Successfully conquer obstacles with this tip on understanding the direction of travel.

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Photo by Ross Hecox

When a rider approaches a trail obstacle, everything may go smoothly or the horse may refuse, get confused or hit the obstacle. All-around trainer and multiple American Paint Horse Association World Champion Earnest Wilson of Tolar, Texas, says the problem isn’t usually with the obstacle; it’s with the rider. And the solution is as simple as drawing a straight line.

“The biggest problem I see is that people don’t understand direction of travel—where they’re going and how to get there,” Wilson says. “Many people look one way and their hand is pointing another way, or their horse is going one way and their hand is going another way. The ‘center’ of your horse is the back end. You ride through the back end, through your hands, through his face, to the direction you’re going. If you always point your thumb with your hand up in the direction you’re going, and look through your thumb, then you take your horse’s head in the same direction.”

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Photo by Ross Hecox

It’s also necessary to look across an obstacle rather than just looking at the front of it, he points out.

“Most people never look through an obstacle. They only look at the first part of it,” Wilson says. “You have to look where you’re going, across it, to get through it clean. You can’t be scared of where you’re going.”

By maintaining that straight line of travel and looking ahead, you’re more likely to successfully maneuver through a trail course, or even over outdoor obstacles.

If you’re riding in a straight line and your horse gets scared or balks at an obstacle, Wilson says it’s important to keep riding forward, using your seat and hand to maintain that correct line of travel.

“You’ve got to drive your horse,” he explains. “Don’t be afraid to take charge, from the rear of the horse, through the bridle reins and through his head. It will change your performance.”



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