This phrase is repeated at our training facility almost daily. The reason is simple, if you look where it is that you are going, then your body will more than likely be in the correct position.
Lets begin with the rollback. A rollback is the maneuver performed in reining at the completion of a stop. When properly executed, the horse comes to a complete stop and rolls back onto its back hocks. With forward motion, it turns 180 degrees and leaves in the opposite direction on the correct lead. This maneuver is also used in working cowhorse events and cutting. Once you have completed the stop and attempt to ask the horse to rollback, you should put an arc in your body (if rolling back to your right) while sitting on your right hip, open your shoulders to the right moving forward in your seat as you come out of the rollback asking your house to leave at a lope. You can also just look to the right and not at your horse. The simple act of looking toward where you are going next shifts your body weight and opens your shoulders. It will, most often times, keep you from putting to much weight in one direction.
The same principle can be applied to loping circles and straight lines. Riders at times have a tendency to over drive or steer their horse. Which brings the horse to a point of confusion. When starting young horses I spend a considerable amount of time loping circles, which helps put a guide on my horses. Not to mention that a large portion of the reining pattern is spent loping circles. Eventually, I will move to teach them to lope a straight line, where he must be between my legs and reins. This cannot be obtained if I am not straight and looking forward. If I am trying to teach a horse to lope straight, but I am looking down at him or off in another direction, my hands are saying one thing and my body is doing another. Here is a simple exercise to help. When using spit reins be sure to hold them properly. Begin by putting your index finger between the reins, picking your hand up to guide your horse. Use your thumb as a gun sight and look down range through your thumb at the target that you want to reach. Doing this will put your body and hands in the correct position. If at first your horse does not understand, slightly drop the hand down towards the mane then bring the thumb back up to aim again. Through repetition and patience your horse will get the picture much faster. Your horse must be supple and move off the rein pressure before getting to this point.
Body position is important with spins too. In the picture to the left, I am looking slightly ahead of my horse in the direction of the spin. Notice that the horse has matched my body and has arced in the same manner as I am sitting. By just looking in the direction of the spin, I have put the proper amount of body weight into my hips. I have not over-arced my body, and at the same time have allowed my horse to open his body to the inside of the spin. This allows him to step deep into the direction of the spin.
Sometimes we as riders try to overcomplicate our directions, which in turn complicates our horses ability to understand just what the message is. When it can be made simple to understand, the directions become much more clear to both the rider and the horse. The next time you’re riding a bike or driving a car, try to drive on the line with your tire, then read a sign on the side of the road as you pass it. When you look back at the road I can bet that you won’t be on the line anymore. Why? Because you’re not looking where it is that you’re going.