If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Engage his hind end!” or “He’s not engaged!” or “He needs to work on his engagement” I’d have enough to retire and write a book on the subject.
For me, I get to the barn and I engage with my horse, talking to him, handing him his greeting carrot, asking about his day, running my hands down his leg, picking his stall, refilling his water, all the while caressing his forelock, giving him a pat as I walk by.
Stretching, grooming, saddling… he’s an OTTB so he has something to say about every aspect of preparation… very engaged!
As we both get our kinks out, we start a Conversation, beginning with my Mind to my leg, hand and seat (oh and my voice)… to his Mind, front end and hind end.
Our goal is that in time, my hand and leg control his body in perfect synchronicity, like dancing. I’m leading but he’s a fraction of a second behind, and I let him lead every now and then.
Elasticity in collections, extensions and power with no resistance… only a comfortable pleasant contact in my hand and a supporting, fluid leg.
A trainer once gave me the analogy that my leg should not be jabbing and not completely off. My leg acts like it is filled with water, a squeegee waterbed leg of supporting, pressing
and giving… reacting to his body, his body reacting to mine.
Engagement for us is when we are acting in partnership with another, resulting in the marriage 🙂 of my mind, body and spirit to his.