The Power of Engagement

As we settle into our tack, pick up our reins and collect our horse, the goal is to engage mind and body and create the power and the energy to perform. We strive to take all the necessary steps to create what is needed for success. But how engaged are we? Are we doing it because we “have to” or “need to” or because it is our “choice?” As simple as it sounds, the “why” can have an impact on our performance and overall accomplishment.

What is engagement? How engaged we are in our task, whether competing or practicing, can clearly define our success. Engagement can be defined as:

  • something that engages; pledges
  • the act of engaging; the state of being engaged
  • emotional involvement or commitment
  • occupying the attention or efforts (of a person or persons); He engaged her in conversation.

When we are engaged in a task, we are attracted to it, pleased by it, emotionally involved with/excited by it, committed to it, and in gear toward making it happen. We’re willing, enthusiastic, bought in, and motivated about doing something. All these factors create positive and successful results and the more engaged we are in whatever it is that we’re doing, the higher the probability that we’ll perform to our personal best.

Let’s review the framework for assessing engagement in our riding, our relationships with students/trainers, or situations whether it is fear, keeping our challenging horses and commitment to our sport.

When we move from “won’t” to “choose to” a higher level of engagement is offered and the chance for achievement is increased.

WON’T: I “won’t” engage and/or I believe have no power to engage. Engagement level is 0% to 25%

HAVE TO: Involves a short term perspective and a forced power of engagement. You “have to” complete the task in front of you; you “have to” get over your fear; you “have to” perform your best or else you will experience dire consequences. At this level of engagement, we tend to expend effort to get through what is in front of us in order to get to that which we believe holds our success. Engagement level is 26% to 50%

NEED TO: This is a more powerful phrase but still indicates a low power of engagement. We are aware of our choices and seek to find opportunity in the challenges presented to us. We are able to create opportunities, but frequently distractions take us off our desired course. At this level of engagement, we may say

“If I want success, I need to do these things.” We know success is our choice but we are not always able to integrate that into our internal belief system. Engagement level is 51% to 75%

CHOOSE TO: The most powerful level of engagement. At this level, we are more fully engaged because we feel we have complete choice. We are absorbed in the enjoyment of the activity and feel a powerful connection between who we are and what we are doing. Engagement level is 75% to 100%

Think of your common “have to’s” or “need to’s” and instead say “I choose”. I choose to accept my horse and his/her quirks and that they can be challenging to ride. I don’t “have to” or “need to” conquer my fear, I “choose to”. Can you feel the powerful difference one word can make?

As you prepare for your day, encounter situations that may cause stress, or are asked to try a new and maybe challenging task, what is your choice? Now sit back and watch your success soar!

Happy riding! Cathy

Cathy Penrod is a certified professional Performance Specialist with 34 years of knowledge of the equestrian world and has more than 19 years of leadership, mentoring and coaching experience. Cathy specializes in helping riders break through internal barriers, conquer nerves, and take their performance to the next level using customized programs such as The Spur Factor Process and COR.E Performance Dynamics.

Find out more about Cathy and EquiCoach at:

This article was originally published in the June 2015 print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine.