How Does It Feel'

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It sometimes seems that we're reinventing the wheel at Horse Journal when I read or write yet another Bottom Line that includes the phrase: ?It depends on feel.?

Feel is the unspoken line of communication between you and your horse, and nothing should get in the way of that, including the quality of your equitation, the structure of your saddle, or even whether both you and your horse have warmed up adequately before you start to work.

There are plenty of people, including us, who are more than happy to tell you how you should feel:? Your trainer, your friends, your family, show judges, online discussion boards and on, and on.? When you're told something like, ?Your position looks so much straighter in that saddle,? or ?Your seat looks so much more supple today,? and you're ready to shriek in agony from the effort to hold yourself in place, well, what's the point if you're that frustrated'

?Feel? is really at the heart of horsemanship, and not just when you are riding.? You can ?feel? something isn?t quite right with your horse when you first walk into the barn if, for example, his head isn?t hanging out the stall door as usual.? You can feel tension or relaxation in your horse's body when you groom him.? Your antennae go up if your horse perks his ears, or doesn't perk his ears, in a way that is out of the usual. When you're riding, you can feel whether your horse is sound or a bit off, relaxed or tense, tired or eager, better than most people can see those things.

Because our anatomies all differ, not to mention our physical conditions and range of experiences, different products are going to work better for one person than another.

When Horse Journal conducts a product survey, we make a huge effort to have a variety of people trying the products in a variety of conditions.? It happens frequently that what works well for one person doesn't work at all for another.? We have to sort out why, but more often than not it comes down to feel.? Of course, in that case, we discuss the variables and the conditions that would make one product work for some riders and not for others.

Are there breeches with better fabrics and construction than a couple decades ago'? Yes.? Are there saddles with more thoughtful design' Yes.? Are there high-tech stirrups that cost a whole heck of a lot more than Plain Jane stirrups but might make you safer, more secure and more comfortable'? Yes.?? Are there products that you can rub on to better stick your breeches and boots to the seat and flaps of your saddle'? Yes.? And, when all else fails, are there products you can rub on your bottom to either prevent or soothe sores there'? Yes.

Do any of those good things make a difference to the way you ride'? Bottom Line: It depends on feel.