There is one little thing that you can do that will have a big impact on your riding. It is something we are told to do from the first time that we get on a horse. Yet for some reason, as riders continue to advance, they still need to be reminded about this one thing. So, what is it? Any ideas?
Look Where You Are Going
That's right: look where you are going! And it's not just for the purpose of steering and not running into stuff. It is bigger than that! You might be surprised how much more effective your riding is if you fix this one thing.
Reason 1: Better Steer Your Horse
The obvious reason we need to look where we are going is that we need to steer our horses. We can't forget that our horses are not robots. They do not go on autopilot. They are waiting for us to direct them. If we don't, they will come up with their own plan of where to go. I can bet that their plan will not be the same as yours.
Your horse can't read your mind. You wouldn't drive your car without looking where you are going! At least, I certainly hope you wouldn't! Don't ride your horse without looking where you are going!
Reason 2: You're Body Position Will Improve
If you ride looking down it affects your whole position. Your head and eyes go down, which will have a tendency to make you lean forward. When you lean forward, typically your leg slides back. With your leg back behind you, your position is not secure in the saddle.
You need to be able to feel both seat bones in the saddle. If you are looking down and your leg goes behind, you most likely you won't be able to.
Reason 3: Your Jumping Will Be Better
If you look where you are going your horse will steer better. You will have your eyes on where you are going next. Your horse will feel your weight shift in the saddle. Giving him a heads up of which way you are going to ask him to go next.
This is especially important if you jump. If you wait until the landing side of the jump to tell your horse where to go, you may miss a jump! You should be looking at your next jump as you are going over the previous one. That way, you are already directing your horse where to go next even before his hooves touch down. Practice looking ahead of you to the next jump. I bet you will be surprised how much smoother your jumping rounds get.
Reason Number 4: It Helps You Have Better Hand Position
If you look down, this usually leads to your shoulders going down and forward. When this happens, it tends to make us drop our hands. In order for us to talk to the horse through the bit, we need rein contact, preferably a gentle straight line from elbow to hand to the bit. If your hands drop down because you lean forward, this straight line will be broken.
Also, hands that pull down, tend to make the horses want to put their heads up high. Most bits are not meant to be used to apply downward pressure. Horses generally don't like that. We don't want to make our horse tense and cause his head to go up.
Eyes up will help you keep your shoulders back and your hands up in the proper place. That way, you can steer your horse as effectively as possible and maintain rein contact.
Reason Number 5: Your Legs Are Less Likely to Slide Back
Riding while starring at your horses head does not—I repeat—does NOT cause the horse's head to go down! I see a lot of my riders who are learning basic dressage begin to stare down at their horse's head, as if staring long enough will make the horse go into a frame.
In fact, generally, this makes the exact opposite happen. You look down and your hands go down, so you lose your connection. Your horse can't feel your seat bones as well as he should. Also, your leg will probably slide back. Remember, the horses motor is in the back. He has to be engaging his hind end to go in a frame. If your leg is back behind you, you won't be able to use it to keep your horse moving forward. To be on the bit, your horse moves forward by engaging his hind end. This causes his back to come up and when he finds the "front door closed" so to speak, meaning you have a soft solid connection with his mouth. He will lower his head into a "frame".
If you are looking down, with your shoulders forward and leg back, you will have a hard time doing any of this. So remember, no matter how badly you want your horse's head to go down, staring at it won't help!
Focus On Reminding Yourself This
Focus on reminding yourself to keep your eyes up while you are riding. I bet you will find it makes a difference in your riding. Not all riding issues are this easy to fix, but this little thing can make a big difference.