Expert and Novice Riders See Jumps Differently, Study Says

Training unmounted riders to look at jumps the right way could enhance horse and rider performance and prevent jumping accidents, suggest researchers who recently published a study on rider visualization.

Researchers from the United Kingdom and Ireland found more advanced riders were significantly better at recalling important points of focus in a picture of a jump than were nonriders and novice riders.

The researchers believe that expert riders use different visual strategies in their planning and approach to jumps.

“We are in the process of developing research into visual performance of riders. The paper was a preliminary study that highlighted that there were differences, even in simple simulated tasks, between novice and experienced riders,” said Carol Hall, PhD, senior lecturer in horse behavior and welfare at Nottingham Trent University in England.

In further studies, Hall plans to monitor the eye gaze of riders while mounted and jumping, using mobile eye-tracking equipment. “We aim to identify visual behavior of elite riders in order to provide visual training for novice, and eventually, all levels of riders,” she said.

A visual training tool might be a long way off from being developed, but Hall has some suggestions for novice riders tackling jumps.

“Riders can remind themselves where they should be looking and concentrate on aiming their gaze accordingly--many are just not really aware of where they are actually looking,” she said.

The study, "The relationship between visual memory and rider expertise in a show-jumping context," was published in the July 2009 Veterinary Journal. The abstract is available on PubMed.  

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Liz Brown

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