I thought you might enjoy the opening shot in the my second article in “Horse Illustrated” magazine, which comes out in June, 2012. I got an advance copy and decided to go ahead and post it. This picture is interesting to me because it shows something that is rarely seen in riders today—eyes focused between the ears of the horse. (When I began to look for cover shots for my most recent book, The Complete Guide to Hunter Seat Training, Showing, and Judging, I sorted through thousands of photographs and only found a few in which the riders were looking forward as their horses jumped the fences. If you look at the post just below this one, you’ll see the shot that made the cover, showing Maria Schaub looking forward and slightly to the left as she scopes out a fence on an upcoming turn. The shot that you see pictured above is the opening shot on the title page of the book. I don’t know who this rider is. She was one of many in the files of photographer Bill Johnson and was chosen simply by the merit of her technique.) The importance of the rider’s eyes cannot be stressed enough. If you’re looking forward through the ears of the horse, your weight will be centered, making it easier for both you and the horse to keep your balance. When your face is forward, instead of down, your spine is straighter, allowing you to make subtle adjustments with your back, which is particularly important as you land and balance your horse for the upcoming turn at the end of a line. Most importantly, your mind is where your eyes are! If you’re looking down in the air, you’re thinking about the horse’s feet, the jump rails, the ground, etc.; but if you’re looking forward, you’re thinking about the straightness of your line, how much room you have to collect your horse before the turn, how fast you’re going as you land, etc. Whatever is happening in the air has already been decided several strides before the fence, so you won’t help yourself or your horse by watching the result of your previous decisions. The only way you can improve your performance is to think ahead so that your setup to the next line of fences will be a good one. So make sure that when you jump a fence, you’re looking between the ears of your horse. Who knows…maybe you’ll be the next person on a book cover!