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Horsepower
Sep. 10, 2009, 02:54 PM
So for the first time in several years of trying to learn dressage (coming from the hunter world), I had someone take a short film of me. My position is so horrible that I am totally embarrassed. First, I am in a chair seat. Worse, my toes totally stick straight out. I have always felt as though my ankle was breaking if I tried to point my toes forward. My natural position seems to be with toes out (I mean they now look even too far out for decent hunter position; I swear I'm much worse than I was when I had a decent hunter trainer years ago; I look like a novice rider.) Any suggestions on fixing my chair seat and my toes? (I'm actually too embarrassed to post the video, it is so horrible.)

Robyn
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:00 PM
Nothing like dressage to humble a person! Since I also suffer from your "faults" I look forward to hearing some helpful responses :).

Hoofprince in Mud
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:04 PM
Lessons on a lunge line without stirrups.

Your feet will fall in a more correct position, when you are opening your hip joint so you legs "drape" around the saddle.

Alagirl
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:07 PM
yep, ankle has little to do with toe position, it comes from way up.

The saddle might not sit right to have you positioned way to far back.

HollysHobbies
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:08 PM
Try a saddle that's cut with a straighter flap so you aren't fighting your leg (if it feels stuck out in front of you) Thigh blocks may help. What saddle are you in, presently? See if you can try different saddles...

After that, yes, without stirrup work is probably the best way to "relearn."

Good luck!!!

WBLover
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:18 PM
Don't feel bad, everytime I ride I picture that I have the most correct, beautiful, shoulder-hip-heel alignment with a lonnnnggg leg, heel down and beautifully draped on sides of the horse. :lol: Then I see myself on video and am quite humbled :o, and shocked :eek:, at how far apart it is between what I LOOK like and how I thought I was riding!!

Ditto the suggestions above!

Eclectic Horseman
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:22 PM
Ride without stirrups, allowing your leg to hang straight down out of the hip socket. If you are not bent in the waist, but are in the saddle more toward a standing position than a sitting position--that is closer to correct. You need to stay in that position when you take your stirrups back. This is really hard without a lot of core strength.

Hunter riders spend so much time in half seat that they develop strong front and inner quadricep muscles, calf muscles and lower back muscles, but the muscles at the back of the thigh and the ab muscles are very weak. When they sit in the saddle, they collapse at the waist (as you do sitting in a chair.) If you are collapsed in the waist and not stretched tall and upright on your seat bones then your thigh comes out of the socket with the knee pointing upward and the thighs are rolled outward. The outward rotation of the thigh also rotates the toes out.

What can you do? For one, take up Pilates. It really strengthens the core muscles and helps you to hold the proper position. You may also want to look into the writings and videos of Mary Wanless http://www.mary-wanless.com/

who has a really good technique for teaching these concepts.
Good luck.

Briggsie
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:28 PM
Imagine (and put into practice) a femur straight and flat onto your saddle slap...and elongate your leg while imagining your legs are a wet heavy towel that hugs your horse. Think to yourself, "if this horse were to be taken from beneath me, would I stand up straight, fall backwards or forward?" You should be able to stand up on your two feet with a balanced positions and legs right under your shoulders if the horse were to "POOF" be gone.

Somethine I always think about...to remind me to do this and have a breathing leg without gripping (which after time will becom second nature) is to always keep the knee on..your knee should always have contact....so that a dollar bill cannot get away if there were one between the saddle and you.

Remember to sit on your crotch NOT YOUR BUTT PADS....in other words, DO NOT ROLL BACK ON YOUR butt bones. SIT UP STRAIGHT...knees on and under you at all times, and toes in. Tell yourself this every box you ride.

My trainer WILL Make me stop and readjust myself. When you get to the upper levels and wear spurs and what not, if you do not learn discipline in your leg, you will give your horse mixed signals, spur him, and just be flat out disorganized, unfair to your horse, and non communicative.

Do yourself a favor and practice the above at a walk (Stirrups crossed over, legs stretched down long)....as deep and light as you can, and brace with your back and your core in the half halts to control your seat....DO NOT learn to grip with your legs to control your body....THIS IS A MISTAKE so many make, and bad habits are hard to break. WHile this may take some practice, you and your horse are going to be so much happier...and he will thank you for it...and most importantly, when learning all of this, for the sake of the horse, DO NOT BALANCE with your hands. Learn to make these independent.

Good luck and enjoy the journey.

Build up by doing lots and lots of this MINDFUL position checking in conjunction with several walk and trot transitions, so as to make your horse honest to the aids and you learn to refine not only your position, but timing too!

Bogie
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:36 PM
You may also want to look into the writings and videos of Mary Wanless http://www.mary-wanless.com/

who has a really good technique for teaching these concepts.
Good luck.

I was going to suggest this too. Mary Wanless' writings helped me visualize how I should be aligned.

Let me also suggest that your saddle may not fit you well. If you are fighting your tack it's very difficult to stay in alignment. If the saddle puts you in a chair seat it's likely that the stirrup bars are positioned too far forward for you anatomy. I know people like to think that the saddle doesn't matter but that's just not true. I would try borrowing a few saddles to see if it's easier to find the right alignment.

Once you're in the right saddle, then the lunge work and no stirrup work will help strengthen your muscles.

One thing I love, love, love about my Roosli dressage saddle is that it makes sitting in a balanced position pretty effortless. My leg just goes where it is supposed to go. I have very long femurs so many, many saddles put me in a chair seat. I finally figured out that a saddle with the right cut flap (dressage and jumping) and with the stirrup bar positioned further back, makes a HUGE difference.

Good luck!

Equibrit
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:38 PM
First - check that the saddle is balanced correctly fore to aft. Until this is correct you will be p-ss-ng in the wind.

smithereens_86
Sep. 10, 2009, 05:05 PM
Yoga. My hips were so tight that I couldn't let my leg drape down. My leg pinched and my toes turned out no matter what I did. After a few months of yoga, I noticed that my leg was softer, and my toes were pointing forward.

~Shelly~

rugbygirl
Sep. 10, 2009, 05:05 PM
I went to a clinic this year where I demonstrated the SOOPER novice tendency to bring my leg forward (so as to brace against the reins better on my forward TB :no:) the overwhelming opinion of the audience was "lunge line riding without stirrups" but the overwhelming opinion of the clinician was "she won't learn proper position IN the tack if she spends all her time working OUTSIDE her tack." My coach agrees with this assessment. The clinician (Mette Rosencrantz) was quick to point out that many (many, not all or even most, don't flame me) people use riding without stirrups as a crutch and it does nothing to help their position problems once they get the stirrups back.

Agree with checking saddle fit, and agree with working on pointing your knee the right way. Relax your lower leg for a while and don't concentrate on where your toes are maybe?? My coach has also suggested to me many times to think of my lower leg position as "just being there because it is attached"...I am probably killing her explanation...I believe it was to get me to stop thinking about heels down/toes forward and to start thinking about balanced seat and properly engaged thighs and hips.

AnotherRound
Sep. 10, 2009, 05:06 PM
Boy you are getting alot of great advice. Besides the change in seat you can achieve by working without stirrups and taking up the correct position, with your hips over your feet (or your lower leg pulled under your hips)and your shoulders over your hips, do try a different saddle. The picture, BTW should be a straight line throught the middle of your shoulder, through the middle of your hip, through the middle of your knee, throught the stirrup. Then, the line should be perpendicular to the ground, so get some photos and a ruler and see where you are deviating. Try the photos in different saddles, too.

My own trainer got a new saddle this summer, and she started wowing the judges, yes, feedback of the greatest kind. She started really feeling the strides and man did she look better. What she said she felt was that she wasn't fighting to pull her leg back anymore. Her leg falls in the correct place. Her new saddle is an albion, BTW, but that's neither here nor there, everyone is different. But do see if you can't try some different saddles and see if that helps. If you are lucky, you have a tack shop with used saddles who might let you take some of them home to try out. You may be pleasantly surprised.

stryder
Sep. 10, 2009, 05:21 PM
What she said she felt was that she wasn't fighting to pull her leg back anymore. Her leg falls in the correct place. Her new saddle is an albion, BTW, but that's neither here nor there, everyone is different. But do see if you can't try some different saddles and see if that helps.

I agree. I tried one of my instructor's saddles recently, and spent most of the lesson trying to get my legs under me. I'm sure a video or photo would NOT have been pretty.

ThreeFigs
Sep. 10, 2009, 06:39 PM
Excellent advice given here. Here's one more thing that I don't think has been mentioned. Play around with your stirrup length. Try them a hole or two shorter. Try them longer. I had the opposite problem years ago when my teacher at that time insisted on adjusting my stirrups very long. Try as I might, I could NOT maintain a decent position and riding was uncomfortable. Why? Because I was being forced into a "fork" seat. When I changed riding teachers, the new one shortened my stirrups by two holes and voila! No more fork seat and I magically had better control of my legs.

Still had (and STILL have) years of work left to do, though! Don't be discouraged! This is a lifetime endeavor.

goeslikestink
Sep. 10, 2009, 07:09 PM
So for the first time in several years of trying to learn dressage (coming from the hunter world), I had someone take a short film of me. My position is so horrible that I am totally embarrassed. First, I am in a chair seat. Worse, my toes totally stick straight out. I have always felt as though my ankle was breaking if I tried to point my toes forward. My natural position seems to be with toes out (I mean they now look even too far out for decent hunter position; I swear I'm much worse than I was when I had a decent hunter trainer years ago; I look like a novice rider.) Any suggestions on fixing my chair seat and my toes? (I'm actually too embarrassed to post the video, it is so horrible.)

and so---------matey sometimes why the toes stick out is becuase the stirrups are the worng length which effects your position read my helpful links pages on the sticky above
you will find how to alter your stirrups on there for jumping you oik them up one or two holes for gp riding they stay the same if in a gp saddle and for dressage you donk them down one or two

so alter the stirrups to the correct lenght - then sit in chin frust the bust and then that pushes the weight down your back and into your ankles if you cant turn toes in then do the next thing point them forwards - as long as they forwards you leg is on the girth

if your toes are pointing outwards your legs are off the girth and so is your knees and thigh
which is why you are unbalanced ------ easy to fix so work on your position then the rest will fall into place as in leg on secure leg open/closed legs as when you need to use your inner mussles to instruct the horse

Kaluna
Sep. 10, 2009, 09:45 PM
I believe that most people who ride in a chair seat are riding in a poory fitting saddle - poorly fitting for themselves or their horse. Especially if they come from hunter or jumper land because these folks need to have a balanced seat to maintain form over a fence. They often lean forward or have trouble stretching the legs down, but they rarely have chair seat problems in a properly fitted saddle.

sweetiebob
Sep. 10, 2009, 09:51 PM
I have recently bought two Mary Wanless books - helped so much as I now know how to correct my tendency to fall forward. Instructor was very surprised with improvement of my seat AND I feel much more secure.

ThreeFigs
Sep. 10, 2009, 10:12 PM
Kaluna makes a good point...

JB
Sep. 10, 2009, 10:31 PM
First - check that the saddle is balanced correctly fore to aft. Until this is correct you will be p-ss-ng in the wind.

Big Fat Ditto.

And ditto to those who said/agreed that often it's the saddle. But really, sometimes it IS the rider. I see so many Hunter riders who ride with their stirrup leathers angled forward because they are physically pushing back against the stirrups, when there nothing about the saddle that would have them do that.

It takes a GOOD trainer to see the difference. It's freaky-scary how many trainers know less than nothing about saddle fit for horse and rider :no:

My next suggestion is find a really good Dressage instructor who LOVES to put basics on a rider, one who is not afraid to put hands ON you to move your body into the right position. It makes a world of difference to have someone emphatically PUT you in place, instead of you working incrementally towards it because you really cannot fathom being THAT out of position. It's really amazing how different just a couple of inches difference in position can feel - feels like miles, really.

You can "feel" all you want, and in some/many cases is really helps. But for another many cases, your feel can deceive you 'til the cows come home.

Chall
Sep. 10, 2009, 10:35 PM
I dunno, I think my seat and leg length improved when I started riding bareback.

slc2
Sep. 10, 2009, 10:47 PM
Don't worry about it. It's normal. It's Video Shock.

blackhorsegirl
Sep. 11, 2009, 11:15 AM
Horsepower, Don't beat yourself up. This is new to you. Get good instruction, be kind to yourself, be patient. It's said that a habit can be broken/made in 21 days. I've been doing this for 6 years and I'm still learning.

myvanya
Sep. 11, 2009, 11:34 AM
*Raises hand* I'm with the OP on this too! OP-You might read the thread I posted called "Silly Saddle Question" It probably could have a better title but it is asking similar questions and there is good info there too as I have the same tendency. I am still not sure whether my problem is coming from my saddle not fitting me or my horse right or entirely from my lack of ability to open my hip, point my whole leg forward (knees, toes etc, from the hip) and drape my leg around my horse, but the thread has given me things to try- as has this one. So thanks!

Hailey
Sep. 11, 2009, 11:42 AM
I think one of the most difficult things about making the switch between hunters and dressage is retraining your leg position so your toes don't point out, at least for me it was. One thing that I found is that the saddle really had a huge influence on how hard/easy this was. For me, a saddle with a large thigh/knee block and a straight flap was a bad thing. I'm fairly long through the thigh, but short through the calf. Too many of today's saddles are cut very straight, and my knee wants to go over the front of the saddle, even in the larger seat sizes.

What really brought this home to me was when I rode in a Wintec Isabel without the knee blocks. For the first time I was able to drop my leg down properly and really use my knees to control my horse's shoulders. My knee wasn't being forced away from the horse and causing me to turn my feet out. I also like a seat that isn't quite as deep and has a good, level spot in the middle. I currently have a Smith Worthington Danzig, which has no knee roll at all. It's still cut a bit straighter then is ideal for me, but since there's no knee roll, that isn't an issue. There's also some Passier saddles that would work very well for me too.

I would highly recommend trying different saddles and see if any of them seem to help put you into a better position. It can take some time to find something that works for you, but it's well worth it. You'll be amazed at how much your riding improves when the saddle allows the correct position.

everydayrider
Sep. 11, 2009, 11:45 AM
Why don't you check out my video on the dressage rider's position. I came from hunters too, and have since devoted myself to improving my position. It's by no means perfect but I think the video could help. Good luck!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRVM9Emijto&feature=channel

Roan
Sep. 11, 2009, 12:15 PM
. . .
Remember to sit on your crotch NOT YOUR BUTT PADS....in other words, DO NOT ROLL BACK ON YOUR butt bones. SIT UP STRAIGHT...knees on and under you at all times, and toes in. Tell yourself this every box you ride. . .

Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. You do not "sit on your crotch", you sit on your seat bones and your seat bones need to be directly under your shoulders. Sometimes this means you must tilt the pelvis up to align yourself; it all depends on your skeletal structure.

Sitting on your crotch sticks your butt out and throws your weight forward and out of alignment with the rest of your body. I don't know *any* trainer that would tell a student to sit on their crotch.

OP, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of Sally Swift's Centered Riding -- whether video or book. It will help you *tons* with your seat and legs.

Eileen

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Sep. 11, 2009, 01:51 PM
I'd say if this was the first time you noticed that by looking at yourself after years of trying to learn correctly, get a new trainer. Your trainer should be telling you when you're misaligned and correct you throughout each lesson.

Agree with other who said that a correct position comes from the ability to open your hips and be strong in your core, and there are plenty of exersizes you can do to improve your natural abilities. If you're unfamiliar with any of them, pay for a personal trainer to set you up with a routine. And check your saddle. Some saddles simply don't allow you to sit correctly. But you do not need a saddle that crams you into the correct position, that still comes from your ability to adjust yourself and build correct muscle memory.

Briggsie
Sep. 11, 2009, 03:14 PM
Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. You do not "sit on your crotch", you sit on your seat bones and your seat bones need to be directly under your shoulders. Sometimes this means you must tilt the pelvis up to align yourself; it all depends on your skeletal structure.

Sitting on your crotch sticks your butt out and throws your weight forward and out of alignment with the rest of your body. I don't know *any* trainer that would tell a student to sit on their crotch.

OP, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of Sally Swift's Centered Riding -- whether video or book. It will help you *tons* with your seat and legs.

Eileen


Well, that is essentially what I mean, but if you are sitting correctly and on your seat bones, you are not sitting on your buttocks directly, or rolling backwards. IF you roll back, you will know it, because you will look slouched in the saddle, as opposed to tall and erect.

Horsepower
Sep. 11, 2009, 04:13 PM
OK. Now I'm really confused. EVERYONE, please look at the video that EveryDayRider posted. That rider looks like the heels are way down and too far out and in a chair seat to me. That's what my video looks like. But the person in the video says this is correct for lower level horses, which mine certainly is. Everyone's thoughts please? I've just always assumed I was supposed to look like those beautiful riders with the toes pointed more forward and legs really long on the advanced horses. Am I rushing things?

Unprovoked92
Sep. 11, 2009, 04:43 PM
Read "Ride Right" by Daniel Stewart. I had a clinic with him over the summer and it was the most interesting clinic I've ever taken as both a rider and trainer/instructor.

He talked a lot about how one thing can affect something else. Ten pounds forward ten pounds back kind of thing. Like with a swinging leg at the canter...you can't steady your leg because your lower leg isn't the problem. The problem is something bigger...like your seat isn't following the horse enought. He would tell you to "Imagine you have a bar of saddle soap on each butt cheek and scrub the CANTLE of your saddle with it at the canter." All of a sudden the rider's leg would stop swinging!
He would tell people riding in a "chair seat" to think of a row of thumbtacks across the cantle of your saddle to remind you to stay forward. You may also want to check to make sure your saddle isn't sitting too low in the back, you may need a riser pad to get it sitting level. We didn't talk a whole lot about toes pointing too far out, but I'll guess its a problem much further up your leg, maybe you hold your hips to open, and if your rolled your thigh forward your toes would get better...

spotted mustang
Sep. 11, 2009, 05:14 PM
OK. Now I'm really confused. EVERYONE, please look at the video that EveryDayRider posted. That rider looks like the heels are way down and too far out and in a chair seat to me. That's what my video looks like. But the person in the video says this is correct for lower level horses, which mine certainly is. Everyone's thoughts please? I've just always assumed I was supposed to look like those beautiful riders with the toes pointed more forward and legs really long on the advanced horses. Am I rushing things?

I agree - not a good example of a correct seat. That rider looks hunched forward, collapsed in the waist and is very wobbly and unquiet in the waist. At times, she looks very crooked up there.

Bogie
Sep. 11, 2009, 07:02 PM
Here are some links from Mary Wanless. I rode with someone who trained with Mary for about a year and she made me much more aware of the impact of body position and balance.

I agree that the video from Every Day Rider does not show a balanced seat. In fact, you'll find that many professionals aren't picture perfect, but they are effective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKegtey1MFQ
http://www.youtube.com/user/MaryWanless
http://www.mary-wanless.com/ (go to the "read and learn" section")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PuAQKwWOSA

Good for you for wanting to improve your position!

Also, you might try taking a clinic or a lesson with another instructor. Sometimes when I have reached a plateau of find it difficult to grasp a concept having someone else explain it, using different words or images, does the trick. For example, I had an instructor who told me that I should imagine kneeling on a kneeling chair (http://www.comfortchannel.com/images/Kneeling_chair_A.jpg) to help open up my hip and drop my knee down and put me in a position where my spine was aligned and neutral and my core was strong. Bingo! That image made it crystal clear to me.

slc2
Sep. 11, 2009, 08:14 PM
Everydayrider video is of a markedly poor position - hips closed, toes out, knees up, thigh almost horizontal, stiff in the wrong places and loose in the wrong places. The rider is also not effective.

You neither sit on your crotch nor on your pockets in dressage, both are extremes and incorrect. The rider sits equally balanced, not tipped forward on to his crotch, and not with the pelvis rolled under and the lower back rounded.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Sep. 12, 2009, 04:01 AM
. The rider sits equally balanced, not tipped forward on to his crotch, and not with the pelvis rolled under and the lower back rounded.

But I think to engage your core and be mobile and open this is exactly what you need to do. But you move with the horse so it isn't static.