View Full Version : Frustrated with ME (Update on post 23)

Mar. 31, 2011, 11:40 PM
I recently started taking some H/J lessons again, it's been a loooooooong time. I wanted to maybe do some showing this summer and was having some issues over fences. I've been one of those people left to my own devices and I don't think I've totally fallen apart but there are some BAD habits I've learned and can't seem to get rid of.... and it frustrates me to no end. Some of which I didn't realize until I started lessons but now I look at pics from a recent show and I can totally see exactly what the instructor is talking about.

Frustrating point #1 - My leg. Instructor says I have a very stiff/locked leg, that's too far out in front of me, pinch my knee and that I need to turn my toe out WAY more (I tend to ride with my feet straight with a small amount of flex in the ankle to the outside) to get my lower leg on my horse.
It makes sense because I have a much more effective leg when my toe is out more but I physically just can't keep my ankle THAT flexed comfortably, nor can I keep my lower leg back under me where she's saying it's supposed to be. The more I bend my knee to put my lower leg back underneath me, the more my knee feels pinched and the more insecure I feel. Maybe the saddle? (Going to try riding in a different one for awhile). Maybe I've just gotten too used to riding as I do and need to force the position for awhile?
I'll admit some of the way I ride with my leg was to accomodate my horse, who's very sensitive and "goosy" at times. My leg is still on, it's just wrapped around on (side of calf), instead of toe turned out (back of calf/heel) on.

Point #2 - My seat - I apparently ride "too far back" or "on the cantle". And again, I just don't feel like I can physically schooch forward and land any closer to the pommel (say in the posting trot). I had a peek at pics from the recent show and I can sort of see it, but just not sure what to do about it? (This isn't a Huuuuge issue IMHO, just something I can't figure out how to fix).

Point #3 - Confidence/trust in my horse over fences. This is the one that bothers me the most. Horse and I have a heck of a time finding a good rhythm/good quality canter which is the basis of ALL the issues. Horse also has a canter like an accordian, by this I mean she can go from a nice long stride to short pony strides and chip a fence or vice versa and take off super long. It's really unpredictable and frustrating. So in an effort to try and "fix" the problem, my solution was to ask the horse to canter much slower, which didn't fix it at all. (take note that all of this is a summar of several years of what's going on, as I see it anyways). So during the unpredictable jumps I've started to pull back cause my brain goes "AHH! This isn't good!". I don't even realize I'm doing it (well now I do). It just seems instinctive now and I know that's not good and it's ruining our attempts at jumping. Leg needs to stay ON and hands need to stay OFF. Instructor has gotten us to really open up our canter but my trust is just not there for the horse, I'm expecting it to throw in a nasty chip or launch, so what do I do? I pull back and then things fall apart. How can I get my confidence up and quit doing this? I'm just so frustrated, I desperately want to jump, have consistent rides and enjoy it again.

Apr. 1, 2011, 12:33 AM
Funny, I thought this was going to be a thread about your frustration with the state of Maine! That's why I clicked, I was going to read what was so bad about Maine...;)

But I see, it's you! And all I can tell you is, if you feel like you are not strong enough to keep your leg in the right place, then you aren't! You should start working out and getting stronger. Pliometric exercises are great, as is Yoga or Pilates or any exercise involving strength and balance. You need to train for riding, just like you would train for any other sport.

And when you are practicing riding, make sure you make it hard on yourself. By that I mean, drop your stirrups, sit the trot, take yourself out of your comfort zone and really break a sweat! That thread about the cruel and unusual equitation exercises comes to mind...

And remember, you have to ride the canter that allows you to find a good distance. Chances are, if you didn't get the distance, you never had the canter. Some horses carry better and have better balance than others, and that makes it easier. Some you have to ride the balance into them, and make them carry you every step of the way. But if you are constantly getting to unpredictable distances, you are probably not getting the right canter. Which then makes you lose confidence, which then makes you pull. Don't be too hard on yourself and realize that happens to lots of people! But make sure to concentrate on getting the balanced, forward canter, feeling it, and feeling how to keep it, no matter what excuses the horse may throw at you.

Good luck, you sound like you are a conscious, concerned rider.

Apr. 1, 2011, 12:57 AM
Well, for your first two issues it may be partly your saddles fault. I know now firsthand, after riding in a ton in the past few weeks, just how much a saddle can positively or negatively affect my riding.

For the third issue, I think going back to the flat and doing ground poles would help. Just work on getting and learning to feel that good canter without having to worry about height. And make sure your horse is in front of your leg. It's really hard to jump and see distances when your horse isn't adjustable or slow off your leg.

Apr. 1, 2011, 08:29 AM
Aw, don't get discouraged. We all go through this all the time.

I agree your saddle may be working against you. Some saddles pitch your lower leg forward and make it really hard to keep everything where it belongs.

BUt at the heart of a lot of riding is muscle memory. You need to retrain your muscles to the correct position. You do need to force it until it becomes natural, even if it isn't comfortable at first. I'm just starting riding again after a long winter and it is uncomfortable to keep everything in the right position when I have been riding for a few minutes because my muscles are not used to it. The only way to make it more comfortable is to do it, ugh. My thighs are so sore I can barely totter around the farm, but there's no easy way to get fit and no shortcut.

I know the temptation to take your leg off a goosy horse, but I believe that is actually counterproductive. You need to get the horse to accept your leg, as long as your leg is lying quietly on his side. sticking it out in front of you with no contact just makes you unable to ride with proper form and makes it impossible to give him proper commands. He can't come properly back to front if you don't have any leg on.

I would go back to flatwork, get him accepting your leg, put your leg back where it belongs and teach your horse to accept it with lots of lateral work, transitions, and focus on keeping it quiet but present. It will be worth the time investment. Until you do that I fear you will just be spinning your wheels.

I think Kate hit on the distance issue -- since your horse isn't accepting your leg, he isn't out in front of it, and that is probably the root of most of your jumping inconsistencies. Fix the flat and the jumping will follow.

Apr. 1, 2011, 08:59 AM
My suggestion would be landing/take-off rails where your horse cannot lengthen or shorten at the base without it being uncomfortable. Most horses will figure it out after a few times & then OP, you can learn to just leave your horse alone & let the poles set her up.

Once she gets that concept, you can allow her to figure out what kind of canter she needs to make the jump comfortable.

I don't think going back to flatwork is always the answer - you should of course continue to do good flatwork & use flat exercises to strengthen your jumping but DOING is sometimes the only way we, and especially our horses, can improve. That's why setting up exercises that increase success is important as there is no sense in DOING if you're not doing it right :)

I'm a big believer in less is more - try to let the horse figure it out on it's own without always having to set it up all the time. That's where we get into trouble as riders; always feeling like we need to DO something & it's much worse when you don't have someone on the ground telling you to stop ;)

Apr. 1, 2011, 09:07 AM
More saddle time and more lessons.

And STOP overthinking. Try a different saddle too.

Apr. 1, 2011, 09:16 AM
More saddle time and more lessons.

And STOP overthinking. Try a different saddle too.

This is actually great advice. Do this.

And trust your trainer. You keep questioning whether you can do what she is telling you to do physically. Yes, you can put your leg back and your heels down. I swear. Just do it. It will feel better soon.

Apr. 1, 2011, 09:25 AM
Try a different saddle and make sure it sits level on your horse - and live in two point. It will fix points one and two.

Invest in some training rides for your horse - that will help point 3 :-) and make it easier for you to ride the canter the right way (ie it may not be you but your horse)

Apr. 1, 2011, 09:30 AM
Ankle + Knee = Hip

In order to turn your foot out, AND to stop pinching with your kne, you need to work on opening your HIP joint.

Off the horse, stand in "first position" (feet pointing straight "east and west"). Then bend your knees.

There should be NO torque on your ankle joint or your knee joint. It is all in the hips. It involves streching ligaments that don't get used in most other activities.

It WILL take time and practice. But it will eventiually make you much mre secure.

Apr. 1, 2011, 09:50 AM
Lots of good suggestions...I would only add that one thing that always helps your leg position is to increase your core strength, and the muscles in your back and stomach and hip. Sometimes leg position problems--especially pinching with the knee--are the result of compensation for weakness higher up.

IME strength and fitness are crucial to being able to ride well...obviously there is a lot more to it as well, but working on fitness and core strength has always been a very productive way for me to make noticeable gains in my riding.

Apr. 1, 2011, 12:01 PM
Big response to everybody, should be in chronological order. (Thanks in advance for your replies!)

And all I can tell you is, if you feel like you are not strong enough to keep your leg in the right place, then you aren't! You should start working out and getting stronger. Pliometric exercises are great, as is Yoga or Pilates or any exercise involving strength and balance. You need to train for riding, just like you would train for any other sport.
And remember, you have to ride the canter that allows you to find a good distance..
Thanks Horseymama! I don’t know if it’s a matter of not being strong enough, it just feels like my leg isn’t meant to be where she wants it. Y’know what I mean? It just physically doesn’t feel like it’s a good place for it. Maybe it’s just cause I’m not used to it? I dunno.
The canter is definitely the key to all our jumping issues. I know that a huge part of my issue is the trust in that big canter (or it feels big to me! Lol) and the key is not to take my leg off and tip when I think we’re going in for a long spot or pull. Waiting has never been my forte! Lol
KateKat – Ground poles are definitely in the cards from now on! Y’know what’s goofy? I do the pull/take leg off thing even over ground poles (my horse likes to leap GP’s). It’ll be good practice to just SIT STILL. Lol
Saddle issues – I’m wondering about this. The last saddle I had was a stubben and I used to ride in it very well. I ended up trading it in for an Exselle (it has big knee rolls) and I found my riding improved greatly. My leg started to swing non-stop at the canter in the Stubben because I used something on it that made it INCREDIBLY slippery. I like the Exselle but I’m thinking perhaps it could be causing issues. I’ve got another plain flap collegiate I’m going to try this week and see if there’s a difference. Thoughts on the Exselle?
Goosy horse – You are totally right. The horse does do much better when that leg is on all the time. I had a bad habit of doing the “leg on, leg off, leg on, leg off” and I think it’s happening again. I’m definitely game for flatwork, I don’t want to spin my wheels and the way we’re jumping now, there’s no point because it’s not fun and it should be.

My suggestion would be landing/take-off rails where your horse cannot lengthen or shorten at the base without it being uncomfortable. Most horses will figure it out after a few times & then OP, you can learn to just leave your horse alone & let the poles set her up.
I'm a big believer in less is more - try to let the horse figure it out on it's own without always having to set it up all the time. ;)
I think this is a good idea as well. I think I’ve learned to either do too much or do nothing and I need to moderate. By do nothing I tend to just do nothing, ie don’t maintain that connection with my hand or my leg to support and keep that forward pace, which usually results in horse taking off at jump and being unpredictable. The more I type this all out, the more it’s making sense to what’s going on.

Findeight – Lessons are definitely in the books! I need to get this sorted out and I sure know now I can’t do it on my own.
FordTraktor – I suppose I am questioning it a bit but it just doesn’t feel right. I literally can’t get my leg back further and turn my toe out. I can do one but not both. As soon as I turn the toe out it just puts my leg back to where it was. It’s hard to explain, it’s not like I’m in a bad chair seat to begin with and I’ve got a good base of support. Not saying I’m not going to try to get it back further because I sure am, just saying it doesn’t necessarily feel right.
Anyways, I really really REALLY appreciate everyone’s time to respond and suggestions, I think all the input is very helpful! I’m feeling like I’ve got some good ideas to make this work and improve. Practice, practice, practice, suck up a bit of discomfort for the first little while and keep on with lessons!

Apr. 1, 2011, 12:09 PM
Read Janet's post again -- if you can't get your toe out and your leg back, it's your hip. Visualize it, practice sitting on a stool and swinging your leg back and your toes out. All that comes from your hip joint.

See if that helps. Those really are horse-only muscles, it probably won't feel right at first but keep trying. Good luck!

ETA: Tidy Rabbit's suggestion of "Centered Riding" is a good one, that book is wonderful for these types of issues.

tidy rabbit
Apr. 1, 2011, 12:13 PM
Get yourself a copy of "Centered Riding". It speaks to a lot of the issues you are having and may give you some new ways to thinking about things.

Good luck and don't be so hard on yourself, it will come. :)

Apr. 1, 2011, 12:18 PM
So I just went and found myself a stool and it does make sense! lol My hips are really really tight. Interesting!!

Apr. 1, 2011, 01:08 PM
Hip flexor stretch, psoas stretch, IT band stretch and time!

What kind of saddle are you riding in?

Apr. 1, 2011, 01:17 PM
It's an Exselle Debut. I really like it but I kind of feel like it puts me in a spot sticks me there. It's got a big knee roll and thigh blocks that are perhaps causing the restriction.
I've got a Collegiate that I'm going to try tonight when I ride. It's got a plain flap and a much flatter seat.

Apr. 1, 2011, 01:50 PM
Get yourself a copy of "Centered Riding". It speaks to a lot of the issues you are having and may give you some new ways to thinking about things.

Good luck and don't be so hard on yourself, it will come. :)

Actually, I would go to the bookstore and look at a copy of Centered Riding. If you read a few pages and say "Wow, this makes sense," buy it. If you read a few pages and say "???????," keep looking. Jessica Jahiel may make sense to you, Maybe GM, maybe someone else. If you don't click with Centered Riding when you start looking at it, it probably won't get better. It is a different way of thinking.

Apr. 1, 2011, 03:53 PM
I'm guessing you're an adult rider here, and just wanted to add that I can commiserate with the whole over thinking thing. It's what we do, as adults, instead of just feeling. So I think the advice to just stop thinking is a good one, but not always realistic for adults who are learning to do this because we don't know how to get out of our heads!

My over analyzing of things has only gotten better (and not to say I don't still do it sometimes, definitely do) with a great trainer, A LOT more saddle time (like at least four days a week of riding, three of those are lessons) and a nice, forward horse who is good off my leg, and also a very experienced jumper.

One other tip is do you count your pace to your jump? Like 1-2-1-2? Try it, and do it out loud. When I keep getting gappy or chip to a fence, it helps me to chant 1-2 out loud. I think it helps me relax and get out of my head, which ultimately keeps us on a steady pace to the jump and 99% of the time a perfect distance.

Apr. 1, 2011, 04:54 PM
Yup that's exactly what happens in my head! Over thinking, over do-ing and not enough feeling and supporting. The lessons are definitely helping, before I was frustrated and couldn't figure out WHY the things that were happening, were happening. Now with another pair of eyes on the ground, it's making a lot more sense. I'm just frustrated because my mind and body seem to work against what I know should/shouldn't be happening! lol

I do try and count and it helps a lot. Sometimes I just forget. I need to make it a habit all the time.

Apr. 1, 2011, 05:08 PM
I got back into jumping recently too and had some trust issues after riding a LOT of horses with refusing/distance/bolting/bucking issues. It really wore away at my confidence and I rode expecting every horse to try to dump me on our fences (which doesn't look pretty or make for very good communication with the horse). I found what really helped was going back to small fences - like 2' or lower - to just get used to the act of jumping again. And as others already mentioned your saddle can make a huge difference.

stolen virtue
Apr. 1, 2011, 05:20 PM
This is a difficult and expensive sport but always remember that most of us do it for fun ! Sorry, but overthinking riding makes riding more difficult. When I have trouble at the canter I ride in two point until my legs really hurt -but I love it. Make sure you can balance yourself out of the saddle and that you are not using the saddle for balance. I had an instructor work with me on that years ago and it really helped me.

Get the flat work going well and then work on jumping,the great thing about being an adult is that there is no time pressure to show or jump. Good luck.

Apr. 1, 2011, 05:27 PM
you need to do some exercises on your core seat and balance
look here on how to correctly measure your stiurrups lenght
aas this will help with your position and balance when jumping
ps your toes if pointing outwards then you legs are off the horse sdies so your trianer is wrong - check the lenght ok
and it looks awful from the front as like a huge penquin as toes stick out
yu need your legs to on to direct the horse in turning and asking for implusion
legs off dont do it


your trianer - should be working you on the flat with basic dressage movements like si ly and hh, she should be concentrating on lateral work and working you in trot before the canter over poles

try going down to the bottom of the link and last page you will see other training methods these are simple exercises you can do with your horse to become more balance as with jumping you have to have an independant seat to your legs and hands

for instance - what happens if you lose a sstirrup whilse jumping - if you have your balance its not problem to carry on

she should be working you on your core balance working with ground poles then small grids and small courses
so that you can learn the striding and the distances

Apr. 2, 2011, 12:09 AM
Thanks guys! Lots of awesome input!

Just to clarify a bit, I'm not really a re-rider or too out of shape. I've been riding all along and usually ride at least 3-4 times a week on my own horse and a few times a week on 2-3 others. I don't have issues with balance at the 2-point and can ride without stirrups no problemo, it's just the jumping that makes my brain go "AHH!" and everything falls apart. I just haven't jumped seriously or consistently in a couple of years and I've decided this is the year to get back into it but I need help, so I've started hauling out to lessons. Core work & muscle strengthening are never a bad idea though! I love having new exercises to take to the gym with me.

An update from tonight! I tried another saddle (It's a "Lancers") and rode with the stirrups a bit shorter than I've been used to but it felt ok. This saddle has a plain flap so I could really tell if/when I was pinching with my knee. I felt like I could really get my leg on better and more importantly, FEEL that it was on. I still couldn't get my leg back as far as where I was told it should sit (knee should be a 90 degree angle) but I could flex my toe out easier (still not super extreme...Lol no penguin feet). I didn't feel as secure in the 2-point at the canter as I do in my regular saddle (this one is slippery!) so there's definitely some weakness in my base of support for sure. My plan is to keep on riding in this saddle and kick my butt into gear!
Anyways, I put some poles out to canter over and it started not the greatest (either launching over the poles, or putting a half stride/chip in over the pole and ending up discombobulated afterwards) but I started focusing on keeping the quality of canter, keeping my leg on, keeping my horse in front of my leg, counting a rhythm and keeping a quiet, supportive hand with NO pull or trying to direct what was happening. We ended off so much better than I started and I really felt how if I dropped my hand & tipped forward or took my leg off, we'd get the chipping or launcyness happening. Keep the leg on and just ride a quality canter and bing! It feels great!
I have to say, I love going back to basics sometimes and having that "Ah HA!" moment! Lots of work ahead, this is just the tip of the iceberg but I'm feeling good about this!

Apr. 2, 2011, 12:11 AM
Had to say, thanks for the link to that other topic! I'm adding it to my favorites for quick reference, lots of awesome stuff in there!