Tag Archives: straightness

“Engagement” Rings

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.blog_article_engagement

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. 

Year End Straight Talk

During the last horse show of the season, I start  thinking about goals for next year.  I love the winter… the weather funnels us in the direction of flatwork.  Jumps are cleared out of the arena or in big piles so dragging the arena is easy.  Center lines open up and it’s like a clean canvas, like the snow-covered pastures back East and in the Midwest.  It’s a new beginning point and a fresh take from where we were last spring.

Our barn has horses ranging from unbroke to competing at A shows.  We know that everything in between the fences is flatwork and if those spaces are in a rhythm and balanced, there ‘s a greater chance the fences will be too.

I start to list my flatwork goals for the winter.  For my horse, perfect his transitions, smooth out his lead changes, introduce counter canter, continue to supple him through shoulder-in haunches-in.  For me, it’s all about posture  – correct my shoulder slump, push my heels down, become more consistent in my eye.

Most of my goals haveto do with StraightnessStraightness is the thesis word for the winter.blog_article_straightness

Straightness first requires an awareness of when my horse and I are not straight.  And then Straightness requires the discipline to work on it every ride.

Walking by the last show’s schooling ring, I can hear trainers’ comments:

“Keep him straight to the fence, not jumping left.”

“Look up and straight ahead, not down.”

“You missed the change because he bulged his shoulder in, he wasn’t straight.”

“Keep a straight line in the diagonal.”

“Ride straight toward the rail after the first jump.”

“Sit up straight.”

Straight line from hip to heel.”

“He ran out because he didn’t get straight soon enough.”

 

Straightness has a BIG impact on many of my outcomes.

As I start to focus on Straightness down the center line of the arena, I am realizing how frequent my horse is not straight, and how much my posture contributes to that.  How can he be balanced if I am not?  Or is he not straight because he is compensating for my un-straightness?  Good grief.   Keeping tabs on straightness at all times requires a whole lot of something I didn’t expect this winter… discipline.  

So that’s me out there gritting my teeth, feeling as unnatural as a pretzel in my straight and tall position, focusing on the steps my horse takes and where he has habitually become un-straight, because I allowed it.

Straightness is significant because it make my horse more symmetrical and balanced.   It makes me more balanced.  Straightness  impacts my courses, everything in between the fences, and the jumps – takeoff, arc and landing.  Only all that.

I forget who said champions are made when no one is looking but I know it was someone riding with a great posture and a straight horse.

~ kw