Concentration: The Second Ingredient
Back in the late 90's, I was riding a young horse for some folks. Every time I tried to canter her she'd buck pretty hard. Even when I rode her out and about checking fences or whatever she still bucked before she would canter.
One day we were riding in a clinic, and we made just a slight move to the right at the trot and I could just tell that if I encouraged her just a little she would canter off. Sure enough, she picked up the right lead and just loped off slick as a mole without bucking! It was as if we waited for the stars to align, killed a chicken, and then did a dance to the cantering gods! I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what had just happened.
I've never forgotten what that exact moment felt like. I spent years working and sweating trying to figure it out until I finally realized it wasn't about trying to make them canter. I had to stop trying to do something and start concentrating on what was going on with myself and the horse BEFORE we even thought about trying to canter.
Instead of sweating and being physically drained I started becoming mentally exhausted from all the concentrating I was doing. It was so much easier to try to do something physically, but I knew it wasn't working. I had to truly concentrate on how the horse was balanced and how he felt before we would try to canter. If it was successful then I had to remember what each tiny piece felt like just before the canter. If it was unsuccessful then I had to concentrate and remember what didn't feel right about each piece.
Laser sharp concentration to remember how things felt paired with focused concentration to recreate same circumstances are necessary for success. It doesn't matter if it's the canter or anything else we might want to do with the horse, it is my belief that intense concentration is the second essential ingredient in learning feel.