Teach Me Tuesday: What do you see when you see a spot?

Teach Me Tuesday is a segment I have blatantly ripped off of the SprinklerBandit.  However, I am really, really, dyingly curious on this one and I needz to know!  But hear me out — I’m not some heathen jumping around without being able to see a spot at all.  What I’m interested in here are the differences in our perceptions when we see a spot.

tell me

Tell me: what is it, exactly, that you see when you “see” a spot?

I know how to feel/see that I’m going to get a good spot.  When I’m cantering down to a jump I can quite accurately count from 4 strides out to exactly when I will be jumping.  And I know whether that spot is going to be a little long, deep, or pretty perfect.  It’s much easier to “see” a perfect spot when we have a steady, quality canter, and it’s much easier to get that spot then too, obviously.  I’m also pretty adequately competent at adjusting (usually holding, at this stage of Murray’s training) Murray’s stride to get a better spot.  But I don’t see the spot so much as feel a certainty when I’m four (sometimes more, sometimes fewer) strides out that I don’t need to worry about where I’m jumping from.

jump spot 1

So coming up on the Christmas tree, I’d be thinking that I’m about to jump pretty nicely in three strides and, unless he’s tired or I fuck something up, that’s what’s going to happen.  The thing is, Murray will go whether I see the spot or not (just gotta keep those legs steady and pretend I see it), and since I ride in a really light seat and let Murray’s jump close my body angle over the fence, I don’t tend to worry about it too much.

But I know seeing your spot is much more important in other disciplines, so do any of you want to enlighten me as to what you see (or feel!) when you see a spot? Please?


13 thoughts on “Teach Me Tuesday: What do you see when you see a spot?”

  1. Ohhh this is such a big, interesting question! I have a compulsive need to know exactly where I am in relation to the jump at all times, so this is near and dear to my heart. When I see the perfect spot, it’s usually because I have the perfect canter. I’m counting, and usually about 7-5 strides out, I see it. I know we’re going to get there in fine style, so I sit chilly and just ride right to it. If our canter is not perfect, my favorite thing in the world is to stuff an extra step in there. Usually the need for a chip rears its ugly head about 3 strides out (bad canter – can’t see as far away!) and instead of a smooth count to the fence, it’s a “1, 2, 3, SHIT!” Sometimes I ride for the short one on purpose and I can make it look good, but again, that’s riding a short canter with some impulsion behind it. If we are going to launch it, usually it’s because my pony is flying out of control. If I cannot regulate the canter in time (5ish strides out), I just put my leg on and ride for the long one! But this is my least favorite of the 3 options. I always, ALWAYS count!


    1. Thanks so much Alli! This is really exactly what I wanted to know, and it confirms my suspicions that seeing your spot is a combination of seeing and feeling!

      When I add a stride I’m usually like “1, 2, 3, AND A HALF!” although curse words are pretty common too. I’m so bad, I used to ALWAYS go for the long spot because I was so used to chasing my horse down to the fences, but now that we’re really working on that quality, packaged canter, I know that the deeper spots are where it’s at. So yeah, I try really hard not to ride for the long one any more! I too always count, and sing, and you can hear me talking to Murray in the rhythm of our canter even in competition!


  2. i generally struggle with this topic, and am super guilty of ‘holding’ for the add when in doubt (even when a better, albeit slightly long spot is right there). probably i need to work harder on my canter to fix this… but when it’s ‘right’ – i like your description: i can accurately count the # of strides approaching the fence

    honestly tho i also want my horse to be able to figure it out when i whiff on the distance – since i am 100% guaranteed to make those mistakes, esp in xc settings when hitting the jump can be bad news bears… so if i’m happy with our canter, i try to just settle and let the fence come to me without micromanaging and picking. results are mixed tho haha


    1. I completely agree about horses being able to work it out for themselves, and have read some interesting articles on Chrono and other places about how the obsession with seeing a spot in Hunterland has led to horses that CAN’T figure it out for themselves and can’t go unless they are told WHEN to go. This is simply not acceptable for eventers, as I think you perfectly stated above! (Actually, one of my proudest things is that my horse can figure out the spot when I screw it up, which I do not irregularly, especially in combos).


  3. If I see it (which let’s face it, is a work in progress) I sit up and add leg and ask Simon to go. For a long time he knew I was only comfortable with a close one, so would add and add. He’s the master of squeezing one last one in. This is something we’re working on though!


    1. Awww that’s so good of Simon to add one for you! So you add leg when you see a spot? That is interesting because (as I said above), I just kinda “stay the course” when I see my spot. Interesting, interesting.


  4. Since O can be such a ‘peek’ jumper, I tend to approach (counting 1,2,1,2 the whole freaking way) pretty forward and make a choice on what spot I need to support her to leave from. I admit, sometimes I see the wrong spot, but it’s a choice and I’m still better off making it than none at all. Her default is still to back WAY off and be awkward over the fence. I definitely rely on the feel of the canter a lot in the approach, and picture how the reminder of the steps before the jump will lay out. Usually about 3 steps out I make a choice and try to stick to it. Obviously in hunterland the pace is everything so once I get rolling supposedly I should have a similar approach and spots to the rest of the course…I’ll let you know when that finally works out for me! ha!


    1. Ok cool, so this is good to know! So you don’t actually SEE the place where you take off, but you FEEL like you know where you’re going to take off and sometimes you get that spot and sometimes you don’t. Very interesting. So it makes me wonder, why do we always teach students to “SEE” their spot instead of “FEEL” their spot? I guess seeing does have a pretty big part in it though…


  5. I struggle with this all the time! I have anxiety around jumping (for no reason other than…anxiety), so even if I have the spot I almost always second guess myself at the last second and screw it up. Paying attention to the canter helps me. One way to combat my anxiety is count 1, 2, 1, 2 as I’m approaching and helps me concentrate on the rhythm instead “I’m gonna die!!!” 😉


  6. I’m much better at seeing bad spots… lol jk but I have a bad habit left over from ihsa of seeing the spot but choking last minute and holding, which of course is really pretty (sarcasm). When I do see a good spot and ride it well its because there’s a quality canter, I don’t lean for it, and instead sit up, put leg on, and look past the jump 2-3 strides out and don’t pick at all with my hands.


  7. For me, as soon as I start to come into the jump and really “see”” it, I start counting down 3-2-1, 3-2-1 in relation to the canter I have coming in. Counting down that way may seem a little odd, but it was a trick that my trainer in Texas taught us, and it’s pretty much stuck with me ever since! I can also adjust the canter if it’s too fast/too slow to make sure I see the spot as perfectly as I can. Of course, sometimes I’m dumb and take the long spot or jam right into the base (my bad, yo), but most of the time, my 3-2-1 countdown does the trick 🙂


  8. For me, the key to seeing a spot is looking for it really early (8 strides or so out) and then adjusting once I see it (adding leg for a longer, move up distance or steadying for a shorter distance).


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