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Read an excerpt from The Horse Agility Handbook, as seen in EQUUS Magazine January 2012 issue.
THE AMAZING THING about horses is there's one out there suited for just about every human. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and we've trained them to excel at any number of riding sports that appeal to human personalities across the board. But until now, there hasn't been an internationally recognized, competitive horse sport dedicated to those horse lovers who most enjoy working their horse from the ground. With Horse Agility, that's all changing.
Over the past few decades, an evolution in how we go about training horses has encouraged horse owners to spend more time handling their horse on the ground in order to achieve good behavior, mutual trust, and a healthy partnership — before they ever think about getting in the saddle. This has created a generation of horsemen and women perfectly poised to pursue the competitive and social benefits of the sport of Horse Agility.
Think, for a moment, of the hugely popular Dog Agility classes you've no doubt seen — it is no secret they're enjoyed by countless canines and their handlers, all over the world. With great exuberance and palpable enjoyment, a dog dashes around a colorful obstacle course, following subtle direction from his handler. Usually this occurs without a leash, and without other devices designed to "persuade" him to participate. The dog completes the course because he chooses to — NOT because he is constrained, forced, whipped, prodded, or bribed.
Horse trainer Vanessa Bee,, founder of the International Horse Agility Club, says that we need to change the way we think about horses and the sports and activities we so often pursue with them. She sees no reason the horse cannot enjoy your time together so much, he will choose to "play" with you — over, under, and through obstacles, without a lead rope, even when loose in a large, grassy pasture.
Hard to believe? Try it for yourself! The Horse Agility Handbook has all you need to get started in the sport, including lessons in handling and body language, directions for obstacle and course construction, and information for managing competitions and "play days."