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TRAINERS - HELP. How to get rider's eye up over fences

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  • TRAINERS - HELP. How to get rider's eye up over fences

    I have a talented 9 year old rider who is currently showing in the Pre-Children's Pony Hunters. She does awesome for her age. Her biggest issue is looking down right in front of her jump and ducking a bit. Everytime she does it, her pony chips in or will duck out. We've talked about it, done gymnastics, I've stood at the end of the line and had her focus on me but she doesn't understand (or believe despite many pictures) that she does it. How can I help her fix it?
    Life is hard. After all, it kills you. - K. Hepburn

  • #2
    I always stand at the end of the arena - after the jump - and make them guess how many fingers I'm holding up. If she can't guess the correct number, then she isn't looking up.

    It's also important though to get to the root cause of her bad habits. Is she looking down because base of support needs to be stronger? Are her heels coming up, causing her to duck? Is it a confidence issue? Or maybe she just needs to develop her eye for seeing the distance? Figuring out why she is ducking and looking down will help you decide how to best fix her habits.
    The Equine Wellness and Nutrition FB Group - Come join us!!


    • #3
      I did this for many years when I rode as a junior! While I am not a trainer, just an ammy, I can tell you what has helped me. My trainer has me focus on something beyond the jump, a beam in the indoor, hay, something OTHER than the jump. When I am over that jump I look to my next jump and as I turn to it I find another "focal point". If she is only 9 (and I'm assuming you are indoors) you could put posters up, or big numbers to focus on? Anything but focusing on the jump!
      I remember doing this and the more the horse would stop (because of my looking DOWN on the fence) I would do it more. I had to really retrain myself. And as an adult I try not to even look at the jump3 or 4 strides into the line! HTH's


      • Original Poster

        Freebird - I'm trying to figure out why. Her base of support is excellent, as is her release. She'll jump around a 2' course bareback with no problem, and then she keeps her eye up. It's almost like it's out of unintentional laziness. When she can rely on her saddle to keep her balance, she leans a bit to the left and drops that eye. I've tried giving her points around the ring to look at (house, tree, car, mom, me, etc) doesn't help. She gets 2 strides out drops her eye and loses her distance. It's particularly bad at shows when she's under pressure. She doesn't look at the jump, but rather at the dirt right on the other side.

        She tries so hard and wants to do so well. And this is the biggest thing that's holding her back.

        I've also tried exercises of turning in the air to get her to look to the side or find other things to focus on. I'm hoping some of it she will simply outgrow.

        Here she is doing it the right way:




        I will have to see if I can find some shots online of her dropping her eye
        Life is hard. After all, it kills you. - K. Hepburn


        • #5
          In addition to the above suggestions, you could also have the student close her eyes 1-2 strides before and over the fence (or pole on ground (grabbing neck strap or mane to start)) so they get the feeling that looking is unnecessary. I would do this if they can't control the compulsion to drop their eyes.

          ETA - based on your additional info above I would tend to guess that she is leaning heavy-ier in one stirrup when riding with the saddle with stirrups and\or has one side that dominates and compensates for the weaker side and is not totally straight. When she gets nervous her body probably tenses even more throwing her weight distribution off even more and bringing out the bad habit. Pay attention to any slight twists in her body, she may benefit from some chiropractic or pilates. Most riders ride better without stirrups - look at the difference between without and with and work to correct the difference.


          • Original Poster

            Donkey, you are exactly right. She wants to lean left. It's been something we've been trying to work with for the last 2 years. I've been trying to get mom to take her to the chiropractor, but she doesn't believe me that it could be the source of her problems. Her old pony bucked her off so hard so many times I wouldn't doubt it. This is the side she ducks/looks down too and also the side the pony likes to duck out to. It's a vicious circle when it gets started.
            Life is hard. After all, it kills you. - K. Hepburn


            • #7
              Originally posted by sanctuary View Post
              Donkey, you are exactly right. She wants to lean left. It's been something we've been trying to work with for the last 2 years. I've been trying to get mom to take her to the chiropractor, but she doesn't believe me that it could be the source of her problems. Her old pony bucked her off so hard so many times I wouldn't doubt it. This is the side she ducks/looks down too and also the side the pony likes to duck out to. It's a vicious circle when it gets started.
              I understand that not everyone is a fan of chiropractics. I do know one previously very crooked young rider who spent time working with a pilates instructor (11 or 12ish at the time) . It made an enormous difference in their straightness. Once the parents saw the change (and realized their daughter was really crooked) they started sending her to a chiropractor. This was also a kid that had spent an awful lot of time in the dirt in their early riding years

              Crooked aside - cross training can be very beneficial and is worth a try to relieve the frustration of a 2 year struggle. Sell it as an athletic advantage instead of a personal defect.


              • #8
                Just wanted to add that riding without the stirrup she leans on (while working on the eye excercises) could help.


                • #9
                  You say she thinks that she is looking up, right? Maybe her eyes are looking up, but her chin is dropping. This my biggest problem, I thought I was looing up untill I saw pictures.. Instead of telling her to look up, tell her to raise her chin up. You can lightly tapor/tie the hair on the base of her neck to the back of her shirt. It won't rip the hair out, but it will let her know when and how much she really is dropping her head.


                  • #10
                    I can't offer any suggestions, but I would get along with this rider really well as I do the same thing.
                    I have improved with constant direction to look up, but I wouldn't even realize I was doing it. I was worse at shows. We figured out it is what I tend to do when I am concentrating (move into my own little world)


                    • #11
                      My students are DRILLED on looking down the line into the corners. Three things that are "pet peeves" of mine are looking down, jumping ahead and cutting corners! All students go thru each of these thigns it seems and just consistently working on it, yell at them (in a nice way!) at the base of the fence. I tell my students before lessons and before schooling at shows, that if I yell it is just so they can hear me, not because I am mad! But sometimes you have to be VERY LOUD and make sure they hear you. Also getting them doing other things like counting strides OUT LOUD makes them focus on something else and the problems seem to straighten out then.


                      • #12
                        neck brace.
                        Instead of a chiropractor, what about a physiotherapist?

                        If you are talking to her about something that may challenge her or make her a little uncomfortable does she also look down in that way (while standing)? It could be how she shows she is nervous.
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • #13
                          Fix looking down:
                          Get a pair of sunglasses and place black electrical tape over the lenses, leaving only a small slit to see out of. Have the rider start with them on the flat (they are a bit strange at first) and then over fences. You can't look down with these on! It might sound a bit strange but it works.


                          • #14
                            I used to tip forward/throw my body at the jumps when I was about 10. My trainer had a tricky little Arab pony named Larry who WOULD NOT JUMP if his rider tipped their upper body. He had NO neck and was a spindly little thing, so if you made his job any harder than it already was he said a resounding "NO". I approached the same jump, the same way three times in a row. And three times IN A ROW Larry stopped, dropped his shoulder and planted me at the base of the fence. AND each time I approached the fence my trainer shouted, "BODY BAAAAAAACK!" Anybody who knows Peter Kennedy at Stanley Luke Farm has heard his growling even from some distance away!
                            I thought I was keeping my body where it belonged, but by the fourth approach it had dawned on me that Larry wasn't going to do it MY way and that I had better keep my body well back. Larry and I got on famously after that and I haven't jumped up a horse's neck since.
                            I'm not saying find a pony that will dump the kid when she looks down and ducks, but maybe her ducking would be more obvious to her on another mount?
                            "Absent a correct diagnosis, medicine is poison, surgery is trauma and alternative therapy is witchcraft" A. Kent Allen


                            • #15
                              I ave a kid that does this constantly and the pony stops when she looks down. SO after giving her things to focus on etc. it was still happening always at the first fence. AFter working with repeted ly for awhile to get over the first fence in frustation, I made a new rule for her. If you stop at the first fence you dont jump any more that day. This has worked for this kid. she new what she was doing and wasn't trying to fix it. But when this rule was implemented she started riding to the first fence and not being a passenger. Yes I thought I was being really mean but my school pony was being messed up and we were getting no progress. Just an idea might not work with you student and her personality.


                              • #16
                                I don't have a real suggestion, except when I read the OP I had this sudden vision of the trainer doing something to make the child look up at the next jump as she jumped this one. Nothing except to give her a dollar for every time she reads the correct number you flash on a card for just an instant - only briefly just as she jumps - and you're standing in the middle of the next jump with the number. If she doesn't look up and at the next jump, she misses the number you held up. And you deduct a dollar from her.

                                Hell. She could earn twelve dollars in one practice round. Hell. If she was clever, she could get her lessons for free.
                                Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                                • #17
                                  I would spend a few lessons making her jump without her hands (and make her hold them differently, out to the side, behind her head etc as you call out before the jump), without stirrups (especially that left one!), and with her eyes closed. If the pony is not very trustworthy make sure he is on the lunge.

                                  This will help her be able to use her body independently and can help you figure out where the problem may be. Good luck!


                                  • #18
                                    from a sport psychology point of view, your student may literally be "looking for a soft spot to land in".

                                    the late ronnie mutch always threw down something in front of the middle of jump at the take off and told us to ride to it. alternately, he would put a rock ( or something , usually his cigarette pack if it was almost empty) on top of the rail in the center and dare us to knock it down. if your student is a visual learner this will work well.

                                    you also need to explain another mutchism..... the horse follows your aids, your hands follow your eyes. she is involuntarily tugging on the right rein when she looks down and right. have her get on her bike and try to ride in a straight line looking to the right handlebar. its impossible. also have her wheel a barrow in a straight line looking at the right side...preferably on a raked path with a straight line to demonstrate the wobble visually.

                                    lots of exercises like the circle of death ( modified to fit her level) going to the Left will also help to exaggerate the look Left and center her. also you can make an exercise after the jump which she cannot perform without eyes correct. my favorite is a single 18" flower box set about 4-5 strides steadying strides after the jump.

                                    you can never teach someone to do something with words better than a situation based demonstration of the deficit can do. since you describe your little student as in denial or dubious of this defect you must demonstrate to her that she is doing so by a more simple graphic approach.


                                    • #19
                                      You might find the book "Reaching the Animal Mind" by Karen Pryor worth a read. She talks about a gymnastics teacher using a clicker to teach the girls where vertical is on a handstand. The human voice takes too long to communicate and process to get the perfect vertical moment; the click is instant and it seems to feed into the neurology better. (They are calling it "TagTeach.")

                                      Your 9 year old may think she's doing it and may not be aware that she's not. A click might be useful, that she only gets a click when her head is in the right position, may allow her to process the varying bits of her body better.


                                      If you watch the video at the end, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects is the way the girls keep adjusting their body in the final salute and don't walk off until they get their click. That's what you need, for your student to know for certain when she has it and to keep adjusting her head when she doesn't.

                                      I also love the idea of having her have to process how many fingers you have and to perhaps keep changing them so she has to give you a two or three digit number. You might want to start with poles between a pair of standards so she doesn't feel at risk. That kind of processing will not only help her riding but develop her mind in a lot of valuable ways.
                                      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                                      • #20
                                        Warning - I'm about to post a REALLY embarrassing picture of myself on the internet!!
                                        Disclaimer - I am not a trainer, just the "victim" of a trainer

                                        My trainers extreme method of how to fix looking down...

                                        you basically take a full roll of toilet paper & string a polo wrap through it. Tie polo wrap around victim (oh, wait... Child's) neck & wha la, no way to look down...
                                        Last edited by RomeosGirl; Nov. 10, 2010, 05:11 PM. Reason: more explaination
                                        Life is hard. Buy a freaking helmet.
                                        Originally posted by meupatdoes
                                        Whatever, go gallop.