When you’re riding, do you find yourself staring at your horse’s lovely head? Keeping your attention focused there inhibits your riding ability. Here’s why:
If you think of riding a horse as similar to driving a car, what happens if you stare at your dashboard or hood instead of looking ahead? Relating this to riding, when you are looking down at your horse’s head, your focus is down. When your focus is down, your horse will want to stop. Similarly, if you look ahead only a few feet, you are still limiting yourself in the range you can go with your horse. You want to look out a good 500 yards if you can. In an arena, pick a spot on a panel, a fence post or something on the wall of the indoor. On the trail, pick a tree, a rock or a distant hill to focus on. As you get closer or turn directions, pick out another object. Pretty soon you’ll realize your horse wants to move out with you and go investigate all these cools things.
What else does looking up do for your riding skills? It helps your body stay in proper equitation alignment. It builds your confidence and your horse’s confidence. It helps you stay alert and plan ahead to avoid a hole or negotiate an obstacle with ease. It allows you to feel your horse underneath you. It maintains your proper balance in the saddle so you’re not tipped forward and trying to grip and hold on with your legs to regain your balance.
Carol Dal Porto, an all around California horse trainer and riding instructor, recommends this exercise to help break your habit of looking down. Select an object at least 200 yards in front of you (tree, building, fence post, etc.) to focus on as you ride. Select a new object each time you turn or get close to your original object. Count to yourself to see how long before you look down at your horse’s head. Practice the exercise as much as you can and see if you can increase the length of time before looking down. The more you practice, the better you will become and pretty soon you won’t even be thinking of looking down at all!
Kim Baker, KB Natural Horsemanship, www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com
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