Counterintuitive Series #2:
The Eyes Have It!

Hi, my Friends.

This is the second video in our counterintuitive series. And what I mean by that is there are many things we know we should do, but they seem so ‘common’ that we tend to think, “Yeah-yeah. Let’s move on to something a little more exciting!”

The challenge is that all of these ‘basics’ matter A LOT – but – they are counterintuitive and easy to forget to do.

By that, I mean that it feels more natural not to do them. Or we think these things don’t have that big of an effect on what happens with our horse in any one moment.

What I’m going to talk about in this video is keeping our eyes up, why it’s important, and a tip for doing just that.


VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hi, my Friends.

This is the second video in our counterintuitive series. And what I mean by that is there are many things we know we should do, but they seem so ‘common’ that we tend to think, “Yah-yah. Let’s move on to something a little more exciting!”

The challenge is that all of these ‘basics’ matter A LOT – but – they are counterintuitive and easy to forget to do.

By that, I mean that it feels more natural not to do them. Or we think these things don’t have that big of an effect on what happens with our horse in any one moment.

What I’m going to talk about in this video is keeping our eyes up, why it’s important, and a tip for doing just that.

We KNOW we need to do this, but our eyes are down most of the time anyway.

Here’s a little story for you.

A while back I did a personal performance clinic in Florida at an English barn. They invited me to ride one of their jumpers over some low jumps at the end of the day. FUN!

In the clinic, I had discussed the importance of keeping our eyes up and coached the riders to do the same. This is not only a critical technical skill for all disciplines but from my perspective as a Performance Coach, our eyes up helps our confidence stay intact.

Ok. So now I’m on a jumping horse. I started down the line to go over the first low jump and – whoa! – I went right around the outside of it! My eyes weren’t up and looking where I needed to go. Obviously, I didn’t feel confident, and I didn’t look past the jump and right down the middle of it.

We all had a good chuckle out of that one.

Here’s the deal about our eyes.

When we consistently coach ourselves to keep looking where we want to go, it is amazing that we do.

One reason this works is because how our body moves on a horse through our seat is extremely communicative to a horse.

The other reason is a little less tangible – it’s as if our horse gets an invisible message in their brain from our eyes to his or hers!

From a personal performance point of view, keeping your eyes up brings up and sustains a feeling of calm and focus.

What a huge double win when you keep your eyes up. You direct your horse’s movement in the direction you want to go almost effortlessly – and – you feel confident and focused on the inside.

But as I said before, we ALL tend to look down. It feels more ‘natural. However, if you make it a point to coach yourself to keep your eyes up, you will have exciting new and positive riding experiences.

BARB SHOWS EXAMPLES OF ‘EYES-UP’ FROM:

  • Reining
  • Cutting
  • Riding in the arena

There you have it. We can have lots of fun and have a huge positive impact communicating with our horses with our eyes.

The eyes have it. Why? Because they keep us focused. By looking ahead, our body aligns in a way that’s clear to the horse. And then there’s this secret brain thing going on that I can’t explain.

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Comments

22 Comments on Counterintuitive Series #2:
The Eyes Have It!

  1. Carm Martell on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 1:18 pm
  2. Thanks, Barb for these “counterintuitive” videos.

    Long long time ago, my first riding lessons were from a man who – to a 5 year old – was ANCIENT (possibly my same age now, come to think of it!), and he had me say to myself as we jogged along (ponying) “Nose up, toes up, hands down, heels down”. Still remember it / still important 60+ years later!

  3. Cindy Newell on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 1:32 pm
  4. I always think my eyes are up but when I remind myself to do it, my horse guides better. Barb, I love when you give us assignments to do with our horses. I personally get a lot out of videos that you comment on. Thank you for all of your help!

  5. Mary Kay on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 1:48 pm
  6. So true. It also helps me to stop micromanaging my horse and to concentrate on feel. I have a young horse who has been unspoiled by busy hands and legs, and I have to concentrate on tiny movements because she is sooooo sensitive. As soon as my eyes drop (and they do often) I can feel her getting tense because I’m giving her too many cues.

  7. Kathy on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 2:40 pm
  8. This is great! Made me realize how much I don’t do this. Spatial awareness. In cutting I tend to tunnel in and don’t see the whole picture. I’m going to try this at my next show.

  9. Ron Tussing on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 3:07 pm
  10. Great reminder with good examples. I tell the kids in our Horsemanship group for the underprivileged, “look where you want to go not where you are or at the horse’s neck. You’ll know soon enough if the horse isn’t underneath you anymore.” But I still catch myself doing it just like not sitting up in the saddle which also keeps your eyes looking up. Thanks.

  11. Patti on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 6:03 pm
  12. Great reminder!!!

  13. Andrea on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 6:32 pm
  14. I used this today during warmup before our first competitive trail ride of the season. We had a lot of energy during warmup and once I started to focus more with my eyes on our target, his focus came along with mine! 🙂

  15. Pam Dudek on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 6:33 pm
  16. Love this!!!! I’m working really hard at this and it does make a huge difference!!!

  17. cheryl G on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 6:54 pm
  18. Eyes up looking in the direction you want to go, I love this! Correlates with the previous Intention video. Great tips, Thank You!

  19. Joanne Milton on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 7:23 pm
  20. I was always told that those who look at the ground will eventually get there! I also have my students practice with their eyes up & then tell them to look down. Almost every time, the horse stops instantly. They stop at the point the rider’s eyes look at on the ground.

  21. Lynda Savenkoff on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 7:59 pm
  22. This is SO true! 👍Just yesterday my eyes drifted towards a misbehaving horse. I lost focus & wrecked the maneuver. Lesson learned!! 👍😀🐴

  23. Pamela Robins on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 8:22 pm
  24. I can’t say thank you enough for sharing your wisdom with us. I took a few minutes today before I started riding and I set my intention for my ride and how I was going g to help my mare if she got anxious, we had an amazing ride. I just watched your second video on keeping our eyes up and focused on where we are going, and it is amazing how true that is. Thank you so very much!

  25. Carol MacGregor on Sun, 18th Apr 2021 10:58 pm
  26. Hi Barb, Thank you for this great tip of keeping your eyes up while riding. I appreciated the two examples you had also, with Sarah Dawson (beautiful rider) and Gary Belafonte (sp?). What awesome riders!!! And so are you!! Thank you so much!! 🙂

  27. Renee Racine on Mon, 19th Apr 2021 12:44 am
  28. Hey Barb, Another great video. I just finished a clinic this weekend where the clinician kept telling me to Look where I was going. The thing is that I know this and I know it works but it is so easy to fall in to the habit of looking down. I can never have too many reminders. Thanks again for nailing another great tip!

  29. Stephanie Koiner on Mon, 19th Apr 2021 10:48 am
  30. Great reminder and I loved the video examples! Especially Sarah Dawson. This is something I am continually working on.

  31. Annie on Mon, 19th Apr 2021 11:30 am
  32. So important! I am pretty good at keeping my eyes UP but also have to remind myself how important it is to not let them wander and get distracted by other things going on around me, as that always affects my riding. I try to remind myself “not my circus, not my monkeys” whenever they start to drift.

  33. Karen on Mon, 19th Apr 2021 5:11 pm
  34. It’s amazing how powerful the eyes are. Love how the horse responds to our eyes.

  35. Mary Dodson on Mon, 19th Apr 2021 5:18 pm
  36. Yes! I’ve found this critical in reining. If I don’t look up a quarter circle ahead then my circles are not going to be equal and credit earning. Also, if I look down going to a stop…well that’s a TOTAL DISASTER!!

  37. AJ on Tue, 20th Apr 2021 6:24 pm
  38. So true! I have been guilty of looking at my horse, her ears to see what she’s going to do or what she’s thinking, but when I concentrate on looking up and my riding instead of her, she goes along much better as well. Thanks for your videos!

  39. Patti C on Wed, 21st Apr 2021 1:48 pm
  40. Thank you for a great explanation and reminder!

  41. Patti Chiarelli on Wed, 21st Apr 2021 1:49 pm
  42. Thank you for a great explanation and reminder!

  43. Judy on Sun, 2nd May 2021 6:53 pm
  44. I really have to think about this but I catch myself and remind myself all the time. One day I won’t have to remind myself. It will be second nature. Thank you! Great advice!

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