Sunday, June 13, 2010

You'll go where you're looking.

The first time I butted heads with this lesson was when I was a teenager and trail riding with a friend. Part of the trail ran alongside a road, and on the shoulder was a discarded pop can. I didn't want my horse to step on it, so I kept my eye on the thing, trying with all my might to move my horse away from it. Sure enough, we kicked the can. The incident dismayed me enough to stick with me these many years. At the time I couldn't understand what happened. I was a good rider, I used the right aids to move my horse to the side, yet the very thing I was hoping to avoid happened. What went wrong?

It was a little while before I really understood what is essentially a maxim for all riders. Hunter and jumper riders know well the saying, "throw your heart over the fence and the horse will follow." When I was jumping I kept that in mind, since I knew if I looked at the ground in front of the fence I would end up laying on it.

It's a physical thing. We've been balancing on our two feet for a number of years by now, and don't give it much conscious thought. We look in the direction we intend to go and shift our balance accordingly. When we ride, that shift affects the horse's balance far more dramatically due to our center of gravity being higher than the horse's.

Funny that an action as innocuous as looking at something can set your course with such certainty. And you know what? I've learned more magical things about direction of gaze, too. I've learned that if something is scary, you're far better off if you concentrate your vision on where you're intending on going than the terrifying object. I've learned if you stop looking, you lose track of what's happening to your horse, and that starts a snowball of frustration rolling down hill.

I've learned to apply this little technique to the aspects of my life that are separate from what I try to accomplish in the saddle. It goes hand in hand with having a goal--kind of like a support technique. You just have to be careful to look where you want to go, because you'll surely go where you look.


  1. And I've noticed it while driving. Looking off toward your left or right, no matter what, will take you into that direction. Problematic on the interstate. :)

  2. So okay, I will try to be careful of where I look! Good point.

  3. I love that--you'll surely go where you look. Since I have vertigo, I DO stumble when I look aside and I've learned to look mostly straight ahead. When I glance to the side I have to prepare myself. You can create a lot of metaphors from all this. Thanks for a provocative post, Susan!

  4. So true! Great last line. Thanks for the bit of motivation.

  5. Okay, I'm applying this to my writing career and goals, looking where want to go, driving forward. Great article and anecdote. You'll teach me how to ride horses yet, and how to be a successful author.