Monday, May 24, 2010

Where To Look

Since Breathe asked, I figured explaining where to look might be more effective in a post.

The simplest way to explain it, is to simply say, you need to look where you want your horse to go. Just like any other discipline. The most effective way to get your horse to travel from point A to point B is to simply look at point B. It's amazing how effective a person's body becomes at getting a horse into position to travel that distance in the proper frame.

There are two styles of 'The Look' in barrel racing.

The first and probably the most recognized is the old classic style, where the rider runs to the barrel looking between their horse's ears at the rate spot on the pocket. When they get there, it's usually one more stride for the horse to be around the back side of the barrel(when they are all out running), then the rider turns their head and looks at the next barrel.

Like this...

The second style of 'The Look' is more directed at keeping your eyes focused on specific points in front of the horse as he turns the barrel.

Like this...

Either style is effective and correct, but it does depend on the horse you are running. If the style you use is not bringing the horse around the way he needs to be coming, then you need to look into doing something different.

I have seen more than one horse blow completely out of a barrel, the rider is looking at the next barrel and it is very difficult to get your horse back on track.

My problem however, is that I am very good about picking my rate spot, getting my horse there and then rather than using either of the appropriate looking methods, I am simply letting my eyes slide down my horse's neck and fixating them on the top of the barrel.

Similar to this...

Can you see how different this horse is turning the barrel vs. the horse in the first two pictures?

He's dropping his shoulder and bracing into the barrel. The other two horses are bending around the barrel.

It's a bad habit to get into and one that can be a bit difficult to get out of.

A horse will go where your eyes are telling them to go and with me looking down at the barrel, Moon, being the uber broke horse he is, is like 'You want me to roll over more? Okay!' and he is cutting back on top of the barrel. The ducking and diving between the barrels is happening because Moon is cutting to close to the barrel. I have become literally fixated on the top of that barrel and I'm still looking at it as Moon is trying to leave. He has no idea of where to go.

Bad Mommy!!!

A more forgiving or solid horse may not react as much as Moon is to the problem, but this particular horse can go from 0 to 60 in a single stride and simply drop back to 0 in mid-stride. It's one of the things that makes him remarkable. But it does make him difficult, as it gives me little room for error.

Personally, I am more of a fan of the way Charmayne James and Ed & Martha Wright train themselves to look at specific points in front of the horse during the turn, rather than the sideways look, especially during slower than competition speed practice. But it does take more practice to get it right. Rather than try to re-explain it, here is an article written by Charmayne that shows her Axis Point pattern and her philosophy....The Eyes Have It.



Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow. Thanks for explaining this. I've been told this by so many instructors and other folks and somehow it just didn't totally sink in. But your explanation and photos make so much sense and was easier to understand. I may never barrel race, but what you said crosses all levels of riding.

I have this problem sometimes, too, where I stare at the back of my horse's neck instead of where I want her to go. And she will just stop. lol!

I think it stems from the times I spent preparing for the next big blow-up from my previous horse. I was always watching her ears for signs of pissiness, because I knew I was in for a buck, a crow hop, a spin or a bolt.

It's so nice now not to have to be always bracing for the worse while not having to set myself up to argue wiuth my horse all the time. But I do need to work on trusting my horse more and looking where I want her to go, so she understands.....and doesn't have to feel a hole being bored down into her neck from my eyes. lol!

Thanks for this post. I really appreciate it.


Rising Rainbow said...

That's what they teach you in dressage. Look where you want your horse to go. Funny how it all comes down to a few basic principles no matter what you're doing with your horse.

cdncowgirl said...

I am guilt of looking at my barrel as well!! Although I try not to it sometimes creeps in, I have to be really conscious of it when I run. Funny thing though, when I try to look "at the points" a couple of my friends look at the pics and tell me I'm looking at my barrel. I guess for people who are used to the old school "look at your next barrel" method the points method appears wrong in photos.

Leah Fry said...

I have had the same experience as Lisa. I'm definitely going to try this next time. Thanks!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

RR-That is so true. The basics are the basics, no matter what discipline.

Cdn-I think a lot of us do it. If a person is even looking down their horse's neck, it can look like you are looking at the barrel in pictures. I've gotten really bad though as my head is rotating to keep looking at the top of the barrel even as we are leaving it-LOL. I am going to have to practice looking at the next barrel, just to get over staring at the top of the barrel I am on.

Lisa and Leah-I'm glad it may help. It's something a lot of people do. I am guilty of staring down at the shoulders when I am riding greenies.

fernvalley01 said...

Good advice I agree the basics are , " look where you want to go" Interesting how we percieve the disciplines to be so different , yet they often start in the same place

City girl turned Country Girl said...

Great explanation of "the looks"! With DD's old horse he had an extreme sensitivity, she needed to be looking at the next barrel or he would turn way to wide! Still working to see how the new horse will play out! Good luck getting it right for you and Moon!