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Day 3 - The Engagement Zone

100 days

Yesterday we discussed starting with RELAXATION and today I wanted to talk about how to ENGAGE your horse with learning.

Most people do something to prepare their horse for learning. Although I'm sure we've all seen some people that just jump on, give a kick and off they go - nothing to aspire to but sadly it does happen!

What do you do?

Personally, having had experience with many different disciplines, from polo to dressage and show jumping to Western, I've seen many and varied means of engaging the horse and preparing for work.

These things have included lunging, running around in a round pen, working on a line, sacking out, long-reining, being 'ponied' around the field and many other things. The one thing all of these have in common is that they are designed, at least in part, to tire the horse or 'take the edge off' in some way.

Unfortunately, a tired horse is NOT what I want to start a lesson with (in fact, I don't particularly want to finish a lesson with a tired horse either, unless I'm working on endurance).

During this preparation time, I want the horse to enter my 'communication bubble' - the Engagement Zone. I coined this term to refer emotional state of the horse that I achieve by doing the Give to the Bit work that I do on the ground before mounting. This short exercise keeps the horse relaxed but engaged, by slightly raising its heart rate (about 15% above resting) and results in improved learning outcomes.

As the graph shows, horses that had learned Give to the Bit before the being taught the backing exercise, were significantly less likely to toss their heads during the lesson.

You can read the whole article here.

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