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In riding, it’s often the small details that make the biggest difference in our posture, our stability, and how effective we are in communicating with the horse.

In last week’s video, we talked about how little movements with your head, caused by the direction you look, affect the rest of your position.

But there is another important piece of this… it’s how you use your eyes.

The muscles in our eyes work differently when gazing softly ahead compared to focusing on a specific point. In fact, you may have heard the expression “soft eyes” for riding, but not understood what this really meant or how to know if you are doing it right.

In today’s video, I’m going to take you through an exercise to feel the difference between hard and soft eyes and know when you should use each one.

P.S. For Solutions to Your Biggest Riding Challenges (and a copy of the 5 Minute Riding Fixes Book mentioned in this video), Check out the Effortless Rider Course with Wendy Murdoch


Daily exercises for an immovable seat, steady hands, and a happier horse

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51 Responses

  1. This is a major “ah ha” moment for me!
    Recently I had cataract surgery with toric lens implants.
    My youngster and I are both enjoying our spring riding Times.
    A few days a ago, we executed a lope – whoa transition- it was soft and smooth. I was ecstatic ! I kept off, hugged him, and we quit for the day.
    Watching your video gave me the realization that my eyes were soft and the rest of my body followed.
    With this understanding, I am excited to put soft eyes into practice, on purpose.

    I enjoy your sessions.

    1. Deb, how interesting! It is amazing how one small shift can make a huge change. Congratulations on your ride!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  2. Thank you, that was really helpful. I could feel the back of my body rise up and become more alive when I did the soft eyes.

  3. Oh my gosh, I have a small backyard riding stable where I teach beginner and therapeutic riding lessons and participate as a 4-H keader in our county. I’m on day 2 of your 7 day training blog and so far everything you teach, I have been teaching my students for years. I am loving the reinforcement and learning a little different way to communicate my messages to these kids. Looking forward to the rest if the series.
    Kathy Seifert

    1. Kathy, that is awesome! Really glad to hear you are enjoying the series and spreading your knowledge with young people coming into the sport 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Our pleasure Elizabeth! Glad to have you here in our community 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. Not a new concept for me either, I practice this if my horse is laser focused on something to spook at and I find if i have soft eyes and I’m not focused on it as well my horse tends to relax more.

  5. Thank you! I noticed how much more I relaxed with soft eyes versus focused hard eyes. Interesting. I’ll practice when I’m riding and see how much my horse does the same.

  6. Well described topic Callie! I get it, I can tell the difference between hard and soft eye.
    Thank you for the quality video!

  7. When I went to soft eyes I could actually feel my head move back slightly. Very interesting! I will try this the next time I ride.

  8. Loved video had never heard that before. I definitely noticed the difference in the peripheral vision and the more forward position of my body.

  9. Very interesting Callie. I have never heard of this and will try it out on my boy Major tomorrow

    Kind regards,

    Sharon xx

  10. When using my hard eye, I notice I don’t take in other things that might be going on around me.

    1. Holly, that is a great observation! It is much safer to be aware of everything in our surroundings 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. This is a new concept to me when relating soft vs hard eyes in riding. It makes instant sense. Thank you very much 🙂

  12. I’ve never actually thought about ‘Hard,” vs “Soft,” eyes. I will certainly try it the very next time I ride. Thank you. It’s the ‘little things,’ that make the difference.

    1. So very true Kellye! The smallest shifts can often make the biggest changes 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  13. I have heard this expression for many years, but have never had it so well explained. Your “exercise” makes it very accessible and clear. Thanks!

  14. Thank you. I practiced along with you in the video from hard to soft. I feel like I made micro shifts. Soft my head went back to where it was aligned. Hard eyes slight shift forward

    1. Great observations DL! Hope you’ll practice on your next ride 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  15. Soft eyes was helpful as to relating trying to ride correctly as far as position, tight knees or pinching, lowering my heals, sitting up straight, shoulders back, breathing, hands together and flowing with gait, by softening the eyes, it makes me avoid being over tense or too focused, which will assist to relax and enjoy the ride or lesson more. This will be especially important on my thoroughbred, because he is so sensitive. Thank you

  16. Thanks ever so much Callie for all the time & effort you put into your training videos – they are tremendously helpful & provide a lot of useful tips to put into practice. I’m based in Switzerland & have a young horse I’m training – I can’t wait to try out the concept of hard vs soft eyes the next time I ride. I’m sure I’ll notice a difference. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for being part of our community Liz all the way from Switzerland! I can’t wait to hear how your ride goes 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. Like the difference between daydreaming and feeling the horse or letting a million other things run through one’s head during a ride. Great tip Callie!

  18. I am a little unclear on the concept of using the eyelid to move the eyes back. When I try this, I feel more tension. I’m doing something wrong?

    1. Sally, it is just thinking about softening the eyes into the socket, if you put too much thought and ‘try’ into it you will feel more tension! Try doing less and see how that goes 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. What a great explanation! Thanks — I learn so much from you!

  20. Wow! I felt it. I’ve Berber heard of hard or soft eyes but I feel like it really will make a difference. Thanks again!

  21. Wow, that was amazing to try – even sitting at my desk! The immediate thing I noticed was my posture change from slightly forward with hard eye to slightly back with soft – Ha! Another super tip – thank you x

  22. Another great insight! I really felt the shift in my weight …forward with hard eyes and back with soft. I’m sure this will be felt by my horse. I was amazed at my much improved directional communication to her when riding after your previous tip about looking up! It’s great to be reminded about these things…they seem to be so little but they make a huge difference. THANK YOU!

    1. Awesome Jo, glad you were able to notice a considerable difference from this small shift in your riding!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. I never knew this !
    I can switch back and forth from hard to soft effortlessly and notice the tension change.
    Thanks, Callie for all these great clues.

  24. I first learned about soft vs hard eyes from reading Sally Swift. But the activity you lead us through really let me experience the change in tension not only in my face, but also into my neck and shoulders. Thanks so much for the tip!!

  25. I noticed that my posture changed throughout. Not only did my weight shift back but my centre of gravity dropped and there was a significant release of tension. Its very subtle but significant!! Amazing!

  26. I’m going to try this today when I take my lesson. After watching this I can totally relate to this. After going threw my last ride I realized that I had hard eyes looking at the crossrails and tensed up so next time I will try take a few relax my eyes and see if that help relax the rest of my body. Thank you Callie these videos are great

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