Eyes Up While Riding, Exercises to Improve Looking Where You Are Going

Keeping your eyes up and looking where you are going is as important when riding a horse as driving a car. Imagine if people looked into their steering wheel when they drove their


Keeping your eyes up while riding is just as important as when you drive a car(Photo credit: timo_w2s)

cars! Some riders seem to seemlessly navigate jumping courses and dressage tests with ease while others, just seem to “miss” and land in a heap. This can be attributed to EYEs Up!

What Happens When You Look Down

When you look down you are focused on:

  • the ground
  • the horse’s head
  • the saddle

If you are focusing on one of these three things you are not riding your horse, you are not feeling your horse, and you are not riding your horse or preparing for what is going to happen.

What Happens When You Look UP

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  Henrik von Ecker...

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden rides his horse Allerdings during the Individual Jumping Equestrian on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Park on August 8, 2012 in London, England. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Looking up offers many benefits.

  • You are looking where you are going and this telegraphs it to the horse what you are doing and where you are going. If the horse gets anxious or nervous, it may be because you are not looking where you are going and this may make the horse anxious as he is unsure of what is happening. Looking where you are going allows the horse some extra preparation time as you have decided what and where to go.
  • You are keeping your body in balance. Looking down shifts the weight forward and onto the horse’s withers. If you are jumping this is extra weight which the horse will have to lift over the fence. If you are riding on the flat or dressage, it is putting your horse on the forehand.
  • You are letting the horse know you are in control. Remember horses willfollow the herd leader. To be the leader you have to be the one with the directions. If you don’t know where you are going, the horse will decide where you are going and take you where THEY think you should be going.

Eye Control Exercises

Get a focal point. This means have point at the end of the arena wall or out door school where you can focus your energy. It may be as simple as a tree, bush or even a mound of manure. It can also be a permenent letter, cone or picture.

The focal point may be outside the walls of your outdoor arena as well. If there are trees on the horizon which offer a great focal point then use them to look toward. When riding outside the further the focal point the better.

Do not limit yourself to finding something within the confines of your arena. Use a tree, telephone pole, or flower patch to establish your straight line. Remember, when you turn your focal point with change. As you perform this exercise you will see the focal points will change with each new direction.

Sometimes it is fun to have your instructor stand at the end of the straight line and hold up  fingers. The rider then has to yell out, “one”, “five”, “two” as the instructor changes the number of fingers they hold up. This forces the rider to keep their eyes up and pay attention.

Set up some poles.Looking toward a line of poles forces riders to look where they are going. Have a rail set up one quarter the way down the centre line, one at X and one at G. Looking forward, riding forward and focusing on riding to the centre of each pole.

If you look down you will miss the turn and  not get to the centre of the poles. Having more than one pole in a row forces riders to look forward to the next pole and then the next pole and then the turn. When turning up the centre line, find your focal point and ride toward it.

Do you have some exercises which have cured you of looking down? Let  us know we’d love to hear from you.

Bye or now


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About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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