Competitor no. 23
It's your turn to go.
You've been standing at the ringside watching some of the previous competitors, going through the course requirements as they go round,
Some of them look like they've done really well, that gets the nerves going,
Oh dear you hope you can remember the course!
The bell sounds, time to start, you approach the first obstacle, that went well, you start to relax,
Obstacle number 2. that also went well and so did numbers 3 & 4, you're thinking I've just got to keep this up,
Soon you're at number 10, that was ok, great you've finished,
You think that went really well, no problems, surely you must be up there at the top !!!
You're exited, time for the scores,
The tannoy calls the placings, you wait eagerly, they're in reverse order,
You hear your name, a disapointing 8th,
What did you do wrong?
You look at your score sheet, your PARTNERSHIP scores are low,
Oh dear you think, I'll have to try harder next time.
Competitor number 23, the bell rings and they start.
The handler looks a little nervous, the horse looks ok though.
I want to see them working together but there doesn't to be any connection between this pair, the handler is to tense, she isn't paying attention to her equine partner, I can't give them full marks for that obstacle.
That looks better, she looks more relaxed, still though she's not listening to her partner, she appears to be just going through the motions, oops she got that wrong, I have to mark that down.
They've finished, it wasn't a bad round but it could have been better.
I look as they leave the ring, she doesn't thank her horse, although he did well, which is a good thing because she wasn't really paying him any attention, there was no connection between them.
Competitor no. 24
Nearly my turn.
Bobby seems relaxed, I give him another scratch on his neck, he likes that, he offers it back, I laugh and tell him "thank you, but your teeth are to hard "
I've learnt the course, there is just one obstacle we haven't seen before but Bobby will be ok with it, I'm sure, he'll tell me if he's not and then I can help him.
We stand there waiting, breathing together, I consciously scan my body.
My heart rate is good, I'm controlling my nerves, I don't want to pass on any negativity to Bobby.
I think about relaxing my hands, I know that if I start gripping the lead rope the tension will pass through me and Bobby will feel it.
The bell rings, I look at Bobby and we start.
As we approach the first obstacle, I feel him tense a little, I can see the tension in his eyes, I soften my look and breathe out, I feel him do the same
As we make our way around the course, I try to keep my awareness of Bobby open all the time.
We are moving together, I soften my knees and keep that connection to the ground, it's my responsibility to do so, I know Bobby will respond, the energy between us is good.
Here is the new obstacle, as we approach it, I don't feel any tension from Bobby, he's not worrying about it, that's good, I reward him with a long out breath.
We've finished, that was lovely, I am so proud of Bobby, I just love him,
He is my perfect partner !
Probably the most frequent question I'm asked as a judge is " what is connection?"
I can give you the pragmatic answer as - the way of being between the 2 agility partners, the handler and the equine.
Both should be working together as a PARTNERSHIP, the handler displaying her responsibility to her equine to help him understand what is being asked of him (he hasn't read the rule book) and her equine showing trust and understanding in return.
That said, there is also the elusive element that is hard sometimes to relate to someone.
I will try here.
I can see as soon as they enter the ring that they are "together"
She is smiling at her horse, I look to see his name is down as Bobby.
Bobby looks relaxed, the rope between them is soft, there is no tension.
As they approach the first obstacle, I see Bobby slightly hesitate, I can see his partner feels it to and softens, this is a good start, full marks.
The round progresses well, it is fluent in movement, they are communicating with each other.
The energetic connection between them is palpable, you can almost feel it yourself, you can definitely see it !
Obstacle after obstacle they receive full marks, this is a winning round.
As they leave the ring I see her congratulate Bobby, she is proud of him, they have worked hard TOGETHER.
Agility connection is grown
The responsibility of the growth and nurturing of that elusive energetic connection has to lay solely with the handler and it is not something to be taken lightly, for it is easily lost.
Growing connection happens on a daily basis during the everyday handling of your equine.
Seeing, hearing and rewarding the communication he is showing you.
Nurture that communication, for not doing so, leads to confusion and problems.
Use your agility practice wisely to enhance and improve your awareness of the gift your equine is
permitting you with,