View Full Version : How to move legs back

Mar. 17, 2011, 07:54 PM
My legs are somewhat active and my goal is to quiet them as I'm now on a horse that is used to quiet-legged riders and is pretty excitable. My new trainer says I need to move my feet well back, to get my heels in line with my shoulders and hips. I find this very difficult to do while also keeping my heels down.

So, you experts tell me what I need to do to accomplish this. :)

Also, a question. Would an AP saddle make this easier to accomplish than the CC saddle I am in now?

Mar. 17, 2011, 08:02 PM
the saddle wont matter. its all has to do with developing new muscle memory.

It is going to feel very strange at first but once you get a hold of it, you will find it really opens up your hip angle. Make sure your iron is braced across the ball of your foot the correct way and then push your legs back to where someone on the ground tells you they are in line. You will then feel like you are tipped forward and your legs are flying out behind you when you post. So slide your seat alllllll the way to the front of the saddle and tilt your pelvis up to open your hip angle (I'll never forget being told: "your anus ring should be touching the saddle...gross! but you wont forget it!)...at this point you should feel like you are leaning back, that means your doing it right. Relax into your knee and then ride like this until it feels comfortable, making sure to reposition yourself every once in awhile as you will definitely revert back to your old position many time before you get it right.

Good luck!

Mar. 17, 2011, 08:14 PM
Stand up in your stirrups at the walk. If your legs aren't under you, you will fall back into the saddle. When you find your balance, sink your weight back down.

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:09 PM
Maybe shorten your stirrup a hole or two.... If your legs are coming out in-front of you like a western look. Can't see what you look like but maybe try it.

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:39 PM
Okay, to answer all 3 of these:

holaamigoalter - you sound most like my trainer. When I open my hip angle, I feel as if I am really having to exert the muscles in my lower abdomen, to keep the angle open. I also feel as if I am having to arch my lower back. I'm a male, and this feels very unnatural to me, but it is the way women tend to naturally hold their lower backs -- perhaps assuming the correct position is harder for male riders?

CBoylen -- my trainer had me do this, and it works, but getting my heels down is the problem.

BladicusStables - it seems to me this is backwards. I was thinking about lengthening my stirrups as the longer they are the easier it is to get my heels down.

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:42 PM
After a long break from lessons/riding in general I had developed this problem.
What my trainer had me do was try to point my kneecaps at the ground. This would automatically put my leg in the right position and I just had to remember that feeling and search for that feeling. Another thing she had me do is the old exercise of down-up-up-down posting, like 2 pt its pretty hard to do that without your legs in the right spot.

Mar. 17, 2011, 10:31 PM
I know when my heels creep up or when I can not get them down, I need to stretch.

I have really tight legs/tendons and it really help just to stand on the stairs for a little bit with my heels down. You can do this with straight legs, but also make sure to stretch with them bent to simulate the riding position. This will not help you with keeping your legs back, but may make it a little easier to keep your heels down.

Mar. 17, 2011, 11:16 PM
I am beginning to develop a mental image, is it correct? It's that to get the legs back, the pelvis (seat) needs to be less horizontal (chair like) which allows the upper leg to be more vertical, too. To make it more vertical, that is, in line with the back and more vertical upper leg, it is necessary to open the hips by using the abdomen muscles to pull the bottom of the pelvis where it joins the legs BACK.

Mar. 17, 2011, 11:50 PM
One thing that helped me to keep my legs back and heels down at the same time is to stretch my legs before I mount. Also, I stretch my back on an exercise ball on my stomach and on my back on the ball!

One visual exercise that helped me the most was to think of letting my heels go towards the horse's hocks! This helped with opening my hips and letting my heels go towards the right spot!

When I first get on the horse, if I am feeling extra tight, I let my feet hang out of the stirrups for the first three minutes or so! This allows my hips and legs to relax and stretch before I try to cram my feet in stirrups.

My mare gets witchy if I am fiddling around with my position. I find that stretching, visualizing my heels going towards the horses hocks, and feet dangling as soon as I get on......these make a huge impact in my riding....

Good Luck!

Mar. 17, 2011, 11:59 PM
Ahhh, I didn't realize you're a guy. Hmmm. Well I can tell you what I yell to the girls all the time: "GET YOUR BALLS OFF THE TACK!!!"'

hahah, but seriously I can't give you much advice because I don't know how the anatomy would differ.

We were discussing this the other night though. The reason guys are better riders than girls is because they have balls. Lucky guys ;)

Mar. 18, 2011, 12:04 AM
Also...you should be feeling your lower abdomen muscles working...that means your doing it right.

Without seeing you ride, I don't know if your back is too arched. It should be flat. But depending on what your position is now, sometimes flattening your back can feel like arching it if you are not used to it. I'm going to assume that since your leg is too far in front, that means you are slouching and you will probably feel like you are over-arching when you are in fact doing it right. If you were over-arching that would put pressure on the front of your seat which would (I assume) be uncomfortable for your...erm, balls.

Mar. 18, 2011, 10:05 AM
I am beginning to develop a mental image, is it correct? It's that to get the legs back, the pelvis (seat) needs to be less horizontal (chair like) which allows the upper leg to be more vertical, too. To make it more vertical, that is, in line with the back and more vertical upper leg, it is necessary to open the hips by using the abdomen muscles to pull the bottom of the pelvis where it joins the legs BACK.

:yes: You're getting it!

Also, since correct lower leg position stems from higher up in the body, take a look at your thigh and knee position. Are the backs of your thighs resting on the saddle (incorrect) or the insides/front (correct)? Try this stretch to put your legs in the right spot:

At the halt, drop your stirrups. Make sure you are sitting balanced in the saddle, with that correct vertical, open pelvis position. Take your entire leg, from the hip joint, out and AWAY from the saddle. Again, from your hip joint, roll your thigh and knee forward and in. (Think about putting the front of your thigh on the saddle. It won't actually touch, but just have that image in mind.) When your legs are rolled inward, softly lay them back down against the saddle, and keeping them as still as possible, pick up your irons with your toe, and stretch your heel down. You should now feel "locked" into position, and unable to kick your lower leg forward into an incorrect place. Whenever you feel your leg creep in front of you, stop and take your legs AWAY, IN, and DOWN, and lock everything back in place!

Mar. 18, 2011, 10:19 AM
My lower leg would creep forward when I used the Herm Sprenger flexible irons. I replaced them with wit heavy fillis irons and have not had the problem since.

Mar. 18, 2011, 11:35 AM
I *am* using heavy fillis irons.

caradino - my thighs have absolutely no fat on them, and when in the saddle, there is no contact between the groin and the knee when I look down at that area. Only contact is further back. I'll try your exercise, but I'm wondering if it won't make me pinch with my knees.

Mar. 18, 2011, 01:11 PM
A few ideas. Two-point and a ton of it. You can't stay there and balanced if your legs aren't in a good position.

Winged victory - at halt to start, stand in your stirrups and kick your legs back, with crotch over pommel until you find a balance point (think "Titanic movie" and the famous scene where the lead actress stood on the front rail with her arms out to the side...) I think this is from Sally Swift? but Winged Victory is my friend and I do it before every ride at halt and walk. Once you find a secure position, keep legs there and SIT.

Finally, to keep your lower leg stable, try to think of "toe up" vs. heels down. We just worked on this in a lesson and it finally helped me stabilize my inner leg especially at the trot and canter. If you think of toes up and pulling your pinky toe up and in a bit toward your knee, it helps to stabilize the leg.

When my legs get too active, my trainer has me up in two point for a few strides, weight down in heels, toe up and then SIT with legs in same position.

Hope that helps!

Mar. 19, 2011, 09:59 PM
I tried the "toe up" thing today and it seemed to help.

Mar. 21, 2011, 07:23 PM
http://www.horseforum.com/horse-riding/help-leg-position-6627/ I thought this link may have some advice. Also when you think of a jockey where are there feet, back, because the shortness of the stirrup help's them to keep it there. Where are a western riders leg's in front of them because their stirrups are longer and allow it. So I agree with CBoylen that standing up and finding your center of balance will help you figure out where it is. Also shorter stirrups will help you off the horses back and help stretch your heel out better. Plus if your stirrups are too long you are going to keep pushing your heels down which then push your leg forward.

Jul. 2, 2011, 07:09 PM
Well, my instructor and I are out of ideas! My posting trot is okay, mainly because I stopped gripping with my knees (believe it or not, an earlier instructor had recommended this, but I also wasn't aware must how much I WAS gripping).

I saw myself on video this week and realized my upper leg was still too horizontal. To get it more vertical, I can either lengthen my stirrups, or bend my lower leg more horizontal. My instructor thinks the latter is the way to go, but I find it very hard to get my heels down when I do this -- and my foot is still swinging.

Today, my instructor was having me roll my thighs inward to make my feet more parallel to the horse, but the problem with that is that I have such thin thighs that this causes me to start gripping with my knees again -- basically my thighs don't contact the saddle on the inner front -- my knee will always contact first. However this did bring my heel back more.

I'm so confused! :(

Jul. 2, 2011, 11:43 PM
the saddle wont matter.

This is not true. If the stirrup bar is way too far ahead, your are going to be constantly fighting to get your leg in the correct position. If you drop your stirrups and then put your leg where it should be, how far ahead are your stirrups.

Jul. 3, 2011, 12:55 AM
I actually just taught a student today who has serious leg issues. She has chronic ankle problems which make her very anxious/unable to really get her heel down. As a result, she rides with her leg quite in front of her and struggles to even post the trot smoothly as a result of not being in touch with her center of gravity. I had her do the standing up at the walk exercise to feel where her leg alignment should be. I had her focus more on keeping her leg at/behind the girth. Once she can do that consistently, we will work on weight in her heels. It's much harder to teach leg position than heels down, so once her muscle memory keeps her leg in the right place we can fine tune the heels. Also, it is not necessary to "force" your heels down. I told her today to just focus on keeping her heel lower than her toe. For now, that is a good solution and then we will build from there.

So my suggestion is to spend a LOT of time walking and trotting, focusing on keeping the shoulder/hip/heel alignment. Once your body more or less automatically aligns, then you can tweak the minor flaws.

Jul. 3, 2011, 10:19 AM
Thanks NeedsAdvil - I'll start doing this since I am totally out of other ideas.

BTW, I can stand up in my stirrups and get what is supposedly the correct position, but when I half seat, even tho my weight is virtually all in my heels, my legs swing backward and forward. My thought is that my body is causing this; that I am unable to keep it perfectly centered over my stirrups. Does that sound right? If so, then I don't I'll ever be able to stop the swinging.

But perhaps more importantly, the position my instructor wants my feet is NOT where they go when I stand up in the stirrups. She wants them further back than that. This makes sense in a way, because there's no room for me to sit down and keep my stirrups where they were; I have to bend my legs more horizontal to sit down -- either the upper or lower part of them. If it is to be the lower part, then feet and stirrups MUST go back into what I consider to be an unsustainable position.

Christa P
Jul. 3, 2011, 11:28 AM
Try sitting correctly with your seat, then pulling your leg off the saddle sideways and moving your whole leg back from the hip before putting it back against the saddle.

A lot of people move thier legs back by swinging just the lower leg from the knee - this won't help, you need to move your whole leg as described. It might also require longer stirrups.

Also, before mounting try stretching out your hip.

Jul. 3, 2011, 11:32 AM
If you have your own horse and saddle (i.e. not riding lesson horses), I'd seriously consider having a good saddle fitter out to look at the fit of your saddle both for you and the horse. A lot of instructor's have no idea about saddle fit wrt the rider and are of the generation that thought anyone should be able to ride in any saddle. If your saddle doesn't fit you and you train your legs to push backwards to get in the correct position, then if you ever get a saddle that does fit, you'll be shoving your legs way too far back because you've developed incorrect muscle memory. Don't assume that your trainer will notice this on her own or agree that it could be the cause.

Jul. 3, 2011, 12:59 PM
I find when I remove my stirrups it is much easier to keep my leg back. I will do this until I get that feeling locked in then pick up my stirrups. I have to do this frequently because old habits die hard.
I also notice depending on the size of the horses barrel makes a difference on my leg. The rounder the barrel the more difficulty I have keeping my leg back.

Jul. 3, 2011, 04:22 PM
I wonder if it could be this simple. Today, while cantering in half-seat, I actually leaned over and watched my outside foot to see how much it was moving. I noticed that when I came down (horse is springing forward?), my foot was moving forward to take the weight in the stirrups, and then as weight lightened, I was moving my foot back to where I thought it should be. Perhaps I just haven't been clear on where I was trying to hold my foot (that is, I THOUGHT I was holding it where I did when standing up, but perhaps when actually cantering I was bringing it too far back). Anyway, I concentrated on NOT bringing it back and leaving it where it went naturally when weighted and this seemed to stop the motion.

Of course, it could just be that watching my feet allows me to keep in balance better.

I'll definitely being following up on this when the stable reopens on Tuesday.

Summit Springs Farm
Jul. 3, 2011, 05:03 PM
Point your knees downward.

Think of kneeling, like in church, with a pew in front of you to keep you straight,trap-leaning forward to balance yourself.

Take the forward enegy from the horse in your seat and thighs to keep your lower leg still and back.

You may use " bouncing " in the saddle when you first start to keep your position until you get stronger. You will learn to absorb the forward motion.

The main purpose is to remain balanced and centered over your horse's withers and stay in rhythm with your horse. This requires the use of your core muscles.

Jul. 3, 2011, 05:22 PM
I would try dropping your stirrup length a hole or two, what can it hurt? You can always put them back up (although give it some time, it will feel very strange at first). I had similar problems, with pinching knees, unbalanced two-point, etc. Finally determined that my stirrups were two holes too short. Fixed that and voila--instant open hip angle and much better leg position.

Jul. 3, 2011, 09:02 PM
I've already experimented with that in the last day or two. They are currently 3 holes down from what they were a week ago.