Stephanie Pearce: Keeping control
Sitting at the rodeo, I watched as girl after girl (more than 20) guided their horses through the poles. The horse and rider go down the length of poles, turn around the end pole, weave down, turn back around and weave back down and come straight back at a dead run on the opposite side that they started. Pole bending can be a very beautiful event to watch. When it is done correctly and the horse changes leads (the foot that the horse leads off with) going between each pole, it looks like a beautiful dance. It looks smooth and flawless, and the speed at which the rider and animal are moving is amazing.
Watching, it may look like an easy task, but this event takes a great horse and a bond between the horse and rider. Even with a horse that could do it on its own, there is a rider who sits atop and is giving the horse cues with their body movements in the saddle, feet cues and using the reins that are attached to the bit in the horse’s mouth. Even if the horse knows what to do, a horse most likely will do what it’s told and take the cues given by the rider. The two must bond and work together to be a great team.
Some girls had horses that ran down the poles to the end with lightning speed. I was anticipating very fast times. Then they would forget to give the horse the cue to slow down, which usually is to sit in the saddle with your feet forward some, sitting up instead of leaning forward with your butt down in the saddle. They have to learn where just the right place in the line of poles is to give this cue so that the horse slows down just enough to swing around the last pole in a tight enough pocket, but not too tight. I saw many a girl blow by the last pole and then abruptly pull up on the reins.
When weaving through the poles, the body needs to be tucked in so that nothing sticks out farther than the horse. The toes need to be pointed in and elbows tucked so that a body part doesn’t knock a pole over. Many girls used such big motions with their arms moving the reins from side to side that they would hit a pole with their elbows and knock it over. I also watched as they used those big movements and moved the horse’s head so far out of alignment with the next pole that the horse’s entire body moved over, and the horse knocked the next poles over.
It came to me as I watched these girls that the girls who built the best relationships with their partners didn’t use the big gestures and cues. They kept themselves tucked, used little sounds going through the poles and used leg and foot movements. Their hands were kept low, and their reins made small, close movements. I thought about how, in everyday life, the more we try to control a situation without using trust and building relationships, the more control we lose. Just like those girls that took out poles.
Control. The ones who fight the most to keep it are usually the first to lose it.