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happypants
Mar. 10, 2011, 09:21 AM
Hi all, I have a "beginner rider" question, one that I am sure is very common for newbie riders. What is "weight in your heels" supposed to feel like? I don't have alot of trouble keeping my calf on the horse and keeping my heels down at the posting trot, but when I rise into 2 point at the trot, I find it very difficult to wrap my legs around the horse, keep my calves on, and keep my heels down all at the same time. To me it feels almost like I need to be bowlegged, but trying to get that position in my lower leg makes my heel pop up. Should I be flexing my ankles outward to compensate for the calf being on the horse? And how can my heel stay down in such a very "unnatural" position? No one has really been able to explain to me how "weight in heels" should feel.

Help please?? Thanks!

Burgie
Mar. 10, 2011, 09:25 AM
I always have my riding newbies put the balls of their feet on the edge of a step. The edge of the step acts as a "stirrup" and the longer you stand there, the more you can feel your weight drop into your heel/stretch out that calf.

In regards to your leg position, the more you try to contort your body the more your body will contort.
Clear as mud?

When sitting in the saddle, picture yourself as a stick of butter on a warm summer day. Let your leg hang from your hip and melt down the side of the horse.

I'd also venture a guess that while in the two-point, you aren't correctly balanced over the horse. Quite often, people lean too far up the horse's neck, their lower leg swings to the rear, and it becomes difficult to maintain balance and proper leg position. I've found it helpful to have people practice their two point while standing on the ground. In order to stay upright, your tush has to be back or else you'll fall over.

All the best to you!

happypants
Mar. 10, 2011, 09:29 AM
That makes sense, about contorting and not getting the position I want. But when I try to relax and just let it happen, my instructor starts telling me to SQUEEZE with my calf to get a more forward trot, and then I start falling apart trying to relax and squeeze at the same time. :confused:

Heliodoro
Mar. 10, 2011, 10:02 AM
When you are in two point, grab some mane to start and help stabilize you without accidentally grabbing your horse's mouth. This may help lessen the panic "OMG I'm losing it!" and things start to fall apart. Or ask your instructor if you can use and old stirrup leather around the horse's neck for stabilization.

As for squeezing while up in two point, think of yourself as wrapping your legs (however long or short they may be!) around your horse's barrel and squeezing a tube of toothpaste. Try not to think of it as just using your calf to squeeze, but your entire leg encompassing the horse and squeezing forward. Does that make any sense to you?

happypants
Mar. 10, 2011, 10:27 AM
Yes, that makes perfect sense to me. It's just a matter of my body doing what my mind is telling it to do! When I squeeze, whether with my calf or my entire leg, those darn heels start creeping up. It's like the thought of wrapping my leg around the horse's barrel makes my feet (and toes) want to wrap too!

meupatdoes
Mar. 10, 2011, 10:31 AM
Try rotating your legs from your hipsockets.

A lot of people when told not to grip with the back of their calf, or told to put their toes more forward, try to turn their leg only at the ankle.

Turn from the hip and the whole leg will follow.

happypants
Mar. 10, 2011, 10:39 AM
Ok, rotating from the hip sockets is something i can visualize - makes perfect sense. I must be trying to wrap my legs around by rotating my hips outward (and therefore my knees) so that i'm wrapping around the barrel in almost a "circular" fashion from hip to ankle, causing my feet to curl under too. I'm sooooo trying to avoid the dreaded "pinching with the knee" issue though. How do i rotate from the hips without clamping down with the knee?

merrygoround
Mar. 10, 2011, 10:40 AM
Try to keep the feeling of a loose ankle. When the ankle locks, the heels stay down, but the weight can not drop down. Also, stiffening your ankle in a heels down position, can throw your lower leg forward. Once that happens, when you go to two point you will be fighting to keep from falling back into the saddle

meupatdoes
Mar. 10, 2011, 10:58 AM
How do i rotate from the hips without clamping down with the knee?

You rotate the hips and imagine the leg just hanging from them.

You keep a feel of your weight going past your knee, down the back of your leg, into your heel. You feel your heel bob slightly up and down with the motion of the horse, like a buouy in the ocean, as the horse moves underneath you. You can also imagine thumbtacks in the knee roll.

The key part is imagining your weight falling down the back of your lower leg, pulling your heel below the stirrup bar. That is a way better anchor than a pinched knee can ever be.

Honestly, I hate it when instructors just say "Heels down." To me it is so much more important to put the rider's weight in the back of their lower leg. Suddenly they think about life with this image instead of just "heels down" and BOOM, stable lower leg.

happypants
Mar. 10, 2011, 11:06 AM
That's a good point, this is so helpful! So i should be feeling a stretch down the back of leg/hamstring and down my calf muscles at the back of my calf. I felt this when i first started riding but then self-corrected (and maybe not appropriately so!) because i was concerned that meant i was putting too much pressure on the stirrup. So really it's like the pressure is dropping the back of my leg/heel down below the the back of the stirrup then (and definitely not on the ball of the foot)?

Thoroughbred1201
Mar. 10, 2011, 11:09 AM
To get the security of the leg wrapping around your horse, you don't want your heels to go 'straight' down. That actually takes your leg off your horse. You want your toe pointed slightly out, but no more than a 45 degree angle from your horses side, which will put your calf against your horse.

Then, think about 'cocking your ankle' towards the side of your horse and putting your weight towards the big toe side of your foot. This will wrap your calf around the side of your horse. NOW, push your heel down.

This will lock you right in.

Now all you have to think about is don't pinch with your knee, pull your leg back from your hip, keep everything loose, etc., etc., etc. LOL.

Thoroughbred1201
Mar. 10, 2011, 11:12 AM
Excellent advice posted here about pulling your leg back from the hip. The main thing is to keep the knee from pinching. That will put you right over the head.

Another thing that may help in two-point; think about pushing 'down' on the top of your knee. That will pull your leg back and straight. It will keep you from pinching your knee.

Just keep a leg on each side, and your mind in the middle!

happypants
Mar. 10, 2011, 11:17 AM
Thank you all, you've given me some really great advice! Next time I ride, my brain will be in overdrive trying to accomplish all of this!

JetSetjr
Mar. 10, 2011, 11:23 AM
Great thread!! I love all the advice. I wish I could print it all out and bring it with me when I ride to refer back to :)

fourmares
Mar. 10, 2011, 06:01 PM
For some people the image of lifting the toe makes more sense than heals down. Also you don't want the side of your calf on the horse... you want the inside back quarter of your calf on the horse. And it sounds like when your trainer tells you to squeeze with your leg, you are trying to press your heels against your horse and lifting your lower leg. That actually takes your leg off your horse. Think about squeezing the part of your leg below your calf muscle and above your ankle bone against your horse.

Ray
Mar. 10, 2011, 06:11 PM
try this: on the horse, at the halt - can you stand up ? I mean really stand, so your legs are almost straight. this will give you the feed back of whether your shoulder, hips, knee and lower leg are aligned. use a mirror if you have one. in this position, you should be able to get your heel down and keep your lower leg on the horse. it might also help you to have a lunge lesson so that you dont have to be the one to provide the "go". and to help you learn to get into 2 point and stay there w/o your balance affecting the horse thru your hands.

I found Sally Swift's "Centered Riding" and George Morris's book to be very helpful on position.

S1969
Mar. 10, 2011, 06:20 PM
Just another thought - a saddle that doesn't fit your or the horse will make it really hard to ride correctly, and you might notice it in 2-point first because you can't find a balance point at all. If you think you're doing what you should be doing but still really struggling, ask someone to evaluate the saddle you are riding in for fit of you or the horse.

Some of the lesson horses and saddles my kids rode in were horrible - one swayback pony needed a big lollypop pad or they had to climb out of the dip in her back. 2-point nearly impossible. Another high withered TB that had a sensitive back and would use a special wither-relief pad, which had the effect of sitting the saddle quite up hill.

One other "fit" issue is that sometimes you need to change your stirrup length depending on the horse you ride. If a wider horse, you might want to lengthen your stirrups a hole. My paint is wide in the barrel and too-short stirrups on her makes me feel very unstable.

colorfan
Mar. 10, 2011, 06:45 PM
s1969
I think you have made a very good point, I worked really hard to maintain position and could not, just could not hold a two point, very agravating as at one time I rode in two point in a western saddle for miles at a time.

Then I changed saddles and suddenly and I mean from one day to the next two point was easy and riding was fun once again!:)

bits619
Mar. 10, 2011, 07:00 PM
i second the recommendation of Sally Swift's Centered Riding book, cover to cover! I've started reading the second book and it's really helpful too. I try to read through them slowly and taking as much time for those feelings/mental visualizations to evolve, sink in. They're truly fantastic- more about the general feeling than the specific details, if that makes sense.
I'll think about them before I ride, too- taking a few moments to go through a few of them- reminders (growing like a tree, stacking building blocks, soft eyes, centering, etc) to remind myself and get in the mindset.

Opus1
Mar. 10, 2011, 07:00 PM
Try rotating your legs from your hipsockets.

Turn from the hip and the whole leg will follow.


Also you don't want the side of your calf on the horse... you want the inside back quarter of your calf on the horse. ... Think about squeezing the part of your leg below your calf muscle and above your ankle bone against your horse.

I can't wait for my next lesson to try these out, because I've been a little confused about what to squeeze with, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've heard anything about 'rotating from your hip sockets.' It all makes perfect sense. Especially since I've recently started gripping with my knees and didn't know how to fix it.

I hope the OP has learned as much as I have from this thread. :)

MMacallister
Mar. 10, 2011, 07:44 PM
I used this method for rotating from the hip when I used to teacch.
While mounted, I would take the students foot out of the stirrup and ask them to stretch their leg and then relax it. While it was relaxed I would turn the whole leg from the hip. I would turn it back and forth a few times and then put the foot in the stirrup in the correct position. I did this to both sides and it seemed to help the student understand what it was supposed to feel like, to make it easier to replicate.

I guess we could do a whole thread on terms that we have heard that mean "heels down" but here is a short list of some of the terms I have used. Different things click with different riders so if one didn't work, I would try another one.

Toes up
Pretend there is an egg under your toe
Put weight in your heel
I would put my hand under the students heel and tell her to 'step on my hand'
Put weight in your heels
Pretend their is a weight tied to the back of your shoe
Stand on your heel
While standing still I would have students stand on their toes, then on their heel, do this a few times and then 'keep' the standing on your heel position.


I am sure folks on here could add to the list, but find something that works for you. Everyone has a different style of learning and when one explanation doesn't work, another one might.

fourmares
Mar. 10, 2011, 11:39 PM
One thing that will really give you the feel for having your weight in your heels is to put your feet in your sturrips backwards... meaning put your heel in the "front" of your sturrip. Your heel will only fit a tiny ways in there and you have to press down on the sturrip to keep it. Ride with your sturrips backwards for a few minutes (it's harder than you'd think) and then switch back to normal.

alterhorse
Mar. 11, 2011, 05:37 PM
Please keep in mind that each rider is an individual, and every individual may have a different degree of conceptual understanding, as well as physiological ability, flexibility and strength.

There really is no 'one size fits all' correct way to explain to every student how something should be done.

It is up to each trainer to observe and assess each individual student, and then make appropriate decisions of how to advise each student to help them understand how to achieve any particular ability.

In my opinion,

Any trainer who shouts the same 'training term' at a student over and over with no productive result, is not a good teacher regardless of what their own ability to ride may be.

A good rider does not necessarily make a good teacher, especially if that teacher can't adapt and apply their knowledge of riding to those students who are not just carbon copies of the trainers own physical type, ability, and aptitude.

The concept of having ones heels down is more then just an outward physical appearance of a descriptive term, or the description of a sensation of stretching in the back of your calf.

The ball of your foot on a stirrup is one of the foundations of support for your riding, and your entire leg is a dynamic flexible biomechanical device that is capable of an enormous range of dexterous movement, feeling, suppleness and flexibility.

If your have it in your mind that heals down means that you must freeze your lower leg in a frozen solid non-flexible position, then you probable are, and that frozen solid non-flexibility will likely permeate up through your entire body, and propagate outwardly into limiting the the comfort, flexibility, ability, and range of motion of your horse as well.

Imagine that you are a dancer, dancing with balance, grace, suppleness, cadence, flexibility, and independent dexterous control of every part of your body including your ankles. Now imagine that you are dancing with your horse, riding on his back, with your heals down, because having your heals down provides you with the most stability to become the best dancer that you can be. :)

Bigbutt
Mar. 12, 2011, 11:43 AM
Great thread, I will be trying a number of these tricks to keep my "heels down".
I have the similiar issue lately, as I've been off for 6 months due to injury and illness - so I'm working again on my riding fitness. While doing all this on a baby greeny.

My biggest issue with my legs is when I put my leg down I tend to jam my leg forward ahead of the girth.

Any hints on how to fix this. For the past 7 years I've been riding a full clydesdale, which my leg didn't really fit. Now that I'm on a slight built tb/clyde cross, we are really noticing the jamming forward.

Burgie
Mar. 12, 2011, 03:51 PM
Bigbutt - LOVE the name.

Focus on maintaining a bend in the knee. I have a student who, in an effort to keep her heels down, jams her leg in front and loses the bend in her knee.

The scenario that helped her visualize this was to think of a very angry bull. Said bull, when angered, stomps foot down and back. She focuses on picking up that knee, pointing the thigh bone down, maintaining the bend in the knee, and swinging the leg back behind her (and leaving it there).

Hope that makes sense.

happypants
Mar. 21, 2011, 09:47 AM
Hate to resurrect an older thread, but I just wanted to provide an update - I've read and reread this thread before my last few lessons and everyone's advice has been SOOOOO helpful, I have been able to apply the hip rotation and "cocking the ankle" toward the horse, and my lower leg hardly moves now!! :) It has helped a bit that I am now riding a much bigger and wider horse with a very smooth trot. Previously I was riding a very narrow, choppy Thoroughbred that made things a bit difficult for me. Obviously my leg should stay still no matter what horse I ride...I will have the opportunity to ride the Thoroughbred again later this week and I'm curious how my legs will react. Hopefully I won't have any problems!

Thoroughbred1201
Mar. 21, 2011, 12:08 PM
My biggest issue with my legs is when I put my leg down I tend to jam my leg forward ahead of the girth..

It sounds like you're bracking. Not surprising on a greeny! It sounds like you're pushing your heel down with the muscles on the back of your calf, so your leg goes forward, and you sit in the back seat. So . . .

At a halt, try standing up (straight up, as described earlier in this thread), then gently close up your knee and and hip angle. You should feel the muscles over the top of your thigh and through the front of your knee. Now 'push down' on those muscles. This will slightly straighten your leg, and push your lower leg back.

Now keeping your leg where it is, sink down into your seat. You'll find yourself right in the middle of your horse. Make sure that when you start to move, you don't fall back to the back of your saddle. That will shoot your legs forward.

Hope this helps.

Opus1
Mar. 27, 2011, 03:51 PM
I hope the OP has learned as much as I have from this thread. :)

During today's lesson -- my first since this thread -- I asked my instructor how my leg position was. She said, "A hurricane couldn't move your leg." :D

I also asked her about my heels. I can't remember her exact words, but I think she's a little weirded out by how far they go down ...

Sorry for the bump, but thought those who shared their advice would like to know it's definitely been helping. :)

goeslikestink
Mar. 27, 2011, 05:30 PM
Hi all, I have a "beginner rider" question, one that I am sure is very common for newbie riders. What is "weight in your heels" supposed to feel like? I don't have alot of trouble keeping my calf on the horse and keeping my heels down at the posting trot, but when I rise into 2 point at the trot, I find it very difficult to wrap my legs around the horse, keep my calves on, and keep my heels down all at the same time. To me it feels almost like I need to be bowlegged, but trying to get that position in my lower leg makes my heel pop up. Should I be flexing my ankles outward to compensate for the calf being on the horse? And how can my heel stay down in such a very "unnatural" position? No one has really been able to explain to me how "weight in heels" should feel.

Help please?? Thanks!

read this link - read page one start by getting your stirrups to the correct length all explained in and on page one

then ask to be worked on the lunge without sitrrups so your working on your core balance

http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=178116