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Why Do Riders So Often Look Down In The Air Over A Jump

Panel Expert: Bernie Traurig

Submitted by member: Tracey

Please enlighten me. I just saw another picture of a top hunter rider going over a jump looking at the ground. Why? We are all taught to look up, and it usually makes a nicer jump.  Are they trying to make the judge think their horse is so wonderful it doesn’t need the rider to look where he is going? Why do they do this?

Answer by Bernie

I am always happy to have someone bring our attention back to details, and in particular to good basics. I agree with you that the correct position of the rider (hunter or otherwise) would include the eyes looking up and ahead over the top of the fence. For me this not only encourages the horse to make a slower, higher and better jump, but it also encourages the rider to rely on and develop their “feel.”

I feel that most top hunter riders do in fact keep their eyes up and ahead most of the time and hope that a good portion of the photographs you refer to are unfortunate exceptions to the rule and not the “norm.” I do feel very confident that if this is happening with our top professionals, it is not because they are purposely dropping their eyes in the air to demonstrate anything in particular about their horses jumping ability, but would more than likely be related to being rushed or pressured in some way and letting the details slip temporarily. As I judge around the country, I am constantly reminded just how well our top hunter riders ride, and in particular how truly exceptional the positions of the top riders are. I am impressed by just how much these riders are able to pay so much attention to so many details in spite of their busy schedules.

I think it is important for all of us to realize that while a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture is also just one very brief moment in time. I am sure that as these top professionals see the same photographs showing their eyes down in the air that they make a mental note of this and go to work to correct the temporary lapse in their basics.

EquestrianCoach guest coach Peter Pletcher topic, “Unnecessary Drama” examines some of the fads, like riders over exaggerating their gestures, that seem to permeate the hunter division. Click here to view the video topic “Unnecessary Drama”.

The image in this post is of EquestrianCoach guest coach Cynthia Hankins demonstrating a rider who is “ducking” and has their eyes down. She discusses common bad habits like this that she has seen as a judge in her topic called, “Form Follows Function Over Fences” and how to avoid these type of habits riders inadvertently acquire. Click here to view “Form Follows Function Over Fences.” 

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Geoff Teall

Geoff Teall is one of the leading Hunter and Hunt Seat Equitation trainers in the country. Horses and riders who have trained with Geoff have gone on to win championships, medals and ribbons at major events including Devon, the AHSA Medal Finals, the ASPCA Maclay Finals, the Capital Challenge, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, the USET Talent Search, and the National Horse Show. Geoff is an "R" judge for both Hunters and Hunt Seat Equitation. In addition to training and judging he also offers his expert coaching through virtual training. To learn more from Geoff Teall Virtual Training on Facebook and Instagram.

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