What does it mean to “bag a man”, you ask? Well, the dictionary states that the word “bagging” can be used informally as a verb to describing catching something, as in hunting. Yes, bagging is the art of catching a man, but not just catching him. Bagging a man is about looking inward and understanding what you are looking for in a quality mate. For those of us living the equestrian lifestyle, that means a man who is supportive of our lifestyle and all it entails. Man bagging is about putting yourself in a position to meet the man of your dreams, and knowing him when you do meet him. It’s about taking the right steps to charm him, interest him and find out if he is truly compatible with you. It’s about understanding how to progress your relationship with the right man and to move on from the wrong man.
Step 1. Make the decision: Are you are ready and willing to bag a man?
This is important. Bagging a man is not about finding a really cool guy to casually date, then breaking up with, then finding another cool guy to date, then breaking up with him, ad nauseum. Bagging is about finding a person who you are so committed to and who is so committed to you, that you can stay together forever. That doesn’t mean that you have to get engaged or married right away and it doesn’t mean you won’t kiss a few frogs before you find a prince worth bagging. However, you must be in an appropriate mindset to find your prince. Ask yourself, if you met a guy today who was compatible with you and excellent husband material, would you be ready to work toward a committed relationship ending in marriage? If the answer is yes, you are ready to start bagging. If it’s no, you’re not ready and it’s okay. You will enjoy much more man bagging success if you wait for the time when you are ready for the process. Like bringing along a young prospect horse, man bagging and nurturing the resulting relationship is a lot work, but almost nothing in life is more rewarding.
Step 2. Confidence is the sexiest body part
Horses know the difference between a confident rider and an un-confident rider. The same horse under a confident rider often acts differently than when he is under an un-confident rider. For example, he may jump everything for a confident rider but refuse or run out on the un-confident one. The horse isn’t stupid or ill trained. He’s just getting away with the bad behavior because he knows he can. This is the same with human interaction. Your level of self-confidence can affect the way other people, including men, treat you. If you are confident, people with any social sense will treat you well and respect you. If you are perceived as un-confident and weak, some people will tread upon you. You must focus on your strengths, learn to be secure, comfortable and happy with who you are and then learn to project these positive feelings about yourself outwardly. When men can sense that you actually like yourself, it makes it much easier for them to love you. It’s great when men compliment us and build us up, but they can also knock us down. It is our responsibility to like ourselves regardless of what others say or think. In the same regard, it is always our job to pick ourselves up and get back on the horse, no matter why or how we parted company with him.
Step 3. Understand when a man is worth bagging (or not)
Okay, so if you are ready to look for a man who is the keeper, and you are going to be self-confident no matter what happens, now it’s time to start thinking about the men. Some men are worth bagging and other men aren’t. I mentioned earlier that you will have to kiss some frogs in order to find your prince. In other words, there will be some dating involved as you get to know your man-prospects and figure out if they are right for you. The dating process isn’t dis-similar to trying sale horses. You should have some must-have traits you are looking for, such as “nice temperament, at least 16 hands, doesn’t buck.” At the same time, you don’t want to tighten up your criteria so much that you exclude many good prospects. For example, “must be grey, 17 hands, Hanoverian, 3’6” hunter derby winner.” Guess what? Unless you have $300 grand or so to drop on a horse, that horse does not exist and neither does his man-equivalent. On the flip side, you do not want to search aimlessly, buying any old horse that comes your way. You need some criteria when searching for both horses and men. One of the worst things you can do is fall in love with an unsuitable horse. For example, a horse who is 17h, black with four white socks and a blaze, and a laminitic bolter/rearer. Yes, he’s handsome and you’re attracted to him, but the lameness and terrible behavior will soon end your relationship, leaving you heartbroken. If you ever meet the man equivalent of this horse, cinch up your empty bag and get out as fast as you can.
What your man-criteria will be is somewhat personal and different for everyone. However, some of the top issues you may encounter are related to religion, personal finances, family, and in the case of equestrians, if the equestrian lifestyle (i.e. time/money commitment) is acceptable. These aren’t issues that you tackle on a first date, but you should know your own position on each of these issues; where you can be flexible and where you can’t. This way, when you meet a great guy and talk about these issues over a period of time, you will get a better picture of what life together would be like.
Step 4. Look for love in all the right places
If you ONLY spend time at the barn with a bunch of gal pals, or sitting at home eating macaroni and ice cream and watching TV, then you are not setting yourself up for man bagging success. Doing this is like training for Rolex by only riding your horse once a week and then expecting to win. You do not win Rolex by not riding and you do not bag men by sitting at home. Crap in, crap out. You must put yourself in a geographic and social position for success. By geographic, I mean, go out. Go where the men are. Go to parties and picnics and happy hours and club outings. Strike a better balance between going to the barn and doing other activities where you will meet different groups of people. Socially, keep building your network of friends. Talk to people you don’t know well or wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. The more people you meet, the more likely a wonderful man who has a lot in common with you will enter into your extended social network. Meeting guys through mutual friends is one of the best ways to go, so give yourself every opportunity to succeed.
Step 5. Bag your man
By now, hopefully you are feeling confident, know what you are looking for in a guy, and you are out and about so you actually might meet someone. Now this is the exciting part! When you meet a man who, at first impression seems to be just what you’re looking for, it’s time to bag him. Bagging is much like training a horse. You must be clear with the horse and make your signals to him black and white so that he knows exactly what you want. You can be firm and direct if needed, but you should never get over-aggressive. If you do, the horse will shut down. In the same way, when you are flirting, being clear about the fact that you like the guy will be appreciated, but over-aggressiveness will frequently be a turn off. The important thing, even if you do so gently, is to follow through. If you really like him, make sure he knows it and get his contact information so that you have the opportunity to continue getting to know him better. Some women don’t like asking for a guy’s number, but if you really like him and he seems to really like you too but doesn’t offer his number, ask for it. The worst he can say is no and we are strong, self-confident women who can take no for an answer. Don’t be afraid of failure. How many times have you fallen off of your horse? Do you still ride? Okay, then. If you get rejected, you will live to bag men another day.
Step 6. Good job, you bagged him! Now what?
Bagging is about establishing mutual interest and attraction. Once you bag a man, the relationship process begins. For the first few dates, you can stay on warm and fuzzy getting-to-know-you subjects. You don’t want to dive into the heavy subjects right away and scaring him off. However, don’t wait too long to start discussing more substantial topics. If you still like each other after the first few dates, start to discuss the big four issues: religion, personal finances, family views/wants/needs, and acceptance of the equestrian lifestyle. At this stage, you think he seems like a great guy and you’re attracted to him, but that’s not enough. Use clear, effective communication to figure out how you match up on these key issues. Men who are turning out to be potential marriage material deserve full disclosure of what it means to live the equestrian lifestyle. They should have the opportunity to understand the temporal, emotional, and monetary commitment that you make (and will continue to make) to horses and riding. They have the right to make a conscientious decision about whether or not they can cope with and be supportive of your lifestyle. They should never be able to say they were not warned before making a further commitment to the relationship!
I want to remind you that your significant other can be very supportive of your horse habit without being a rider or coming to the barn all the time to hug and brush on your beloved Snookybuns. Thinking that your guy needs to be “into it” is a mistake and expecting too much. If he wants to ride or learn about horses, great, but if he doesn’t don’t pressure him. My husband has only seen the horse I bought over six months ago a handful of times, but he is very supportive of my riding. He never complains about the giant horse-related bills I make (ex. “Honey can I have $700, please?”), or when he comes home to an empty house and a frozen dinner because I have gone riding on a beautiful night. He is always willing to talk about it when I hit a wall in my riding and get frustrated. He will come to shows on weekends, sleep in between my classes, hold my horse while I get dressed and not complain. The only reason he cares about my horse is because he knows it is important to me and that living with horses gives me a lot of joy. When you find a man who respects you so much that your horsing around is important to him just because it is important to you and not because it really makes any sense, that’s a good guy. Hang on to that one.
If you find after having these important discussions that you both have similar views or you can find reasonable compromises when there are issues, then the relationship has a good chance of succeeding. If you can’t see eye to eye, then you might need to let this man out of your bag and set him free. It’s kind of like if you are an advanced level eventer and you buy a horse that is fabulous at dressage but afraid of ditches, water and his own shadow on cross-country. There is nothing wrong with you or the horse, but you need a braver horse and he needs a dressage queen. Similarly, breaking up with an unsuitable boyfriend is a drag, but it is part of the process. Don’t stay with someone once you realize he’s not right for you. Un-bag him! Let him go. Learn from the relationship what you liked and didn’t like, then move forward.
Step 7. Give and take
Riders, what happens if you choke up the reins on an off-the-track-thoroughbred? He’s gonna run like hell. Men are no different. If you’ve found a man who is a real keeper and you are compatible (or can compromise) on all the major life issues, now it’s time to work toward a committed relationship at a pace that is appropriate for you and your significant other. Ideally, this will end in a happy marriage when you both are ready. In this step, you learn how to give and take, just as you would with the reins of a sensitive horse. Men are the same. You pick your battles. Sometimes you let things go. Sometimes you come out spurs and whip blazing, and you dig your heels in. To be an educated rider and a good wife/fiancé/girlfriend, you have to have a good sense of timing and learn to understand when each approach is appropriate. Never close down the lines of clear communication you have established. Most of all, once you find a great guy, the keeper, you have to be committed. There will be hard times. You will argue and disagree about things, but once you make the commitment to your significant other you should both adopt the mentality that giving up is not an option. When you look at it like that, it becomes easier to resolve your problems.
Horse people understand loyalty and commitment. I know riders who have kept beloved retired mounts for years until death-do-us-part. They refused to discard the horses that spent so many years taking care of them even though the horses no longer benefitted them. That’s loyalty and commitment. Horses are not disposable and neither are committed relationships.