Sunday, May 15, 2022

Your Vision On The Trail

We pay attention to our hands, legs, seat, and heels, but too few trail riders pay attention to their use of their eyes when riding on the trail.

If you want to learn more about vision, perception, and balance study the work of Dr. Andrew Huberman. If you are new to using the concept of visual focus to assist both in accurate perception of your environment and in relaxation during movement, you can start by noticing how your horse responds to the way that you respond  to what you are seeing while riding.

When I initiate a turn to either side, I first focus all of my attention on a spot the size of my thumbnail in the direction in which I want the horse to go. I look with the exact same intensity as if I were aiming a rifle at that spot. The intensity of my focus is such that I nearly completely loose the perception of anything except for that spot, until the horse begins its turn. When going through difficult terrain I look, with much less focus, about 10 yards ahead of me. Doing so helps the horse bring more attention to its footing. 

In difficult terrain I do not look at the area that is but a few inches from the horse's front feet. If I do that my horses tense up and loose much of their impulsion. 

When the horse is moving well my vision is diffuse so as to absorb the movements around me. Looking ahead, in the direction in which I want to go, without intensely focusing on a small spot, helps me notice potential dangers along the trail. In that mode I am more relaxed and my horse follows suit. 

Please understand that I am not suggesting that I could hop on a horse that did not know me and realistically expect it to respond to my body's response to how I employ my vision. But the horses that I ride as a regular course of action, especially if they are rarely ridden by others, are nearly as affected by my use of my vision as they are by my use of leg cues. 

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