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alg0181
Dec. 21, 2010, 10:35 PM
After riding jumpers for a long time, and then taking a break of a few years, I had my first dressage lesson today. My trainer said my upper body and hands were excellent, but that my leg is too far forward. She thinks this is due to years and years of half-seat with my heels plunged deep toward the ground, toes out a bit. I can see that.

She said that my calf should have no contact with the horse, and my foot should be parallel to his barrel. She wants me to rotate my thighs forward and turn my heels and lower leg out, basically locking my knee into the roll. She said my lower leg should be loose and floppy?

I was able to obey her request at sitting trot and canter, but posting was a total nightmare. My lower leg felt unstable and my stirrups were sliding around. I tried to imagine that I didn't have a lower leg at all, and post from the thigh, which made me more stable and more relaxed. Unfortunately, when I relaxed, my calf collapsed onto the horse's side and she would yell at me again. She wants me to post with no weight in the stirrups, with my foot parallel, no contact with the horse's side from knee-down, heels under hips, with my thighs squeezed tightly around the horse.

I understand what she wants, but I am confused about how to get there. When I do the above, I am tensed up and basically forcing my lower leg out, like I'm trying to stay up on roller skates, which created an incredible pain my hip. If I relax my lower leg I can post better, but then my calf touches the horse and she says this is a no no.

Does anyone have any input? Is pain in the hip okay or am I doing it wrong?

Thanks in advance! I know almost nothing about dressage or this trainer, so I am trying to make sure I am learning correctly.

luchiamae
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:20 PM
No weight in the stirrup at all.... that is the strangest thing I have EVER heard!!!! What if your horse were to buck, spin, shy, rear etc. etc.?

Maybe this is the jumper in me coming out, but I always put a substantial amount of weight into my feet for that specific reason plus the fact that what animal can be truly comfortable with 60kg (give or take) of weight sitting directly on their back?

I have never heard that said, nor have I heard of not having contact with the lower leg or riding with the thigh squeezed tightly around the horse? I have limited experience with a variety of dressage instructors, tried two and am still with my second one after many many years so can only offer my limited personal experience with different methods.

To be honest, this sounds odd to me.

alg0181
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:33 PM
I found it strange too, but I have never really ridden dressage. She said upper level horses don't ever need to be touched with the lower leg...they just respond when you bring your leg back but with space in between the horse and your leg. Sure enough her horse does move laterally without me touching him with leg, but I wasn't sure if that was correct or if she just trained him that way.

It went against every thing I have been taught about dropping weight through your heels. It was so difficult to me, I was focusing so hard that I was sometimes on the wrong diagonal and I would totally phase out what the trainer was saying. :(

spirithorse
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:41 PM
No lower leg? What the?
Yes, no weight in the stirrup, just rest the foot there, then your leg will remain supple.
Dressage properly ridden, one should not see any leg movement or any other aids...remember the horse should appear to being doing it on its own.

alg0181
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:51 PM
@Spirithorse, yeah, once during the lesson I tried to bring my outside leg back to bend the horse through a corner and the gentle pressure just from that made the horse (an old schoolmaster no less) surge forward really dramatically. I found it really bizarre that any calf at all meant "go." And trust me, I was riding him very lightly--no kick, no spur.

I am not sure how to address this with the trainer. She is an eventing trainer so maybe she's just not good at dressage. Though I wasn't much impressed with her jumping position either. I am so distraught because I was to become a working student with her. I can only afford to pay for lessons with labor.

EqTrainer
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:54 PM
She is probably making you exaggerate the leg being off. Legitimate teaching tool.

SaturdayNightLive
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:57 PM
@Spirithorse, yeah, once during the lesson I tried to bring my outside leg back to bend the horse through a corner and the gentle pressure just from that made the horse (an old schoolmaster no less) surge forward really dramatically. I found it really bizarre that any calf at all meant "go." And trust me, I was riding him very lightly--no kick, no spur.

I am not sure how to address this with the trainer. She is an eventing trainer so maybe she's just not good at dressage. Though I wasn't much impressed with her jumping position either. I am so distraught because I was to become a working student with her. I can only afford to pay for lessons with labor.

:lol: It COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you misunderstood and/or rode with more leg than you thought. And it COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you haven't ridden in years and you were sitting on a well trained, potentially sensitive horse. It MUST be that the trainer isn't any good. Yeah, that must be it.

dwblover
Dec. 21, 2010, 11:57 PM
Well, I can only speak from my own experience but I cannot agree with squeezing tightly with the upper thigh. I mean, if I am asking for collection then I sort of suck the horse's back up with the thigh, but I'm still not squeezing tightly. The leg does need to be down and back with toes in, but I believe it needs to remain supple all the way from the hip down to the heel.

As for no weight in the stirrups, I think that is an individual thing. There are certainly moments where I have no weight in the stirrups, but for certain movements or again, asking for collection, I do push into the stirrups. But I am definitely not squeezing the horse with my calf while doing so, just weighting the inside stirrup or both if necessary.

And the horse surging forward from light calf pressure, that is a VERY GOOD THING!!! My horse does the same, it is how I have trained him. I think you were perhaps aiding the horse much more than you realized, and that may be why the trainer was so adamant about keeping your legs off the horse. Dressage is about getting a definite reaction from the lightest of aides, so it sounds like this horse is very advanced, so you will need to step up your game to ride him.

spirithorse
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:00 AM
This should not stop you from being a working student.
Eventing trainers are usually not well versed in dressage...well Wayne Quarles is.
To bend a horse just add pressure to the inside leg....do not move it back. You might have better results, especially with an old schoolmaster.
Be open with your trainer and ask questions, relate information you obtain from other sources, see if she is reponsive. If not then she might not be right for you. Also, is the schoolmaster a horse she trained and rode? That would make a difference too!
I take clinic with Wayne Quarles and he is fantastic with the elements of dressage, yet he is an eventer. And how I ride is how he teaches.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:15 AM
:lol: It COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you misunderstood and/or rode with more leg than you thought. And it COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you haven't ridden in years and you were sitting on a well trained, potentially sensitive horse. It MUST be that the trainer isn't any good. Yeah, that must be it.

Um, it could very well be one of those above things. That's why I am trying to find out what is normal. I don't have any standard to judge this trainer by. I am simply opening myself to all possibilities. I am not saying she is bad or good, but for your information I saw other things that concern me with this trainer (thin horses, kids on hot/rearing horses, smoking during lessons, not to mention she was very late to her lessons today). So try not to be so jumpy, jeez.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:18 AM
She is probably making you exaggerate the leg being off. Legitimate teaching tool.

I thought about this too, so I asked to clarify. But that's when she said that you should never use calf, ever, just bring the leg back.

I think I was not clear about my question to her though. Maybe she just means for me to never use calf, for now.

SaturdayNightLive
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:19 AM
Um, it could very well be one of those above things. That's why I am trying to find out what is normal. I don't have any standard to judge this trainer by. I am simply opening myself to all possibilities. I am not saying she is bad or good, but for your information I saw other things that concern me with this trainer (thin horses, kids on hot/rearing horses, smoking during lessons, not to mention she was very late to her lessons today). So try not to be so jumpy, jeez.

Yeah, but you didn't say any of those things. You didn't say "maybe I miscued the horse" or "maybe I didn't understand" or "maybe I'm out of shape and not as in control as I thought". What you did say was "maybe she's just not good at dressage" and "I wasn't impressed with her jumping either".

I'm not exactly putting words in your mouth.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:23 AM
And the horse surging forward from light calf pressure, that is a VERY GOOD THING!!! My horse does the same, it is how I have trained him. I think you were perhaps aiding the horse much more than you realized, and that may be why the trainer was so adamant about keeping your legs off the horse. Dressage is about getting a definite reaction from the lightest of aides, so it sounds like this horse is very advanced, so you will need to step up your game to ride him.

Your post was informative, thanks.

I asked her during the lesson--no calf, ever? And she said nope. Maybe she misunderstood my question. I was asking generally--as in, should all dressage riders avoid calf--and not specifically about this lesson/horse/me. Maybe she meant just for me to avoid calf. But then again, she did ride to show me, and did ask the horse to leg yield without actually applying any leg. She just drew her heel up towards her hip without touching his side.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:30 AM
Yeah, but you didn't say any of those things. You didn't say "maybe I miscued the horse" or "maybe I didn't understand" or "maybe I'm out of shape and not as in control as I thought". What you did say was "maybe she's just not good at dressage" and "I wasn't impressed with her jumping either".

I'm not exactly putting words in your mouth.

I also said multiple times that I found it strange, due to my experience and previous riding, which I explained, BUT that I don't know enough to know what's right, and in fact did ask in my original post if I was doing it wrong. I have been clear that I don't know anything. Do I have to put a disclaimer after every comment? Explain everything that happened from the time I arrived at the barn until I left? Give me a break. You didn't see her ride or jump, and in the context of some other things I saw, it concerned me a little, and I have the right to be concerned without having to justify everything to you.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:36 AM
Well, I can only speak from my own experience but I cannot agree with squeezing tightly with the upper thigh. I mean, if I am asking for collection then I sort of suck the horse's back up with the thigh, but I'm still not squeezing tightly.

Oh also...it's hard to explain but she didn't want me squeezing in with my groin muscles, but rather rotating my thigh all the way forward and actively pushing my thigh into the block. It does help keep my leg parallel but makes me very stiff, obviously, in the thigh/knee.

Behind the 8 Ball
Dec. 22, 2010, 02:32 AM
I thought about this too, so I asked to clarify. But that's when she said that you should never use calf, ever, just bring the leg back.

I think I was not clear about my question to her though. Maybe she just means for me to never use calf, for now.

It could also be that she means no back of the calf. In the proper leg position, you use the inside of the top of the calf to reinforce weight and seat aids for bending, flexxion and forward engagement. But one of the hardest things to teach converted hunters and/or jumper riders is that the back of the boot should be clean.

By learning to open your hip and allow your thigh to swing more perpendicular to the ground ( not completely just closer to 75 degrees than 45 ) you should be able to roll your thigh forward and keep your lower leg more still but be able to use it.

As you first described it, it sounds as though she wants you gripping with your knees, and I know that isn't right. But if that is how your new trainer is maybe exaggerating so you can get the hip flexxors to open and loosen, give it a shot.

As far as eventers that teach dressage, I know of many - Doug Payne, Mike Plumb, etc, that excel at it.

goeslikestink
Dec. 22, 2010, 05:09 AM
go here and read page one and all links
http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=178116

alter your stirrups correctly then it will improve your position

TheHorseProblem
Dec. 22, 2010, 10:27 AM
This book spells out a lot of what your instructor is talking about.

Ride with Your Mind Essentials: Innovative Learning Strategies for Basic Riding Skills by Mary Wanless

Also, I have struggled for years with leg position, and then sat on an uphill horse will a well-fitting saddle, and had all those issues disappear.

Stirrup length can be a big factor too.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 10:34 AM
It could also be that she means no back of the calf.

She said at any given moment, someone should be able to put their hand clean under my calf right underneath the knee without touching my leg.

HollysHobbies
Dec. 22, 2010, 10:36 AM
I started in eventing/pony club with some hunters and I was taught to have a tight, gripping leg.

The last 2 years, I've switched my focus to just dressage and had to reteach my leg. My dressage length stirrups have dropped 3 holes in that time (2 in lesson one, and I've lowered them one more since then).

I think my trainer said it was S. Peters that explained leg contact...you should only have a feather's worth of pressure between your leg (from top to bottom) and the horse...that way, when you need to use it, your horse is sensitive to slight aids. The horse was doing exactly what he's been taught. It takes a LOT of practice, but what your trainer is asking didn't sound all that off...sounds like she's exggerating to get you to feel what you should be feeling through your seat and to STOP gripping? Of course, I haven't seen you ride, but my experience "retraining" for a dressage seat/leg/body was similar. I was gripping/pinching with my leg (what we've been taught to do jumping/pony club/eventing!) and it feels like you have no weight in the stirrups b/c your leg isn't used to being stretched longer. It gets easier as you learn that your CORE muscles absorb the shock/movement. It might be easier to re-learn WITHOUT stirrups and on the longe...just a thought.

I'm also 5 10, long legged, and riding a 15.1 morgan (and a 17 hand big bodied selle francais)...I find the morgan much easier to drape my leg on as she is only of medium build and my big boy is SO WIDE, that even with a narrow twist saddle, it was like riding a thelwell!--it was HARD to learn not to grip on him!!

It sort of sounds like you didn't enjoy/didn't buy into your lesson though.

Good luck!

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 10:44 AM
This book spells out a lot of what your instructor is talking about.

Ride with Your Mind Essentials: Innovative Learning Strategies for Basic Riding Skills by Mary Wanless

Also, I have struggled for years with leg position, and then sat on an uphill horse will a well-fitting saddle, and had all those issues disappear.

Stirrup length can be a big factor too.

Yeah, a very helpful PM made me think about how the horse was built. I am 5'10", 34" inseam, horse was maybe 15hh. It was also very strangely shaped, high wither with very little muscle on the topline, but then a big belly--honestly looked kind of wormy. :( The instructor is short so maybe she was expecting me to do something that my longer legs just couldn't on that horse?

I think my stirrups may have been too short but she said they were fine. So I don't know.

BetterOffRed
Dec. 22, 2010, 10:44 AM
Well, I would be interested to know how much thigh and calf pressure you ride with. Even when you are at a halt. I've been taught that my leg pressure is like that of a dish rag draping my horse's barrel- but he is a 'crazy redheaded gelding' mucho sensitivo :). When we are walking, you can see the space between my calf and his belly.

I've also been taught that once I ask my horse to move off the leg, I shouldn't have to cue him with my leg every stride so I don't constantly have my leg 'on'. I can't constantly gig him with the spur. When I need more go, or more impulsion, I don't just squeeze my leg...I imagine that I am lengthening my legs or ankles and reaching under his belly to squeeze him up and forward, and it is just for a stride or two.

My trainer uses a water bottle example...I hope I do this justice. She holds a waterbottle palm side down in her hand...if she squezes her hand as she pushes the bottle, sort of like your legs on the horses' barrel, it doesn't move forward...you are squeezing and blocking the forward movement of the horse.

Contantly pushing your ankles down into the stirrup is another form of bracing and blocking the back from coming up, So rather than thinking about pushing your ankles down, think about toes up.

When I am posting or even in sitting trot or canter and my horse is properly over his back, I feel like I could 'trampoline off of my stirrup bars' there's just a light pressure there.

I hope that helps.

Edited to add: I am 5'11. First horses I learned to ride were wide barrelled arabians and 14h Colombian Paso Finos. heehee! Feet practically touched the ground!

ginger708
Dec. 22, 2010, 01:06 PM
After riding jumpers for a long time, and then taking a break of a few years, I had my first dressage lesson today. My trainer said my upper body and hands were excellent, but that my leg is too far forward. She thinks this is due to years and years of half-seat with my heels plunged deep toward the ground, toes out a bit. I can see that.

She said that my calf should have no contact with the horse, and my foot should be parallel to his barrel. She wants me to rotate my thighs forward and turn my heels and lower leg out, basically locking my knee into the roll. She said my lower leg should be loose and floppy?

I do believe that your trainer is using a slight exaggeration to help you better visualize. In theory the legs should drape the horse. The level of the heel can very between different riders but it should not be jabbed down or pushed with force. I have a natural drop in me heel from years of being in the saddle I have seen very good dressage riders with more and less drop than myself. The important thing is not to push your heel down and keep it there or brace your foot in the stirrup. I'm not sure about using the term locking for anything a knee of thigh roll is there to stop the leg from creeping forward it will do that if the stirrup leather is long enough and you are not pinching with your knee so your leg pulls up and come over the block. Also I believe that the loose and floppy is a bit of an exaggeration as will the leg should be a quiet as possible.


I was able to obey her request at sitting trot and canter, but posting was a total nightmare. My lower leg felt unstable and my stirrups were sliding around. I tried to imagine that I didn't have a lower leg at all, and post from the thigh, which made me more stable and more relaxed. Unfortunately, when I relaxed, my calf collapsed onto the horse's side and she would yell at me again. She wants me to post with no weight in the stirrups, with my foot parallel, no contact with the horse's side from knee-down, heels under hips, with my thighs squeezed tightly around the horse.

No part of your leg should squeeze the horse unless you are specifically asking for something. What ever you ask for with your legs has to be balanced with your hands. When you are posting the horse should lift you up. I think this is where she is saying no weight in the stirrups, some riders have a tendency to push from the stirrups and they post to high and out of rhythm with the horse. Your thighs do help stabilize you so you can control the speed of the trot with your posting.


I understand what she wants, but I am confused about how to get there. When I do the above, I am tensed up and basically forcing my lower leg out, like I'm trying to stay up on roller skates, which created an incredible pain my hip. If I relax my lower leg I can post better, but then my calf touches the horse and she says this is a no no.

Does anyone have any input? Is pain in the hip okay or am I doing it wrong?

Thanks in advance! I know almost nothing about dressage or this trainer, so I am trying to make sure I am learning correctly.

Your calf can touch the horse however it should not be the back of the calf it should be the inside top as others here have mentioned. A really good illustration that I saw in a book Notes From the Spanish Riding School(title may not be exact)showed that when you dismount you should look at your boots. The wear and the grease from the horse should be on the inside of the boots not the back. If it is on the back you have to be more conscious of your leg. Check out riders boots if the wear is on the inside and not the back watch their leg position and they to apply it to your own while you are riding.

AnotherRound
Dec. 22, 2010, 01:20 PM
I haven't read the other responses. I am being taught to ride with steady thigh and calf contact on the horse and to shun knee contact. My biggest sin is the way I was taught to pinch the knees in h/j eq as a youth.

If you pinch with the knees either in dressage or jumping, you create a pivot point over which you topple back and forth. Over a jump, your weight is not spread well into the stirrup and you land on your knees and pitch forward. If you do NOT use your knees, and ride with your lower leg absorbing the jump, your horse will fold up to you and you will have a balanced soft landing, Its miraculous when you get it.

In dressage, your lower leg must be in contact with the horse ready to communicate nuances to him at all times. For example - in the bend, the outside leg holds his haunches from swinging away from the inside leg pressure. The inside leg is steady and must be firmly present for the horse to bend around. If your lower leg is not there, the horse is all over the place. You must be able to have your lower leg in contact with the horse in a steady, firm manner.

Your upper leg/thigh is the extension of your seat bones. It keeps you firm against the saddle, and pressure left and right are part of your hip and seat signals. Yes, your upper thigh is turned in - as though your hips are pigeon toed. Your hips are then open - your seatbones are spread open behind you - your thigh is spread out on the saddle in such a way that if you are sitting, reach back to the back of your thigh and pull it out from under you. This will turn your leg so it is facing front - your feet face front, your knee is light, and your lower leg drapes down around the outside of your horse.

If you stand up in the stirrups and pigeon toe your legs in and sit down again, this gives you an idea. Just besure to turn your entire leg in, from the hips down, opening the back of your seat bones.

If this description gives you any idea of what I am saying, it may help. However, it is not correct that you have no contact with your lower leg on the horse. It must be in contact to hold your horse and to signal at any moment your intention.

Just riding the rail at a walk in a shoulder in, you must support your horse with your outside leg, including lower leg, and outside rein because you are using your inside leg and thigh to ask for the shoulder in and your outside must resist to keep him straight. Turning requires outside leg and rein. Hopefully this will be of good help.

ETA - steady quiet support is not the same as strong leg on constantly. The latter is not correct. Steady quiety support is quiet and non-active. As others mentioned, a signal is given strongly and once, and the leg left alone after, however, I believe that the leg should in basic cirucumstances be left lightly and steadily on the horse.

GimmeQs
Dec. 22, 2010, 01:41 PM
This has turned into an interesting thread! At first I thought WTF is this trainer telling you!, but from what other people have posted, it's highly possible she's going for the exaggeration, etc to get you where you need to be.

As somebody who'd be afraid of throwing my money away and developing bad habits if this trainer turns out to be a bad fit for you, I wouldn't be afraid to ask if her training in posture so far is just various exercises or how you should always be riding... Sometimes if a rider is too in front of the vertical the trainer might say to learn back as if trying to touch the horses tail with the riders head - maybe your trainer is just taking it to the extreme??

I'd ask. For if not, you definitely don't want to ride around clamping your thighs and having no weight beyond your knees.

What big-wig said your leg should wrap around the horse like a wet towel (lower legs includes)???

alibi_18
Dec. 22, 2010, 02:10 PM
Before thinking this trainer does or not teach proper dressage I would care more about what is going on at that barn.


I am not saying she is bad or good, but for your information I saw other things that concern me with this trainer (thin horses, kids on hot/rearing horses, smoking during lessons, not to mention she was very late to her lessons today).


It was also very strangely shaped, high wither with very little muscle on the topline, but then a big belly--honestly looked kind of wormy. The instructor is short so maybe she was expecting me to do something that my longer legs just couldn't on that horse?

If you are going to be working there as some point, I would look if this style of managing is good for you. How do most of the horses look? Is the barn kinda clean? Is this a big riding school? What is the training program for the average horses over there? Does this trainer has horses in consignements? or in training? Is this just school horses?

What is this trainer back ground? Was she/he successfull at any shows? Does she/he has successfull show students? Is there any other clinicians going there to teach? Is she/he being coached by a master trainer?

Then, I would address her dressage skills. Go watch lessons. Go watch her ride. Go try to work there one or two days, just to see.
And do this before doing any commitments.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 04:46 PM
Then, I would address her dressage skills. Go watch lessons. Go watch her ride. Go try to work there one or two days, just to see.
And do this before doing any commitments.

**WARNING: novel below!** :lol:

Yeah, the context of the other things I saw at the barn is why I am asking these questions. If everything was on par outside my lesson, I would have just assumed that she knew what she was doing, and worked on it. I don't want to out the trainer by talking about the barn size, location, etc. I can say she is not certified with either USEA or USDF. She has catch ridden for some big events, but I don't know how long ago.

The lessons seemed very unprofessional in several ways. That's why I'm concerned. She just kind of sits on the side of the ring and yells instruction (yelling meaning loud, not mean). And smokes. I smoke, but I'd never smoke during a lesson. I don't smoke on anyone else's property, period, unless there is a designated smoking area and/or they are totally okay with it. Even then I am paranoid about ensuring all ashes/embers go into a water bottle or other container and I keep the butts in my car or my pocket, I never toss a cigarette. It seems disrespectful but maybe I'm being nitpicky. It is a hazard but even if it weren't it still seems rude.

In fact, at one point, one of her students' overgirths came loose, and she had him halt near where the parents were watching and asked someone to fix it. I was appalled that she wouldn't walk over to fix it herself so I told the parents to stay put and hopped the rail to buckle it. Again, I'd never ask a spectator to do part of my job for me.

Also she had her young child riding a really hot pony in a German martingale. Pony was rearing/hopping/rapidly backing and wouldn't stand still. The martingale + rearing pony + child had me so worried I was standing at the rail ready to jump in there should things go sour. The look on the kid's face told the story--he didn't know what to do and was very worried. So of course he was tightening the reins which made it worse. I really had to fight the urge to grab that pony and get the kid off.

Finally, when I showed up at the barn, they were turning horses out. Trainer wasn't there yet, but the barn workers were. One of the horses was wearing a flymask (I don't like them on at night, but whatever) and the guy removed it. One of the other workers said no, flymask stays on. The first guy said, oh, okay, and then put the mask on wrong. As in, tried to put the ear hole over the muzzle like a halter. I had to stop him and show him how to put the mask on. Once he had the mask on right, the guy let the horse escape the stall and I had to catch it by the nose and halter it for him.

I know the guy could be new or whatever but it is distressing that he knew so little. I feel like if he messes up flymasks/turnout, what else is he doing wrong? If I were a boarder there and had seen that, I would have had a talk with someone.

Basically tl;dr: There were some breaches in basic horsemanship/common sense/professionalism that really make me question everything about the place/trainer. Which is why I had to question my lesson with her.

ETA: OH I just have to complain about this one. After I worked my butt off all day helping her catch up on lessons from being so late (I caught, groomed, tacked up horses for the next lesson/hosed off, cooled, turned out, etc), it was finally time for my lesson. I was tacking up my horse when she said that she was thirsty and she had to go to the gas station for a drink. I offered her a bottle of water and she said she hated water. The barn is pretty remote so she left me waiting for her for 20 minutes while she bought an iced tea!!

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 04:53 PM
General update: I rode my friend's horses today (16-17hh) and tried bringing my leg back and keeping calf off, foot parallel. I was in a Crosby jumping saddle with flatwork-length stirrups. I could do so easily in all 3 gaits and rising trot. I mean, I still have to think about keeping my heels properly under my hips, BUT it was not impossible/painful like it was on the other horse. I am thinking horse conformation had a lot to do with it.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 04:57 PM
I haven't read the other responses. I am being taught to ride with steady thigh and calf contact on the horse and to shun knee contact. My biggest sin is the way I was taught to pinch the knees in h/j eq as a youth.

If you pinch with the knees either in dressage or jumping, you create a pivot point over which you topple back and forth. Over a jump, your weight is not spread well into the stirrup and you land on your knees and pitch forward. If you do NOT use your knees, and ride with your lower leg absorbing the jump, your horse will fold up to you and you will have a balanced soft landing, Its miraculous when you get it.

In dressage, your lower leg must be in contact with the horse ready to communicate nuances to him at all times. For example - in the bend, the outside leg holds his haunches from swinging away from the inside leg pressure. The inside leg is steady and must be firmly present for the horse to bend around. If your lower leg is not there, the horse is all over the place. You must be able to have your lower leg in contact with the horse in a steady, firm manner.

Your upper leg/thigh is the extension of your seat bones. It keeps you firm against the saddle, and pressure left and right are part of your hip and seat signals. Yes, your upper thigh is turned in - as though your hips are pigeon toed. Your hips are then open - your seatbones are spread open behind you - your thigh is spread out on the saddle in such a way that if you are sitting, reach back to the back of your thigh and pull it out from under you. This will turn your leg so it is facing front - your feet face front, your knee is light, and your lower leg drapes down around the outside of your horse.

If you stand up in the stirrups and pigeon toe your legs in and sit down again, this gives you an idea. Just besure to turn your entire leg in, from the hips down, opening the back of your seat bones.

If this description gives you any idea of what I am saying, it may help. However, it is not correct that you have no contact with your lower leg on the horse. It must be in contact to hold your horse and to signal at any moment your intention.

Just riding the rail at a walk in a shoulder in, you must support your horse with your outside leg, including lower leg, and outside rein because you are using your inside leg and thigh to ask for the shoulder in and your outside must resist to keep him straight. Turning requires outside leg and rein. Hopefully this will be of good help.

ETA - steady quiet support is not the same as strong leg on constantly. The latter is not correct. Steady quiety support is quiet and non-active. As others mentioned, a signal is given strongly and once, and the leg left alone after, however, I believe that the leg should in basic cirucumstances be left lightly and steadily on the horse.

This ^^ is exactly what I thought was correct. I ride with the whole leg softly enveloping the horse. Not the back of the calf, but the inside, gently against the barrel. I figured that any tension anywhere in your body is a bad thing in dressage, but avoiding calf all the time creates a great deal of tension for me.

alicen
Dec. 22, 2010, 05:12 PM
She said at any given moment, someone should be able to put their hand clean under my calf right underneath the knee without touching my leg.

Does she have a background in Saddlebreds and saddleseat riding?

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 05:13 PM
Does she have a background in Saddlebreds and saddleseat riding?

Not that I have heard. She seems to have always done eventing.

mg
Dec. 22, 2010, 05:23 PM
She is an eventing trainer so maybe she's just not good at dressage. Though I wasn't much impressed with her jumping position either.

Hey now! :winkgrin: Don't go thinking all eventers are worthless at dressage. Every eventer I have ever encountered who is worth their salt schools dressage a TON and are quite good. Also, the jumping position is different from what you'll see in the jumper ring, for the most part, but it should still cover the basic elements for a proper jumping position. Notice how GM tends to, on the whole, give pretty good critiques to the eventers in PH? ;)

I have to say though, I'm honestly surprised that coming from a jumper background, you're having more difficulty with your leg position than you are with your upper body. I took a similar route--rode jumpers my whole life and started dressage lessons a couple years back so I could transition into eventing. My first comment is you should check that your stirrups aren't too long. I found that my stirrups were swinging loose a lot when I started dressage. *Not* because I didn't have a secure leg, but because I couldn't reach the dang things properly!

The biggest difference I notice between riding in my cc and my dressage saddles is that the pressure on my stirrup comes from a different side of the ball of my foot. In my cc, pressure is on the inside pushing outwards. In my dressage saddle, pressure is on the outside.

Also, I've never been told "NO" leg pressure, but I can see how that could be an exaggeration on the trainer's part to get you to stop riding so tight in the leg (because of the jumper background). One of my trainers made the point that if your contact is constantly on the horse, it deadens them to your aids. You want to give a light aid and then leg go.

Good luck with the switch!

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 05:43 PM
Hey now! :winkgrin: Don't go thinking all eventers are worthless at dressage. Every eventer I have ever encountered who is worth their salt schools dressage a TON and are quite good. Also, the jumping position is different from what you'll see in the jumper ring, for the most part, but it should still cover the basic elements for a proper jumping position. Notice how GM tends to, on the whole, give pretty good critiques to the eventers in PH? ;)

Sure, I'm not trying to badmouth eventers. I want to event and I am constantly impressed by them. The question is, is this one "worth her salt." I have heard that bad eventing trainers don't emphasize dressage/are not classical.

When she is jumping, even on the flat in between jumps, her feet are out in front of her. Not a little, a LOT. The leathers are almost at 45 degrees from the vertical. So far forward you could see the girth unbroken all the way down. As in, you could follow the girth from the flap down the horse's barrel with your eyes without seeing her leg. As in, toes pointing almost directly upwards. :confused: She said "yeah I leave my leg like that so I can just pop my butt up. We call it 'rooster butt'." :o It sure didn't help that her saddle was much much much too small for her. She's a bigger gal.

The more I relive yesterday and think about what I saw at her place, the more I think it is not a good fit. I think I just WANT it to work so badly that I was ignoring the major issues I saw. But if someone asked me advice and told me what I have told you guys, I would tell them to run, not walk from that barn. :(

netg
Dec. 22, 2010, 06:00 PM
General update: I rode my friend's horses today (16-17hh) and tried bringing my leg back and keeping calf off, foot parallel. I was in a Crosby jumping saddle with flatwork-length stirrups. I could do so easily in all 3 gaits and rising trot. I mean, I still have to think about keeping my heels properly under my hips, BUT it was not impossible/painful like it was on the other horse. I am thinking horse conformation had a lot to do with it.

I'd guess it's more saddle fit on either of you than horse conformation. I've found regardless of heft/thinness of a horse, if the saddle fits us both right it is a HUGE difference.


As for this situation - sounds like you've made up your mind. Honestly, even if there's a chance you're overstating things and it's really a great place and she's super talented, just the impression you have makes it clear to me you shouldn't stick around there and it's a bad fit.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 06:10 PM
I'd guess it's more saddle fit on either of you than horse conformation. I've found regardless of heft/thinness of a horse, if the saddle fits us both right it is a HUGE difference.


As for this situation - sounds like you've made up your mind. Honestly, even if there's a chance you're overstating things and it's really a great place and she's super talented, just the impression you have makes it clear to me you shouldn't stick around there and it's a bad fit.

I am pretty sure the saddle didn't fit the horse. He was thin, wormy belly, high withers. She had a dressage pad, a fleece half pad, and a foam wither relief pad under the saddle.

About the whole situation--I have ridden (and currently ride) at some not-fancy places. Doesn't bother me at all, because the horses are healthy and safe as are the riders. This facility is the opposite: nice structure, fences, etc. but a lot of the things just rubbed me the wrong way. And for me to have so many things bother me on one day there really tells me a lot. :( :no:

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Dec. 22, 2010, 06:57 PM
I found it strange too, but I have never really ridden dressage. She said upper level horses don't ever need to be touched with the lower leg...they just respond when you bring your leg back but with space in between the horse and your leg. :(

Huh??? I don't think so. I've had the opportunity to ride some very nice FEI horses under the tutelage of clinicians and their FEI rider-owners, and none of them are ridden legs off. And I'm training my greenbean now with the help of GP trainers (cause that's where we want to go if all goes well :D), and it's all about: Get your leg ON, she needs to learn to accept your leg etc. etc. Now, not gripping, but the leg is there, in neutral, so to speak.

I've heard rumors that one or the other international competitor likes to keep her legs off a particular hotter-than-a-fritter horse,:winkgrin: but that's not in the general training curriculum.

As far as weight in the stirrups goes, your trainer may have referred to what I call my "defensive pose/perching" (my TB trained me well to stay in that pose, always, when on him ;)). If my young mare has a particularly hot day, my legs go forward, I arch my back and ride defensively. Once an innocent bystander tells me to breathe, I go back into my soft and legs-underneath position, and usually that works for both of us.

Oh, and I just read your update that the trainer/facility is probably not a good fit for you: Go with your gut :)

*Trinity*
Dec. 22, 2010, 08:26 PM
I agree on going with your gut. Another suggestion for the future: look up their show record! If their riding several horses, you can take a pretty good guess at their skills. If they only have a show record on one, I don't put too much weight in it. Obviously, you need to do more research on someone that just their show record, but it's a good place to start.

alg0181
Dec. 22, 2010, 08:51 PM
I agree on going with your gut. Another suggestion for the future: look up their show record! If their riding several horses, you can take a pretty good guess at their skills. If they only have a show record on one, I don't put too much weight in it. Obviously, you need to do more research on someone that just their show record, but it's a good place to start.

My gut is saying "Let's ride all the pretty horsies and make them dance!" But it is also saying "Poor thin wormy horsie was ridden in three lessons back to back, I want to take him home and give him lots of cookies." :lol:

My head, however is saying to stay away. And that's what I'm gonna do.

I had no idea this thread would become a discussion about me pursuing/not pursuing lessons at this place. But it really made me reflect and I've been thinking about it all day and I just can't do it. Thanks for giving me a place to mull things over. :yes:

netg
Dec. 23, 2010, 02:21 AM
I had no idea this thread would become a discussion about me pursuing/not pursuing lessons at this place. But it really made me reflect and I've been thinking about it all day and I just can't do it. Thanks for giving me a place to mull things over. :yes:


Sorry that's how it needs to work out for you, but it definitely sounds like the obviously correct decision now you've had the chance to mull it over. Good luck finding somewhere better - I think there are definitely opportunities out there!

Gallop~on~Grant
Dec. 31, 2010, 01:48 AM
Google is your friend. I think it will take you approximately 3 minutes to have your suspicions confirmed. The world is a much smaller place these days and its hard to hide behind false credentials.

Wordplay1832
Jan. 6, 2011, 03:33 AM
Just to weigh in from an eventers perspective-I had a clinic with someone in december who I thought was great. He was explaining that a lot of dressage does emphasize the really light lower leg so that as soon as you put it on there is an immediate response. However, for an eventer we need our horses to really accept our leg being on in order to do the jumping and especially cross country riding, so we ride their dressage a bit differently than a straight dressage horse because of what the horse is being expected to do in all three phases. So that makes me think it's more weird that the trainer would say to not use leg, when if anything I would think an eventing trainer would be more about having your lower leg on than a straight dressage instructor. This kind of makes me really think that she is maybe not a person you want to stay with. My normal eventing trainer also is about having your leg on-neither of them were talking about nagging every stride and having to use it really hard, but it needs to be there to support the horse, then becomes more engaged when asking for a change. My favorite phrase "Your leg is on, then it's more on...MORON!" (all in good fun of course-love her!)

Bogey2
Jan. 6, 2011, 07:55 AM
I second the Mary Wanless book suggestion!

Rackonteur
Jan. 7, 2011, 06:12 PM
No lower leg? What the?
Yes, no weight in the stirrup, just rest the foot there, then your leg will remain supple.
Dressage properly ridden, one should not see any leg movement or any other aids...remember the horse should appear to being doing it on its own.

Not questioning you, spirithorse, but I constantly see upper-level riders (mostly on youtube, but also locally) with their lower legs wiggling around all over the place. Looks odd to me, but if it works.... fine. I also see very obvious leg movement giving aids in doing flying changes.

spirithorse
Jan. 7, 2011, 06:29 PM
Yes, and why is it occuring? Simply because they are suspended in the saddle rather than sitting in the saddle. And it does not work....they are not riding the descriptions contained in the rules.

Look at the heads acting like bobblehead dolls....why? Look at their tushes plopping up and down into the saddle and thus into the back of the horse. And of course the legs wiggling like jello...........

I was educated in a cavalry riding manner and I have a quiet seat, quiet head and quiet legs, because I am not just hanging in the saddle...place a wishbone of a turkey on your finger and that is the way they sit in the saddle.



Not questioning you, spirithorse, but I constantly see upper-level riders (mostly on youtube, but also locally) with their lower legs wiggling around all over the place. Looks odd to me, but if it works.... fine. I also see very obvious leg movement giving aids in doing flying changes.

alibi_18
Jan. 7, 2011, 08:03 PM
Yes, and why is it occuring? Simply because they are suspended in the saddle rather than sitting in the saddle. And it does not work....they are not riding the descriptions contained in the rules.

Look at the heads acting like bobblehead dolls....why? Look at their tushes plopping up and down into the saddle and thus into the back of the horse. And of course the legs wiggling like jello...........

I was educated in a cavalry riding manner and I have a quiet seat, quiet head and quiet legs, because I am not just hanging in the saddle...place a wishbone of a turkey on your finger and that is the way they sit in the saddle.

Is a chair seat with toes almost touching the horse's elbow is more effective?