From the beginning
At the start of each of my clinics everybody is encouraged to bring their horse into the arena and walk round and let their horses see the obstacles, acknowledge one another and just generally settle before we start.
This is always a good time for me to not just get my first impression of the different horses taking part, but more importantly, how their handlers are behaving. I always ask the participants not "to do" any of the obstacles but just let their horses look. I tell them we will only begin when the energy in the arena is low and calm.
This is when we begin to see the different personalities start to emerge. The anxious horse, the inquisitive horse, the calm horse. The anxious handler, the inquisitive handler, the calm handler.
Six out of the Seven attending will straight away "do" an obstacle, even though I have said too wait, the other one person is either very anxious herself or she listened to what I said!
My point here is - Horse Agility is not about the horse - something I repeat constantly throughout the clinic - it's all about YOU the handler. It is your personality that is going to shape the horse.
Think about this question - "what type of relationship do you want with your horse ?" Whatever your answer, know that you are the one responsible for creating it. A big responsibility!
Becoming finally tuned and connected with your horse is in its self a true art form, much like learning to play the piano, it takes time and a lot of patience to perfect your skills.
They say practice makes perfect which when playing the piano is probably true, but when you are working with another sentient being, that practice needs to be meaningful or otherwise it is just meaningless "practice"
To make your practice meaningful is not difficult, 5 minutes of connected work is better than an hour of just trailing round the obstacles, the horse doesn't need to be taught Horse Agility, it is not a method. I'm repeating myself again I know, but I really want you to understand this, the obstacles are there just to create a focus, a focus for you, not the horse, they provide you with an opportunity to create conversation and connection with your horse.
Horse Agility UK is about relationship - it is not about the horses performance. We are definitely not asking you to perform Horse Agility, it is NOT trick training. When taking part in a competition it is your ability to work together as a partnership that is being scrutinised and judged.
There is no magic formula to creating a good relationship, it's most basic
ingredient is TRUST.
I am going to get my magicians wand out now, and wave it over you, and send you some magic dust that will create all that you need to start making things work and improving your practice. The magic dust is called awareness, use it and everything will transform, I promise you .
Using awareness creates connection - connection creates understanding - understanding creates TRUST.