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!
And now mounted, we start by stretching his body in a long and low walk, touring the arena (quite engaged in his surroundings) and starting with some circles and bending.
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.
I’m brimming with confidence. My rides are non-eventful steps up the learning curve ladder. Remember the game Chutes and Ladders? Each leg yield like on a square in the board game progresses up the ladder to, let’s say a lovely bend in a corner. The sky is the limit, largely because of Mulligan’s wonderful attitude and enthusiasm for everything labeled Learning. I am believing I can raise his jumping level by year end. I’ve mastered our partnership and we can dance with the stars.
And suddenly we land on a square that sends us spiraling down a winding chute. Mulligan and I had an argument and I feared the honeymoon was over.
Key words in that last sentence. . . I feared. Interesting how fear can change a person from an insightful horsewoman to a 50-something amateur old bitty with brittle bones, a neophyte whose horse doesn’t love her anymore. I was certain I couldn’t train a plant to grow.
My fall from grace started around lead changes, Mulligan rejected my leg after a jump and moved into it rather than away from it. I increased the pressure and he bucked. HUH? What happened to the meticulous groundwork, the sensitization exercises, the flatwork building blocks of leg yielding and turns on the forehand, the strong foundation I thought were in place?
Now my supple well-prepared thoroughbred was grinding his teeth and we weren’t best friends in La-La land anymore. Furthering the proof of my launch from the pedestal I envisioned he had me on, he started rushing his fences, defiantly throwing his shoulder inward in the corners. Like a puppy whose tail I had accidently stepped on, I wasn’t his cool mommy anymore.
Here’s where the Voice of Reason rolls his eyes, and steps in with what I need to do:
Step One: STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Take a breath and let him take a breath. Collect your thoughts.
Step Two: OMG, GET REAL! Get your head out of your you-know-what and Pull Up the Big Girl Pants!Making a career out of beating yourself up is utterly useless. No one got murdered, no need for a lifetime sentence of guilt. In an era where journalists are getting beheaded by terrorists, no need to cut your own off because your ride is not going as planned. Get a perspective, Sistah!
Step Three: Resume training, taking each component separately. He’s a different horse right now, and an angry, confused horse cannot learn, so bring him back slowly to the point where he can. In this case, that’s a quiet halt after a fence or a simple change at the end of the line.
Good grief, it’s one thing to have humility, listen to your horse, have a sense of justice. It’s another thing entirely to self-deprecate yourself to worthless-human-being-ness.
Horses have taught me that every challenge, problem, weakness throws a magnifying glass on what I need to work on – that could be physical – like posture and conditioning; it could be mental – focus or knowledge; or it could be emotional – containment, praise, etc. That’s the beauty of the process, there are no failures because each challenge leads to an Aha moment, which leads to future success. Cool huh?
The Person who makes no mistakes is unlikely to make ANYTHING.
We all hear the cowboys say “reward the try” when training horses something new. How about rewarding your own try?
Top 12 reasons they are similar: 12. Learning the basics is the first step. Practice until the basics are automatic reflexes.
11. Hands are critical… They should go with the club swing like going with the horse.
10. Visualize your goal. On a perfect jump, you can hardly feel the takeoff and it’s smooth as silk, fluid and effortless, horse and rider are one. The perfect swing is a similar feeling, you can’t even feel the face of the club hit the ball, the human body and the club are moving as one. The less excess movement the better. The best golfers generally have the smoothest swings and the best mechanics. The best riders have invisible aids, it looks like they’re doing nothing.
9. Variety of distances. Be able to execute short distances and long distances equally well… practice both. By the way, a short hopper shot is a Chip.
8. The course of nine holes is like a course of nine jumps, there are challenges lying in wait. Make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t wander off course.
7. The flat work is on the driving range and the putting green. Putting is a large part of the game and everything between fences is flat work. It’s the element that is practiced least and screws up most.
6. You have to get out there and play and ride. Yes, you can get pointers from DVDs and web sites, all proclaiming to have “the answer.” The more time in the tack and on the golf course, the quicker you will excel. Don’t go to a country club “A” show course until you are consistent at the small courses. Lessons are good, someone with knowledge watching your ride and your swing. Video yourself and compare yourself to the masters.
5. Traditional attire is best. Equipment does not have to be expensive, your riding and your playing outshines your outfit. Spend money on lessons before the latest fad. Be comfortable, have sound equipment and sun protection.
4. Getting the right rhythm and sticking with it produces the best swings and the best jumps. Break out each component – addressing the ball, back swing, stance as you would working on your riding – hands, leg, posture. Swinging in slow motion is like jumping cavelettis.
3. Being in physical shape means your golf game and your riding will be better. Go to the gym, yoga and pilates, become a runner… they will help your swing and your jumps.
2. Relaxation is key. Golf and riding are mental activities. Become a student of the game and the basics, and once you have mastered them, try not to over-think. Let the gestalt of it all take over. Enjoy being outside and being in nature as you would on the back of a horse.
1. Have a positive attitude, a belief that the ball will go in the hole, that the horse will jump the fence. Negative thinking is counter-productive in both sports. Every rider, golfer and horse can have an off day so shake it off. If you think negatively and the worst happens, you’ve lived through it twice, haven’t you? On the other hand, be humble; your next swing could be a lost ball.