Ten Reasons Why You Should Look Up When You Ride

Ten Reasons Why You Should Look Up When You Ride

Horse Riding Looking upThere was an old poem that my grandmother used to tell me about holding my head high and always looking between the horse’s ears when I rode.

While I can’t remember the poem (and I don’t agree with ALWAYS looking between the horse’s ears), I do agree that the habit of looking up is certainly one that will influence riding ability.

Listed below are 10 reasons why looking up will positively influence your (or your students’) riding ability.

  1. To see other riders and horses
    Have you ever been at a competition or riding in a crowded area and had to avoid riders who are looking down. They are probably lucky that you have been considerate enough to avoid them, but watch for long enough and they will have a collision or near collision with another rider who is looking down.
  2. Accuracy within the arena/ riding area
    Many competitions require the horse to be ridden accurately for a higher score. As you are riding around the arena/ riding area, looking up and towards the next point and the one beyond will assist in your accuracy
  3. Possible danger coming from outside the arena
    Looking beyond the arena is also a requirement of safe riding. This broader view could see a vehicle with a flapping tarpaulin, a pack of dogs or an out of control rider approaching the area where you ride. Knowing this in advance could prevent an accident
  4. To feel the energy
    You shouldn’t need to look at your horse’s head to know they are going forward. This is a feel exercise and best done with you head up so you can best feel the amount of energy your horse is creating.
  5. To see the straightness
    When you are riding with mirrors in your arena, you should regularly check your horse’s way of going, in particular straightness. Even without mirrors, you should be able to feel straightness. A quick check is to look over your right shoulder, then look over your left shoulder and you should see the same amount of rump on both sides. There is more to straightness than this simple exercise, but it is a good one to get started.
  6. To feel the straightness
    As you develop your feel and maintain your centre of balance, you will feel if you horse is straight. You will not feel the same in the saddle on a crooked horse. This feel is developed when you are looking up
  7. To avoid crookedness
    When you head is down, it is usually tilted in some way. This crookedness in the rider is compensated by the horse is some way,usually resulting in crookedness is some way.
  8. 10% of body’s weight
    Your head is about 10% of your body weight. Sitting in the correct position in the saddle is not enough when you head is down and forward, putting more weight onto the horse’s forehand.
  9. Correct position
    There are many styles of riding, and we may talk about the position of ear, shoulder, hip and heel when the rider is riding in a straight line in a classical sense.In some competitions you will be scored higher for having a correct position and I am unaware of any style of riding where looking down is the correct position of the rider.
  10. To minimize jumping refusals
    Have you ever been to a jumping competition, particular with young/ beginner riders? Notice how many times the horse refuses in relation to the rider looking down. Many riders focus on the jump instead of beyond the jump and end up looking down as the horse approaches the jump. The simple correction of looking beyond the jump as the rider approaches will minimize jumping refusals.

Has this encouraged you to look up when you are riding?

There are many other reasons why looking up will influence your riding ability, why don’t you list them below?



  1. Very important to look up – most of the time doing anything! Looking up can affect your position greatly. I use peripheral vision mostly though so I can make sure I’m not going to crash into someone/something else.

  2. Kiana Jane Gibbon says:

    So true! I had a friend that had trouble with her pony refusing at jumps so I watched her ride to help her and instantly realised that she was looking down. The simple correction made all the difference.

  3. Jolene Bounday says:


  4. Fully agree with the article

  5. Keely Otto says:

    I agree with this article more than ever. It is really important to look up when riding because the last thing you want is to fall off your horse.

  6. It is so important to look up when you ride and I must admit i don’t at times when I’m riding by myself. I find my self focusing on looking at my horse then whats in front of me but I will from now on keep telling myself to look up.

  7. Harriet Ehlers says:

    It is so important to look up when you ride. I always find it difficult when i’m riding in an arena with others as I get concerned about collisions.

  8. I can relate to this article having had many near collisions while at competitions with riders who were not looking up. No matter how confident you are, it is scary to go over a jump and have a rider walk behind the jump completely unaware that you are going over the jump…those days you just have to be happy that your horse is capable of stopping or turning quickly to miss having a collision with the other rider and their horse.
    Looking up is so important when in a jumping warm up area with horses going different directions, at different speeds and jumping at the same time. For me it has always been enjoyable riding with adults in jumping areas because most of the time the riders have full control of their horse and are capable of moving around the area with multiple other riders.

  9. One of the main problems I have when I ride is keeping my heels down, looking up is one rare one for me but I still do find it heard as I want to see what my horse looks like when I’m riding so I tend to look down sometimes.

  10. I’ve always struggled with keeping my head up when I ride, but when I do ride with my head up I can feel the difference, yet I still forget to always look up.

  11. Definitely agree!

  12. My trainer has consistently told me, to ride with your head up, looking through the ears and being one with horse.

  13. great article

  14. Very important

  15. Leilah Chadburne says:

    Yess this is very helpful!

  16. Julie Grant says:

    I agree, very important.

  17. Jasmine says:

    All very good and logical reasons why to look up

  18. Kayla P says:

    Very helpful and well written

  19. Stevie Morgan says:

    Keeping your head up and looking where you are going is also very important for turning aids.

  20. Claudia Berry says:

    i agree!

  21. Jane Faulkner says:

    I agree it is really important to look ahead to where you are going when riding a horse.

  22. Matthew Enchelmaier says:

    This was a great article to read and to take note on when riding a horse.

  23. N. Fitzpatrick says:

    Great Article

  24. This is a great article and I agree with all of the points made

  25. Horses definitely know whether or not you are looking up and this is a disadvantage to yourself. They understand that wherever you are looking is where they are expected to be

  26. Yeah horses will definitely know if your looking up or not and this is a disadvantage to yourself. They understand that wherever you are looking is where they are expected to be.

  27. I used to have a bad habit of looking down, once I stopped and developed a feel without having to check made things a lot easier

  28. This is very factual and informative.

  29. Not only does it help with your riding but it also looks good, rather than being crouched over watching your horses every move, look up and smile.

  30. So True, forgetting to look up can be easily forgotton if your not focused. Very informative !

  31. I totally agree. It is very important to look up when riding.

  32. I completely agree with this

  33. Nicole Lunan says:

    9 times out of 10 the first thing I think when riding, and encourage others to do – lift your chin! As soon as they do (and I do) the entire movement of the horse is changed. Any time I’m struggling with forward my first thought is chin up and immediately the horse picks up its stride.

  34. Ella Tarasiuk says:

    some very valid and helpful points 🙂

  35. Joanna Hooper says:

    This is such an important article to read before going horse riding, it really shows the importance of safety whilst horse riding.

  36. Jodie Coggan says:

    Agree completely. looking up helps posture also. like a lot of sports, look down, go down 🙂

  37. Very relevant as a jumper its very important to look where you’re going. As it prepares the horse in the direction you wish to go. If you look down you’ll go down was something I was told when I first started riding. 🙂

  38. Paige Bennett says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this points. I’m religious about keeping a high head when I ride!
    My biggest reason is for confidence. I’m always out showing – and if I don’t keep a high head, then I will suffer in my results! Looking up gives me confidence – I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and how my horse is feeling. It shows the judge I’m confident and in turn makes me feel confident, even when I’m not! And in return, my horse does the same. She feeds off of my posture and mood!
    Where your eyes go, your horse goes!

  39. This is one thing I will have to consciously do as I look down even when I walk!

  40. If you look to where you want to go you will go there if you look down that’s where you will go

  41. I agree completely.

  42. so right I can relate a lot to this article about having to be caution of others when riding in an arena as a lot of people look down.

  43. Agree with all these points as it is very important to look up will riding as you will never know what obstacle you and your 4 legged friend are going to encounter on your ride.

  44. Eleanor B says:

    I find looking up helps with the ‘look there, go there’ type situation, for example, if you are looking at your horse or down rather than ahead/where you are going, your horse isn’t going to go where you want it to go. I also find that looking also helps to use your body to turn the horse rather then using the reins.

  45. tiffany vincent says:

    very good redaing

  46. Exceptionally important – to assess where you asking the horse to go, make sure it is safe ground, that you don’t crash into anyone or anything.

  47. This article is very true in all its points. The most important point is probably about posture. If you look up while riding, your entire diaphragm which generally helps to relax you into the saddle. Looking up also helps to determine where you are riding and keeps you in the line you want

  48. Looking up is an important part of riding as it helps keep the right posture and opens up your diaphram. Also when on a circle if you look to the next point in which you are going to ride to it helps to make the circle more round or on a straight line looking straight ahead keeps the line straighter.

  49. This article is very very true. So often you see a horse leaning down into the contact with the rider off balance and weak through their core purely because they’re looking down. I can’t say I’m not guilty of looking down every now and then but I’m definitely trying to reduce the time i spend looking down.

  50. Looking up is important for the posture of both horse and rider as well as a safety feature for the rider. I believe when you are looking down your balance will shift and the chance of falling forward is increased.

  51. Great reasons about looking up.

  52. I strongly agree with all points made in this article. Having been in busy competition warm up rings from the age of 6 I understand the importance of looking up and being aware of your surroundings and know where other riders are so you do not run into them and cause an accident. The main reason I believe it is important to always look up is for safety. How else are you suppose to be aware of other riders when you are constantly looking down.

  53. Great idea I am now going to make sure I look up when I ride

  54. Looking up creates a better posture when riding.

  55. Looking up keeps good posture and balance, and in my experience it is much easier to guide the horse in the direction I want to go in when my whole body is engaged in the direction I’m traveling

  56. Trisha Zammit says:

    Will get my daughter to have a read also as we seem to be telling her head up all the time:)

  57. There are many reasons for looking up whilst riding; safety and confidence are two that I use. Looking up, ahead and around, allows you to see your environment and be aware of where you’re going or any dangers/incidents that may impact you or your horse.
    From a confidence point of view looking up whilst transitioning up or down to a rising trot, may help you get the correct diagonal by feel, rather than having to check for the lead visually. This is something I am working on every time that I ride, hopefully one day I’ll be able to “feel” rather than “see” that I’m on the right diagonal.

  58. caitlin glass says:

    great article, looking down is a bad habit of mine. ill be sure to work on it next lessons

  59. kayla moore says:

    i found looking up helps you to keep straight in the saddle when you rise as when i look down i tend to twist one hip.

  60. Amanda Walker says:

    Being new to all this, seems like a confidence thing, you look forward the horse looks forward and also gives the horse more confidence in its self as well.

  61. Youll get a sore neck if you look any other way aswell

  62. Littledog says:

    My old instructor from the 70’s who was a former British Army Cavalry rider, always said, “look ahead to where you are going. If you’re looking at the ground, that’s where you will go.”

    • My trainer does the same. Look forward and it is easier to accomplish the goal. You stay balanced, you can see where you are going and you feel more confident as you ride.

  63. Another reason why I think looking up is important is for safety reasons, as through looking down whilst e.g. sitting an extended trott your muscles in your neck can be impacted negatively. Furthermore it is much easier to concentrate on completing the task correctly when looking where you are going! Great article. 🙂

    • You are right there Leonie. I am getting a sore neck just thinking about looking down and getting the ‘head wobbles’ in sitting trot!
      The sitting trot movement is absorbed in the small of the back and it is so much easier when you are looking up

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