Accuracy can seem like a dull and boring concept when riding horses. Sure, if you are going to compete in dressage or show jumping, accuracy can become really important. But what about if you are simply a rider, working alone with your horse, trying to improve your overall skills? Is accuracy still as important?
I’m going to say yes, accuracy is important. And it is an excellent way of actually establishing and building engagement with your horse.
Now, granted, accuracy and engagement might seem like they have nothing to do with each other initially. How could do something at a specific point in the arena or in the conversation help with engagement? And the answer is “more than you can even begin to realize”.
What Is Accuracy?
Accuracy is about doing a specific thing at a designated time or space when you ride. So, for example, picking up a canter at a specific marker in your arena, perhaps A or C. Or riding a certain number of strides within a certain measured distance.
However, in order for you to achieve true accuracy with your horse, the energy that goes into the preparation and, subsequent, follow-through is equally as important as doing the ‘exact’ thing.
This means that, as a rider, your attention to detail must include what happens before the transition, during the transition, and then after the transition. Realizing accuracy is about how well you can maintain what is established as you also allow the desired outcome to happen at the right endpoint.
What Accuracy is Not…
Contrast this with a rider who roughly kicks or pulls their horse in order to achieve the desired outcome at a specific point. The overall ride lacks softness, consideration, knowledge of energy, and flow. It is doing something with the sole purpose being to get a specific result.
True accuracy is when the result adds to the overall performance and conversation between horse and rider.
Being accurate, if it is merely to get something done, is not true accuracy. It must play into the bigger picture of horse and rider. Working on being accurate must incorporate the energy of what comes before and after the specific ‘point’. And, in doing this, you can begin to build both engagement and true accuracy with your horse.
What is Engagement?
For many riders, when they hear the word ‘engagement’ in relation to horses and riding, the mind jumps to collection. And, for most of those riders, true collection is not somewhere they visit regularly in their riding. And yet, engagement starts much earlier. At the beginning in fact.
Would your perception of engagement change if you began seeing it as a connection, rather than a collection, in your riding?
If we think of the word ‘engage’ outside of horses and riding, it means that you occupy or attract someone’s interest or attention. It can also mean entering into an agreement with someone. If we applied both of these to your conversation with your horse, can you see how engagement is a far more basic concept than we might first allow ourselves to imagine?
And developing accuracy is an excellent way to attract your horse’s interest or attention a little more. To increase your horse’s focus on what you are saying or asking… On your desired outcome.
Engagement as an Agreement
Once your horse has begun to focus a little more on you and what you are saying (or trying to say), you can begin to develop the conversation a little more. This is where using accuracy can help to begin developing more contact and connection between you and your horse.
Developing contact is often the point in your horse’s training where he agrees to begin taking on some of the responsibilities for your work together. An agreement. Engaged.
And this is also the point in training where energy can begin to truly be recycled through both of your bodies as you work together. Rather than the energy falling out or leaking out somewhere, it remains within the container. Part of the responsibility your horse engages with is to ‘hold’ that energy inside of his body.
Accuracy and Engagement
Hopefully, from this explanation, you can begin to see the link between improving accuracy and encouraging engagement when working with your horse. It all begins with understanding that true accuracy requires a holistic approach.
Attention to detail on the preparation, the doing, and the following through of what you intend to be accurate about.
As you become more consistent with this, your horse’s interest in what you are trying to achieve becomes heightened; engagement. And at this point, you can begin to allow your horse to carry some of the responsibilities regarding your work together.
Contact and connection. Which, inevitably, begin to lead to the sort of engagement that will eventually, if you continue to develop and work on it, lead to collection.