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How to Stop Staring At The Fences!

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  • How to Stop Staring At The Fences!

    UGH.

    I've developed a really awful habit of staring at jumps. I seem to get hyper-focused on finding a distance, stare at the fence, tip my shoulder and drop my eye JUST A BIT, and my super-sensitive pony takes that to mean that I'm not ready to jump, so he stops. Homeboy has a great sense of self-preservation, which is sometimes a good thing, but he takes any hesitation from me VERY seriously. I've perfected the flip-over-the-pony's-head move.

    I ride alone most of the time and don't have the resources to work regularly with a trainer, but have requested that a couple riding friends of mine come out and yell at me to LOOK UP when I'm jumping around!

    We are not jumping high, probably around 2'6 at the max at this point, so it's not like I have to find the absolute perfect spot every time! We were jumping 3'-3'3 last year around this time, and I'd love to get back up to that height again, but not until I fix this issue!! Pony will jump from ANYWHERE if I just ASK HIM.

    This is just so frustrating!! Does anyone have any tips to get my eye UP and ride OVER the fence?? Many thanks!
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE

  • #2
    if he's trustworthy you can close your eyes to the fence, if you can't see it, you can't lean to it
    if you can't close your eyes you can also put/find things out in the distance (like trees or orange cones) and stare at it until you're sailing over the fence
    you might also want to try one of those shoulders back things
    My Horse Show Photography/ Blog

    Comment


    • #3
      This actually sounds exactly like my problems, the horse is sensitive enough that if you're unsure, he stops. What has helped me is A. Always first trotting the jump, then B. at the lower heights stop looking for a distance. Just keep a pace and let the jump come naturally to you. At 2'6" you can start sort of looking, but often if you don't see anything the best thing to do is look above the fence and then look back to see if something comes up. The natural reaction to not seeing a distance is to panic and for a lot of people, look straight down at the fence until you see something or you're on top of the fence. I also practice looking at the treetops on the other side of the jump and even having someone stand on the other side of the fence after the jump and hold up fingers for me to count. Always leg a little and support at the base. If you just drop the pony, then you've got nothing to work off of. Honestly, it's mostly a mental thing and not a physical problem, just thinking "look up" to yourself for the entire ride will help in every aspect of your training. I also find singing to myself to help me.
      Mendokuse

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by hunterrider23 View Post
        This actually sounds exactly like my problems, the horse is sensitive enough that if you're unsure, he stops. What has helped me is A. Always first trotting the jump, then B. at the lower heights stop looking for a distance. Just keep a pace and let the jump come naturally to you. At 2'6" you can start sort of looking, but often if you don't see anything the best thing to do is look above the fence and then look back to see if something comes up. The natural reaction to not seeing a distance is to panic and for a lot of people, look straight down at the fence until you see something or you're on top of the fence. I also practice looking at the treetops on the other side of the jump and even having someone stand on the other side of the fence after the jump and hold up fingers for me to count. Always leg a little and support at the base. If you just drop the pony, then you've got nothing to work off of. Honestly, it's mostly a mental thing and not a physical problem, just thinking "look up" to yourself for the entire ride will help in every aspect of your training. I also find singing to myself to help me.
        This made so much sense to me. THANK YOU.
        Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

        PONY'TUDE

        Comment


        • #5
          Find an object straight ahead and past the fence and lock in on it. Some people will actually find it helpful to place a glove on the top rail and hone in on that. There was an article in (I think) Practical Horsemen about this technique. But I think the most tried and true way to "find" a distance is to stop looking for it all together. A consistant forward pace is usually the answer. Maybe this article will help you.
          http://www.equisearch.com/horses_rid...ping-distance/

          Comment


          • #6
            when i had this problem when i started jumping a little bigger, my trainers would tell me to lift my chin a step or two out from the jump. it never failed to eliminate the dropping eyes issue=]

            Comment


            • #7
              Can you ride another horse for a few lessons? Hunterrider23's advice is good, but it would be best if you could practice it on a horse who you KNOW is going to jump no matter what. Once you add in the risk of a stop to the equation, it can really affect your riding for the worse—and not give you a chance to work on you.

              (I used to have the opposite problem—staring off into space ahead of the jump, ha.)

              Comment


              • #8
                I would probably be inclined to approach this a little differently. I don't think it's so much as a bad habit as much as I think the root problem is a confidence issue about the distances. This is why you hyper focus, drop the eyes, and get tentative, causing the stop.

                2 things. Remember that distances at the lower levels do not need to be perfect. The horse doesn't know that you weren't asking for the chip unless you tell him. Someone once told me that the difference between the chip and the quiet one is the confidence and balance you ride with to it. Music to my ears!

                It's always better to make a choice than to do nothing, because you can learn from making bad choices, while you can't learn from doing nothing. You have to be willing to be wrong and be willing to go for it if you aren't sure, and you must practice having this confidence.

                Which leads to the second thing:

                It's a skill. Weak skills cause confidence issues. Practice, practice, practice. I don't have the most natural eye in the world. Greg Best told me I should be cantering a minimum of 25 jumps or poles every time I ride. One of the most top hunter riders in the country said that her eye will get rusty if she takes a week off.

                Since you're not working with a coach, I would stop jumping for now and set canter poles that you do every.single.ride during your canter work.

                Once that is feeling comfortable, my favorite exercise to improve my eye (also from Greg) is to set a pole 60 feet from a jump, with another pole 60 feet after (four even strides before and after the jump). Do this several times every ride, and after a couple weeks, you'll begin to understand what 4 strides away feels like. Then once the pole isn't there, you'll start to know "ok I'm four strides away" and be able to make small adjustments as needed. (This also helps the horse develop the consistency and straightness he needs before/after the jumps to make the distances and consistency possible - it's half his job too!).

                Hope that helps!
                It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)

                Comment


                • #9
                  I would try to get in the habit of, instead of picking away at the stride when you don't see anything, relax the hand and push the horse forward. Easier said than done but 99% of the time if you don't see anything, if you push forward the distance will pop up.

                  I am one of those who can't "see" a distance really. I've never really been able to. But I can FEEL if the striding is off once I know the horse I'm riding's pace. The idea is not to wait for a distance to appear but instead leg up to make one for yourself.

                  Pick a spot on the line of the fence at the far end of the ring/pasture/whatever you're riding in. Once you've turned the corner onto the line, close your leg a little, focus on your object, and don't look at anything else. Put your horse in the channel between your two hands and two legs, and just look at your object. This is also a good exercise to keep you from getting ahead of your horse.

                  And really, one thing to consider: if you miss, so what? your horse takes a bit of a flyer or gets deep and it's a little ugly. Over 2'6, it really doesn't matter-- that is not a lot of effort for most horses. If you mess up, give him a pat and a little more leg the next time around. It is better than teaching him to quit.
                  Originally posted by PeanutButterPony
                  you can shackle your pony to a lawn chair at the show...so long as its in a conservative color.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I second the idea of having a focal point beyond the jump. Instead of arbitrarily "looking up" either look at the next jump (in a line) or at a particular spot on the rail of the arena. For my students last week I pulled flowers out of the flower boxes and stuck them in the fence so instead of just saying "eyes up!" I could tell them where to look, "pink flowers!!!" Start with poles on the ground, very low fences, or trotting, to reinforce the new behavior without the actual jump being a challenge. Work your way up from there. Happy riding!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      One thing to remember about distances is that you will never be able to see distances without having a rhytmical canter. This means that all of your canter steps are completely the same length all the way to the fence. Practice cantering to small fences and maintaing a rhythm through the turn and to your fence. Look at a focal point straight ahead and just concentrate on your rhythm. You'll find that if you stay true to your rhythm, you'll miss less often and you'll begin to feel when you need to lengthen or shorten within the rhythm to fix your distance.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        OP - I just got back from a lesson where I was dealing with this exact problem!

                        I've been sick and haven't done much riding for a couple of months. But I am finally starting to get back to work! However, because I can't - nor have I ever been able to - reliably see a distance, I rely on the rhythm of the canter to make the jump nice. When I remember this, and support my horse all the way to the jump, we look really nice. Unfortunately, coming back after time off means that I lack confidence. I try to see the distance, focus only on the fence, jump ahead of and behind the horse - all of the nonsense that causes me to fall forward, stop supporting my horse, and inevitably end up with a chip or a really ugly landing.

                        Anyway, after a couple of awful looking jumps today, I started counting off the rhythm of the canter (ba-da-bump, ba-da-bump, ba-da-bump) and kept repeating "look-up" as we went around the ring. It worked and our jumping improved. We were going over smallish jumps (about 2'3" to 2'6") so I think my horse was just glad for the consistent ride and took care of the distance.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Also try not to take lots of days off, and on days you don't jump, use poles when possible. I took a little bit off jumping after a heavy show circuit and my eye was awful when came back. And to be quite honest, before the time taken off, I had a naturally good eye and almost never missed.
                          Mendokuse

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by hunterrider23 View Post
                            Also try not to take lots of days off, and on days you don't jump, use poles when possible. I took a little bit off jumping after a heavy show circuit and my eye was awful when came back. And to be quite honest, before the time taken off, I had a naturally good eye and almost never missed.
                            I completely agree!!!!! A couple of times, I've take a week or so off and both times I returned to nothing but frustration!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by caradino View Post
                              I've perfected the flip-over-the-pony's-head move.
                              Ah yes, the lawn dart, I am very familiar with this move. At one point I had nearly perfected it myself. I have gotten MUCH better after riding a few of the horses like your pony.

                              I make sure I have a nice consistent pace all. the. way. to. the. fence. Not only is the pace consistent but I try to keep my horse round and working from behind all the way there. If I focus on this, I usually don't mess with the distance at all. I would recommend this approach to you but in addition, look up about 4 strides out. I think if you do this, you won't be able to lean forward right before the fence.

                              For whatever reason, I'm actually better when I haven't ridden/jumped in a while or when I have never jumped the course before. I attribute it to my tendency to over-analyze EVERYTHING. I'm an engineer, I can't help it.
                              "Be the change you want to see in the world."
                              ~Mahatma Gandhi

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I know you said you usually ride alone, but if you can drag a friend/SO out to the barn (bonus this person does not need to be horsey) then he/she might be able to help you with a simple exercise.

                                Have your assistant stand on the other side of the fence, quite a bit away from your landing spot so you don't trample the person, but still in line with the center of the jump. Then have your assistant raise his/her hand and start holding up different finger configurations (for example 3 fingers, 5 fingers, 2 fingers, etc.) and have your assistant change the configuration every couple of seconds. Every time you assistant changes the # of fingers he/she is holding you have to shout out the number of fingers on display. Do this right before, during, and after you go over a jump.


                                The great thing about this exercise is that since the # of fingers is always changing and you must shout out the number every few seconds, you really must keep your eyes on your assistants hand. I prefer this exercise to keeping my eyes on a fixed object because it's easier to cheat and look down at the jump when all I'm supposed to do is look at a stationary object.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I used to have an issue with fences that had a really long approach, and as I freaked out looking for a distance I got slower and slower, which of course made everything worse. So the two fixes were 1) fixed my canter, got more forward and maintained that rhythm no matter what (count my rhythm in fours) and 2) on a long approach I don't look for a distance until I get to the last few strides, I just look at my line through the fence and beyond, so my vision is focused beyond the fence, then as we get close I shift my vision back to the top rail and when I see my distance I shift my eyes again back beyond the fence (or to the next fence, whichever makes sense). I could not have fixed this without my trainers help!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Also (sorry to have three whole posts on this), get your eyes checked. Part of my problem was that my depth perception was majorly screwed over by illy fit and wrong perscription contacts.
                                    Mendokuse

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      THANK YOU everyone for the fantastic tips and advice!! My husband is coming out to ride with me tonight, so I will put some of your techniques to the test and report back.
                                      Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                                      PONY'TUDE

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        This may sound silly.. But a million and a half years ago when I was a JR. ( aka 1978-1982), I was given a very simple way to keep my eyes up,

                                        When you look between your horses ears pretend that (someone famous and cuite) is dancing there nicked just for you and you don't want to miss a second. It worked on older<teen> girls who were boy crazy. IT still works just the famous person of way back is now saggy in parts he wasn't almost 30yrs ago...
                                        Friend of bar .ka

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