I know this is hard to believe, but it's raining again. All this rain has made me sad and weary, so I'm taking a little break and letting someone else do the blogging. Today's post is a guest piece by Susan Hargove. This was originally posted on her Positively Perfect Performance blog. Thanks a million, Susan!
The "Eyes" Have It!
by Susan Hargrove
One of the most important things you can do to take your model horse performance set-up to the "next" level is to use a doll...and use it correctly. I am a firm-believer that using dolls when showing model horses in performance classes is a MUST!! Horses in the "real" world do not SHOW themselves. I have yet to see a dressage horse performing a test, a jumper galloping around a course or a cutting horse working a cow with no rider...it just doesn't happen. And it shouldn't in the model horse world either. Yes...it is more work to use a doll in your set-up (and they can be expensive...but they don't have to be)...but it gives us the opportunity to create something that looks REAL rather than like someone playing with "toy" horses.One of the most important things when using a doll is to have her in the "correct" position...and the most important part of "position" is having the doll "looking" where she and the horse are going!! I know...many judges are going to tell me the most important part is having the doll actually sitting "down" in the saddle. I've seen a lot of dolls "sitting down in the saddle" and staring off into space...literally looking up at the stars. If you're taking a casual ride on your horse out on the trail...you might be staring off at the scenery...BUT...if you are in the "show" arena performing in a class...you had better be looking WHERE you are going. The correct body position of the doll and WHERE she is "looking" is what makes a horse and rider combination take on a "realistic" appearance.
If your horse is working a cow in a cutting or working cowhorse class, the rider had better have her eyes on that cow every second to try and figure out which way it's going. If you're showing a hunter or jumper...the rider had better be looking at either the jump he/she is coming up to...OR...if she is in the air going over a jump...she should be looking to where the NEXT jump on the course is. If your set-up is a western pleasure class the doll should generally be looking straight ahead (although in the "real" horse world a rider may be looking around to keep track of the "traffic" in a large class...they are still not staring off "into space").
The obstacle in a trail class determines WHERE the rider will be looking. If the rider is jogging/trotting or loping/cantering over ground poles he/she is going to be looking where they are going in order to judge the "stride-length" they are going to need to negotiate the obstacle cleanly. They may need to shorten or lengthen the stride in order to enter the obstacle at the correct "stride" point to clear all the ground poles in the obstacle. If they are crossing a bridge or water box...the rider generally glances down at the obstacle to determine exactly "where" they are in the obstacle so they can maneuver their horse through it cleanly.
The speed of gymkhana/games classes truly requires the rider to be "looking" WHERE they are going. Running a pole bending, barrel racing, keyhole, flag race, etc. pattern necessitates split-second timing and concentration.
A doll can be the "winning" addition to your set-up...help him/her to be focused on the class they are riding in.