackofcl ass...

Jul. 26, 2009, 08:58 PM
Hahahahahahaha! I think IZS is disgusted with us Sweathogs! Where'd she go?

Oh, and slc is a teacher's pet!

Jul. 26, 2009, 09:25 PM
People don't get to be teacher's pet by explaining where teacher has gone awry. And I think she's rather wrong, in fact.

And why?

Look for an instructor who can say and does say, 'THAT WAS CORRECT - DID YOU FEEL THAT?'

The instructor's job is to get you into a position where you could be correct, break it down and show you what you're doing wrong and show you how to be right, and then TELL YOU WHEN YOU ARE CORRECT.

You get feel from riding lessons, and from working your butt off in between them, having a decent saddle and bridle.

Jul. 26, 2009, 09:30 PM
Good point! I guess what I meant is, you've come closest in this thread to the sort of discussion the OP was hoping for. Even if you disagree, you've engaged the subject.

My coach is one of those rare ones who puts a ton of emphasis on "did you feel that" in every lesson. I am blessed!

Jul. 26, 2009, 11:56 PM
Shoot--I thought this thread was psychological in nature and would help me save on therapy bills.:sigh:

Jul. 27, 2009, 08:25 AM
I don't think so. The composer's music is really fun and her discussions are fascinating - and clearly, listening to good music is very relaxing and a great way to destress and open one's mind up to new possibilities. Though not everyone who hears an unusual chord or new composition thinks, 'Gosh, I think I will just look at everything now in a different, more open way'.

What gets in the way of feel, unfortunately, is mostly ego - the ego that tells people they don't need an instructor, and leads them to not tolerate constructive criticism. I've seen people in chair seats bluster out of an instructor's barn saying, 'I USED to have a chair seat, I don't any more, she is wrong about that', I've even seen 17 year old kids stomp away from an instructor declaring, 'I can't change how I ride'.

But basically what she's saying is that it is possible to feel vibrations of music as well as hear it. And that ain't no substitute for dressage lessons, though I seriously doubt the composer is going around saying you just have to listen to her music to get feel in dressage, that's something IZS concluded. Getting 'feel' does not happen quickly - it is just another part of learning to ride, and it's all about riding lessons, lots of them.

Jul. 28, 2009, 04:34 AM
Good point! I guess what I meant is, you've come closest in this thread to the sort of discussion the OP was hoping for. Even if you disagree, you've engaged the subject.

yes, that's what I meant too. As clearly I am not enlightened enough to appreciate the discussion ;) (or, so I was told... )

I'd actually be quite interested in the documentary, as learning styles/types are a pet project of mine. Here *I* thought, though, that the 'question' in the poll, was 'do YOU think feel can be learned.' I really didn't see where the documentary viewing was obligatory in answering.

Jul. 28, 2009, 07:03 AM
As a severely hearing impaired person who does "feel" music and vibrations, I can most certainly say that dressage "feel" is *not the bloody same thing*.

I didn't watch the video. I couldn't watch the video. I started to and got as far as a narrative, which I could not understand because there was no closed captioning!

Gimme a break.


Jul. 28, 2009, 07:30 AM
I hope everyone participates in the thread who wants to. Any requirements an OP puts forth in a first post are almost always ignored here; let's not pretend huffiness NOW, it's just plain old too late after 10 years or more of bb 'practicum', LOL!

But this time we have an especially valid reason - the film not being close captioned cuts quite a few people out. I believe you have to pay to watch the longer film, that cuts a quite a few MORE out! Most people here aren't deeply impoverished, but most of us have a budget.

I personally do not feel it is necessary for people to watch the film to comment. The question posed is very simple. I would like to hear how a great many people define 'feel' in dressage, as well as if they feel listening to creative music is going to substitute for a lot of ass pounding and an instructor following you around telling you what you're doing wrong.

The question is this: 'is it possible to learn 'dressage feel' by listening more fully to music, in the way a profoundly deaf person does, by sensing its vibrations'.

I think though, we've got to agree on a definition of 'feel in dressage'. Or at least, when you post, if you could also specify how you interpret that word.

Is it really 'skilled responsiveness' to what you learn over time from an instructor? Or no? The word 'feel', in ordinary use, suggests it's ONLY sensing what's going on, not a skilled, sensitive response, and then feeling again, what the horse responds to the rider and knowing what to do.

When a trainer or clinician uses the word 'feel', I don't believe s/he has simpling sensing in mind at all, but something much more complex and multi-layered.

Let's say I see a rider. He simply seems to coast along doing just about nothing, he just sits up there, straight, tall, relaxed, his legs hanging down and wrapped close around the horse, his hands steady and soft. We don't see him make very many 'big moves'. The only time we see him make a 'big move' is when his energetic horse takes off at a dead gallop when another horse bucks his rider off (an instinctive reaction, in other words). He and the horse simply seem to 'get along well'. The horse performs his work, whatever level it is, as if he's deeply thinking about it, eagerly, but without a great deal of confusion or tension. He doesn't anticipate, he doesn't fight his rider. His gaits look springy, loose and soft.

Anyone would say, this rider has 'feel'. This is what it means to me. It is a multilayered thing - a secure position is the ONLY way a rider can sense what his horse is doing. If there is mental tension, believe me I know, the rider cannot feel with his seat, no matter how well he sits or what exercises he does, or what expensive saddle he has. And he has to know how to produce something to feel! If he can't get the horse to do something, there is nothing to feel!

This beautiful feel is made of some very simple, basic, required elements.

This rider FEELS what is going wrong before it becomes obvious, but he does much more than passively 'feel', he doesn't just FEEL it, he knows how to respond to it, not just in a way that will correct the problem, but in a way that fits in with classical principles, which requires less obvious physical effort and disturbs his position the least, that keeps the horse soft, attentive, connected, focused and most of all, balanced.

I do, very, very much agree that art can help us view things in new, more creative ways. Several corporate art collections I've seen are posted all around companies, with precisely that declared purpose in mind. They want employees to look for new solutions, new ways of working as a team, new ways of viewing their relationship to the community. Art is, I feel, most definitely an accompaniment and a partner in a full, rich life.

But without that instructor shadowing you like a hangover, it ain't gonna get you too far in mastering the sitting trot, feeling when your horse's fanny is pointed west when you're going south, and knowing how hard to half halt, and when you're leaning over to one side. These are things people are working on when they are riding the Grand Prix, and you can't even SEE them working on it.

Jul. 28, 2009, 04:09 PM

If you cannot (or will not) watch the documentary, then I don't think we can really compare notes on the films effectiveness in explaining what it does.

Interesting that you comment on only the title of my thread and miss (or dismiss) out on the larger part about the documentary. The documentary (and what it can do to help fill in the gaps in a persons understanding) is what I am trying to get at. By trying to hint at the goal I seem to have steered away from the path......

so what happens when you got someone with a learning difficulty?

people learn by watching and listensing some have to be show what to do others dont
some have aproblem with a disiability some dont

you cant say you can learn by xyz ------- dont happen

also would like to say when your teaching deomonstrating you have to consider how many personalities there are for exsample
theres you the horse and the rider so that makes 3 personalites to deal with so each
is listenign to the other right or are they

you learn also by expreinces and it depends if one has listening skills and people skills as they are different
some have both some have one some have none

i will give you a true senerio ------- how do you feel by the way people have responded to your thread

do you feel they have listen to you
do you feel they have an attitude problem
do you feel they have learnt something
do you feel you know all about the people who have answered your question

i doubt it -

to me i feel this a pitch to sell something -- as i am sales person and anyone that asked
and quotes the post twice must want something out f it just my perception of promps
you need it so buy it now type thing videos and servcies as in ours are the best and you will get xyz urm no
people also like to have a choice and not just one method of doing things
so what do you want ----
and what are you getting out of it

Jul. 28, 2009, 04:26 PM
Excellent post, Stink!

Jul. 28, 2009, 05:16 PM
Just for discussion, people have done research involving learning through music for years. About 40 years ago, a doctor proposed that music could help children with speech disorders. Besides being relaxing, music could promote well being and learning. This was called "The Mozart Effect."

Later, Dr. Georgi Lozanov claimed that Baroque music, with around 60 beats per minute, could help chilldren learn more quickly, retain information longer, and could accelerate learning.

I am not an auditory learner, so listening to music, while pleasant, really doesn't seem to make me "feel." At concerts, I watch the musicians who are really into the music and they seem to "feel" every measure of the music. I enjoy the music, but I do not feel it intensely as they do.

People have different learning styles.:Auditory—listening;Visual—seeing, reading and visualizing;Kinesthetics—moving, touching, writing and doing.

My hunch is that if you are an auditory learner, listening to music might help, verbal instructions might help, but since riding is largely kinesthetic, people who learn best in that manner are able to get the "feel" more quickly.

Visual learners can often learn by watching others ride and watch their own movements and the horse's movements and can learn "feel" that way.

In addition, some people use inductive reasoning in learning while others use deductive reasoning. Some people are interpersonal learners, perfering to work alone, and intrapersonal learners who learn best with others. As they say in this neck of the woods, "Whatever floats your boat!"

So, music can help some people learn to feel, but not all people are wired up that way.

To learn to feel a horse, it depends not only on your learning style, but also the teaching style of your instructor. With luck and a lot of work, people learn to "feel" the horse the way they want to do.

Jul. 28, 2009, 05:38 PM
goeslikestink ;) got your point.

However, I do think that to some extent people can learn to feel. Some will never be able to feel as well as others. So when I ask"did you feel that" I also want to know if they feel what they did to get the result that I wanted them to feel in the first place. Some people
"get it" immediately, others take endless coaching.

Whether music and sound helps them learn....I'd rather have an educated horse. ;)

Jul. 28, 2009, 09:29 PM
This is a tough concept for me, as I don't consider myself a "naturally gifted" rider--feeling and identifying what's going on underneath me requires that I focus 100% on what/how I am asking and what response I'm getting. I struggle more as I move up the levels (I just moved up to 2nd), but on greener horses at First Level or below, my corrections are automatic

I do the best, I think, getting lessons regularly to help me identify my problems and solutions and then, in the 2 weeks where I "practice"/school alone between lessons, I really try to "feel" what's going on and apply the new solutions I learned.

I definately get in a zone when working/schooling...I don't chat, I listen to my ipod, and I try to "envision" what I want us to look like and feel...to feel it as I ask...

Jul. 28, 2009, 10:10 PM
OK, I had a breakthrough/light bulb moment lesson just today. It came about when my coach told me to think of my half halt on a scale of 1 to 10, and aim for an "8" half halt, while using the inside leg strongly enough that the horse sort of continued through it. I know many here have felt what happens when that is correctly executed.

A good trot became an exquisite trot, and even as Coach said, "YESSS! Did you feel that?"

I did indeed!