On the  ‘forehand’ or the ‘haunches’?

Horse Rider Looking Down

Very rarely do we look down perfectly straight! More often we look down and to one side, and when on a circle normally down and to the inside, explaining horses falling in

When you see photos or videos are you looking down?

Is your coach always telling you:  “look up, LOOK UP”.   Do you see the top level riders with their elegant stance, or seen videos of the Spanish School of Riding with the hats at the perfect angle?

Why looking down is bad

Safety & Confidence

When they rider looks down they can be more easily pulled off, or fall off.  It simply isn’t a balanced, safe position.

When the brain can ‘feel’ you out of balance you become less and less confident.  It’s impossible to be truly confident when your brain knows you are in a less stable position, and more likely to be in danger.

We’ve all heard the term ‘independent seat’.  This is where parts of the body are able to move without interrupting the movement of other parts.  You might think of it as a ballet dancer able to move one leg without anything else moving.  The independent seat is something we all strive for…especially at the higher levels when your hands and legs might be doing completely different things at the same time.

Looking down interrupts the normal movement patterns of the body, and the independent seat we all train so hard for is virtually impossible

On the forehand

When they rider looks down put more weight on the horse’s two front feet – that’s called ‘on the forehand’.   No matter what sport we are involved in ‘on the forehand’ is always bad.  And research shows when the rider is mounted – even in a normal position – they put 30% less weight on the hind quarters…and that weight obviously has to go somewhere – and it’s on the front feet!   And, looking down makes it even worse!

When the horse is on the forehand they loose power & impulsion because the horse’s front feet and shoulders are bearing the additional weight of the rider’s position tipping forward & looking down.

They have less comfortable paces, often rushing, are not as nice on the bit, and sure don’t jump as high!

Advanced Movements

The additional weight on the forehand might show up as things like slower shoulder in, or a slight ‘skip’ in the half pass, or flat & labored  flying changes as the horse heaves your weight with their shoulders.

The horse might often drag one or both toes when riders look down & tips forward.

Great Quick Tips…

  1. See yourself on video.  We all look down. Even my Olympic riders look down – no matter what the sport.  But watching yourself on video is a big start to knowing what it looks like from the outside.  So – never underestimate this amazing tool.
  2. Try this:  just sit on the chair….look down and feel how it rocks you forward on your pubic bone, and when you look up it pulls you onto the “crack of your butt”.  Becoming aware of the effect of your head position on the rest of the body is also a great start.
  3. On your horse…look down and feel the two front feet get heavier.  Look up and the back feet feel heavier.
  4. Go to the dollar store and buy yourself a cheap pair of sunglasses.  Then, get some thick masking tape and put masking tape across the bottom…almost like you would see a pair of bifocals blacked out at the bottom only, so that you can safely see over the top. Then…when you look down you can’t see your horse anymore!  Sure you can fight the glasses, screw yourself up like a pretzel and still see, but boy oh boy I’ve used so many things…tying things to people’s pony tails – sticking a piece of masking tape down the front of the throat so whenever you look down it it’s so uncomfortable it reminds you to stop.  I’ve tried “look up”, “don’t look down”, “you put your horse on the forehand” and every piece of advice known to man..but NOTHING works like half blacked out sunnies!

Lots more great fixes & ideas for developing independent seat more >

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