The following simple exercise can be used for all levels of independent riders in a variety of settings and seats ranging from a pole on the ground to a jump.
This Simple Exercise has Multiple Benefits
How often do we teach riders to look at an inanimate object as they ride a line or direction? Doing this often causes a rider to ‘zone out’. In this simple exercise the rider will focus their eyes on your eyes which will help rider to feel what is happening with their horse and will allow the instructor to see the minute the rider weakens and looks away. The exercise build confidence, helps concentration, helps to develop feel and rhythm.
You will instruct your student to ride over an obstacle while focusing on your eyes. This can worry the student who wants to look at what they will ride over, so challenge them to focus on you. If you choose to use a jump make it simple and easy. We’re not testing jumping ability with this lesson. We’re challenging focus and hoping to encourage our students to ride by feel instead of eyesight. Be sure to choose an obstacle that suits your student’s riding level.
The student will connect eyes with you and ride toward the obstacle. They will keep their eyes on your eyes until they pass you. After passing you the student will look into the direction they are traveling.
In order to keep horses from cutting corners have students pass to the outside of the instructor. Since you will face the student, the left rein student should pass you left shoulder to left shoulder. The right rein student will pass you right shoulder to right shoulder.
For Safety Keep it Simple
Keep it simple especially when it’s your student’s first try. Keep the gait slow and the obstacle easy.
Plan to do the exercise one student at a time. If you have a group lesson be sure to have an assistant present to help keep students organized. If you keep them well spaced students can come one right after the other as long as you have time to get there eye contact.
What if I My Students Don’t Jump?
You can use this exercise in western lessons, for dressage riders, and for saddle seat merely by using a pole on the ground rather than a jump If your horse are not used to a single pole be sure to school them to the pole before teaching the exercise to students.
This can be done at a walk, sitting trot, jog trot, canter or lope but be sure to consider your student’s level.
Begin By standing 20-30 feet opposite your student. See illustration #1. It would be the same even if you were using a pole on the ground.
On each successive pass move a little more to the side as shown in illustrations 2 and 3. You can move as little or as much as you think is warranted for your student. Be sure to do both sides and also change direction.
The horses in illustrations 2 and 3 represent one student in multiple progressive spots. It doesn’t represent multiple students.
There you have it. A simple riding exercise to teach to students.
Here’s to great lessons and even better students!
Barbara Ellin Fox