In The Saddle
Look Where You Are Going!!
Sounds pretty obvious doesn't it? But it's a lot harder than it sounds, we have so much to think about as riders, remembering to look up can be last in this list and happening far too late. Read on...
Hi everyone, I'm really excited to right my first article for the Equestrian Advisor.
My name is Craig Dillon, I'm 33 and I’m a Level 3 British Show Jumping Coach. I mainly help show jumpers but have clients who enjoy dressage, eventing and even Le Trec competitions! so the varied disciplines definitely keep me on my toes!
I've been asked to write a monthly article to cover my thoughts as a coach and include some exercises that will hopefully be useful to Equestrian Advisor's readers. It’s exciting but I’m quickly realising it’s also a daunting task…. Where do I start in the vast subject of equines and their riders?!? This topic has taken inspiration from some training that I’ve found myself doing with a lot of riders lately. So, I hope people will find this useful or at the very least get you thinking.
Look Where You Are Going
Sounds pretty obvious doesn't it? But it's a lot harder than it sounds, we have so much to think about as riders, remembering to look up can be last in this list and happening far too late.
Why is it so hard?
It's human nature to look at what you're concentrating on. This more often than not is the horses way of going e.g. "is it going straight" , "oh no it's head isn't in a 'pretty' place" (<-- I'll discuss that another day), "my horse is going so fast/ won’t do as it’s told!"... And plenty more things.
Instead, if you can feel what is happening underneath you, whilst looking at your next fence you’re able to absorb so much more information. More information means more informed decisions… Better decisions!
That can take some getting used to and I'll give you some exercises that will hopefully help you to find that easier.
Why is this so important? There's plenty of other stuff to think about!
Yes there's loads of other stuff to think about to do with your position, the horses way of going, rythnm balance and plenty more! But all that gets a lot easier when your eyes are up and you can feel what is happening. You are getting tons of information, you can see where your next fence is, if you're on a good line, distance and speed. The back of your horses ears and the colour of it’s mane won't tell you any of this!
Ok….. so how do I make this easier?
Always start simple and work your way up. You can use dressage markers in your warm up. As your entering your FA corner you've already looked into this corner and should now be looking over to K and similarly as you pass A you start to look into your HC corner. Trust in your peripheral vision to decide how close to the arena edge your are. There's no need to look down at the edge! (or the horses ears!)
That's a simple example that just shows how far ahead I try to plan, you'll want to mix it up pretty quickly and challenge yourself on a 20m circle always looking at the opposite side of the circle. Or a change of rein across the long diagonal KXM but looking for your diaganol line long before the KA corner. There’s loads more examples, only limited by your imagination!
That's boring I want jump!
Well… How about poles first? Remember most jumping exercise can be replicated by poles on the ground. It gives you and your horse chance to learn new techniques and exercises without the pressure of jumps. Once you're nailing those poles, jumps will be a lot easier. I've sketched out two few different exercises below for you to look at and try... Or even better, inspire your own lines!
*** grid examples ***
As with any topic or training in the equine arena, there is very rarely only one way to achieve your goals. This is simply something to consider. You might take this to your coach or instructor and they might tell you that this isn’t something to work on right now, that’s great because they’ve taken your individual training journey into consideration. But it might still be a useful tool to you one day so I hope you find it helpful.