To me, I am astonished at how simple eye movements alone can influence where you go. But then, I think about one of my favourite books, The Art of Racing in the Rain. (Stick with me here)... the book is partially about racing cars, and it is noted that "the car goes where the eyes go". I've heard this about many things; cars, baseball, football (soccer), American football, etc. So I suppose honestly it's not that much of a surprise to hear that "the horse goes where the eye goes". I am astonished, however, at how minute the movement can be to totally throw off your chance of winning.
Very interesting - though I'd be interested to see how other variables affect eye movement, like the height of the jumps or how familiar the rider is with the horse. I would also like to see if it's something that improves over time as a rider gets more experience, or if it just varies from rider to rider. They mention that the most experienced rider has less "back and forth" glances, but I wonder if it's something they've developed or if they're gifted with a more natural eye and that's how they got to be a highly competitive rider. Also, I wonder how good those jumps were. If a rider can fixate on a fence 5 seconds out, that's great, but if they botch the distance it doesn't really matter how impressive their eye movement was. Whereas a rider that glances back and forth a lot might seem more nervous but get a beautiful distance every time.
kahhull, you have excellent points. I've always heard to look for the next jump before you've even landed really, to get your horse tilting towards the right lead, and to set up for the next fence. However, I find that to judge distance appropriately, you need to look around a bit for reference points.
When I read this article, Ian Millar comes to mind. I'd like to ask him a few questions about his 'looking' techniques :P