LIGHT FEEL or TRUE SOFTNESS
THE DIFFERENCE and IMPORTANCE OF BOTH
I right about this today because I think it's important to know there is a difference. It is possible to have a light horse that isn't soft. It's also possible to have a soft horse that isn't light. It's important for them to be both light and soft. I'll explain.
Having a light feel to your horse is great and pretty much a must if you want a horse to give to pressure with a light response. Lightness comes from them understanding the cue fully, liking you well enough to do it for you, and knowing not to lean on pressure. Repetition, consistency, and not overusing your aids can help you attain this. It comes from our ability to ask lightly, feel every little response, know how to respond to this, and give back. Making it beneficial to respond is better than making it consequential to not respond. So knowing when they are ready for you to ask for more is an important factor. If they're not ready, they might resist. That can be counterproductive.
Softness comes through the heart and mind then to the body and feet. True softness is difficult to attain. It only comes when all inhibitions are washed away. For softness you need to have a real connection with your horse. One that goes beyond the Rein and leg cues. Your thoughts and emotions need to match almost completely. Knowing how to read and understand your horses every thought and emotion is the only way to find the path to attaining this. You can't guess and you can't assume. And worse of all, you can't make excuses. It has to be real and true.
You may experience a horse that is responding to the lightest touch and doing everything you ask spot on. But maybe you have some inhibition causing small tension spots that to most would go unnoticed. That would be Lightness without softness. Or maybe your horse is as relaxed and carefree as can be with no worries, anxiety, stiffness, or inhibitions what so ever. But then when you apply a cue the response needs a second request. That could be having softness without Lightness.
The reason it's important to have both in my opinion is. A lot of (but not all) light responding horses are responding out of emotional energy. The fear, anxiety, or inhibitions becomes the motivator to that light response. If this is the case, then you risk them trying to overachieve, or nervously making a dangerous move. So building softness into this horse will remove those risks.
Also. There are some horses that are so soft that they're not very responsive. They may bend or move without resistance, but not necessarily with effort. Building Lightness into these horses will benefit that greatly.
To me it takes a balance of both to make for a well rounded and safe horse. One that responds well, maintains emotionally, communicates with us and knows that we understand them. We won't always be on the same page everyday, but it is worth attaining and maintaining.
Thanks for reading.