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  1. #1
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    Apr. 4, 2006
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    Default Spinoff on the heels down thread: Anyone who just can't get their heels down?

    So the heels down thread got me thinking. Is there anyone on here who just can't physically get their heels down when riding?

    I truely can not get there! I can get them even.... that's about it. My OS and physical therapist were just about shocked when they saw how poor my flexability and range of motion in my ankles are. I broke my ankle in June, and when I was in for a follow up a few weeks ago he was checking to see how much I could bring my heel down (um... not happening) and was disappointed in my progess until he saw how far I could go in my other ankle- they are almost even now.


    Seriously, I've tried stretching exercises, riding exercises etc.. it just doesn't happen for me. My previous trainer (that I worked for at the time) couldn't grasp the idea that I just couldn't get them down no matter how hard I tried and said that until I could get my heels down, I wasn't allowed to ride. My current trainer realizes that I at least try to get them down.

    I do find it easier to get them 'down' (ok, barely) if my stirrups are longer than if they are shorter (like jumping length).


    So is there anyone else on here who struggles with this?
    "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"



  2. #2
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    Jun. 14, 2006
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    VA
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    Default

    Raises hand!

    I can definitely get my weight into my heel, but I can't get much below level...without really trying to jam 'em down. And when I do that, my leg goes forward.

    I've tried stretching and such....probably my biggest problem is that I wear heels or heeled boots to work all the time. This summer, I tried to only wear flats or tennis shoes as much as possible to see if that was contributing. It may have helped some. Not sure.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2007
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    Default

    I posted on the other thread too, but will add a couple of things here....
    I find if my stirrups are too long, my leg becomes insecure and messes up my position badly....but maybe I am doing something wrong!
    One thing I do to stretch out the backs of my legs and drop my heel is to stand in the stirrups at either the halt or the walk for a few strides, and then lower myself slowly into the saddle. I find it reminds me, and if my heels creep up, I do it again.
    Dee
    Founder of the I LOFF my worrywart TB clique!
    Official member of the "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique
    http://wilddiamondintherough.blogspot.ca/



  4. #4
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    Aug. 11, 2008
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    MD
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    Default

    Its a problem for me because I have a magnesium deficiency, which really affects muscle flexibility. I take supplements, but my calves are like rocks. The worst part is I feel like I have my heels down, but find out that they are just barely flat.

    However, for those of you who do have flexiblility problems, I highly recommend you get your mag levels checked. Amazingly enough, once I went on supplements, it also helped my really bad PMS!



  5. #5
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    Feb. 23, 2003
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    Norcross GA
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    Default

    I absolutely cannot get my heels down. My ankles click whenever I walk anywhere and oftentimes, after riding, are swollen and painful. I can't ride in flex or jointed stirrups, as my heels "fall through" and shoot a burning pain up my calf if I do. On some horses, my ankle will just roll, while in the stirrup and I lose control of the ankle for the rest of the ride: its hard to explain but it just gets floppy.

    I have had Xrays taken which show nothing, the foot & ankle guy just says I have scar tissue down there which limits my range of mobility.
    TIMBERRIDGE SPORTHORSES:
    www.timberridgesporthorses.com
    --> Just Press Start // '99 Oldenburg
    --> Always The Optimist (reg. Simply Stylin) // '02 Thoroughbred



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul. 25, 2008
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    SoCal
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    Default

    At least I'm not alone in my little world of inflexibility. I was doing stretching exercises & seeing a massage therapist twice a week for almost a year and saw almost NO improvement in my ankles. Other places, yes; ankles no. Makes me crazy when I see pictures of myself.

    Interesting about the mag levels...I've had just about every piece of bloodwork known to man done over the last few years for them to try to figure out some chronic pain problems with no luck. I'm going to have to go dig out my tests and see what it says for mag. Should I be looking at levels after fasting or at 'normal'? I have plenty of both tests!



  7. #7
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    Jan. 16, 2007
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    Do I ever hear you. I've never been able to get my achilles tendons to stretch, but I'm not even sure that's the problem. It's as if there is a block of wood at the front of my ankle that prevents the angle from closing past a certain point. I feel that pull from behind as I stretch, but then I hit a block in the front that is solid.

    Where most people can squat and sit on their heels, at least on tiptoe--I will roll backwards before I can get all the way down.

    Been that way since birth apparently. All the baloney about stretching on the stairs, etc; useless.

    I did get some tiny incremental improvement from about 2 years of going around and around in two-point, just taking my whole weight in my heels, bounce bounce bounce. That got me to level anyway.

    If I try to put my heels down it just tenses my whole leg. So I figure it becomes counter productive. Lucky for me I ride dressage so level is acceptable to my trainer. I have concentrated on keeping my toes forward which is doable.



  8. #8
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    Feb. 6, 2003
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    Inflexible ankles aren't uncommon...either due to injuries, deficiencies or just genetics. My husband literally can NOT flex his ankles hardly at all and he's never had a single injury or issue. He also can't wiggle his toes. Our older daughter seems to have inherited some of that immobility from him but has tempered it over the years with dance. But she could never stick with ballet because of the extensions required that she can't do.
    My niece had a catastrophic ankle/lower leg injury 6 months ago, she stopped over on Friday and she still can't really walk. That ankle, despite PT 3x a week for 6 months, still doesn't really bend. And she rides...she's going to have a harder time compensating for that because I don't think she'll ever get full range of motion back..her ankle is now about 60% metal plates.
    So don't feel awful if you can't get those heels way down. Some people just can't do it despite trying and stretching. Not everyone's built the same way and I'm sure there are ways to compensate that bring the balance and shock absorbtion you need. I happen to have freakishly bendy ankles...I don't have to jam them down or even think about flexing them...they drop a *lot* when I'm riding. But I pay a price for that flexibility...from years of riding with an extremely low heel my ankles have arthritis. Not bad thank goodness...but I can't imagine it's going to improve with time. I used to be pretty flexible in all my joints...that's slowly going away with the years, LOL! So even if you have it...you will lose it over time.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  9. #9
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    Sep. 2, 2008
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    Nevada
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    Default

    As has been mentioned, some people are just naturally less flexible, or have more of a limited range of motion, in the ankle. Jamming your heel down won't help and usually results in more stiffness and/or push your lower leg forward. Along with checking the magnesium levels in the blood, look at potassium levels also.

    Have you tried simple foot circles in an attempt to increase your flexibility? You can sit in a chair, or do this horseback in your warmup. Simply rotate your foot around in a circle, without moving the rest of your leg. Try to get a good point when the rotation gets to the bottom of the circle and as much flexion as you can when the toes are at the top of the circle. Work both directions. This exercise works the ankle joint and the front and back of the calf. Walking is also good on stiff ankles, especially if you concentrate on the "heel-toe" motion.

    My ankle was shattered in a riding accident (horse's barrel landed right on my ankle when she slipped and fell) and was very stiff after eight weeks in a cast. The foot circles helped the most in my recovery.
    “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne



  10. #10
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    Heels down isn't too bad, but getting my toes to stop pointing out like duck feet is a challenge



  11. #11
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    Mar. 23, 2005
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    Portland, Oregon
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    Me....

    I'm actually pretty flexible overall - I danced as a kid, and can still nearly do that thing where you stretch your leg up beside you holding onto your heel (clearly, in the intervening years the terminology has left my brain - I mean like so).

    But I've also sprained my ankles more times than I care to count (dancing...softball...riding...skiing...hiking...) , and my heels just don't go down as far as many instructors seem to think they should. They are DOWN, not just level, and I put my weight there (well, OK, not always - I certainly need reminders! ), but they aren't "all the way" down. And I have had SO many people who just DON'T GET IT. I had one instructor who was sure I just wasn't listening to him, and no matter how many times I told him I was doing my best, he simply wouldn't believe me.

    I have the same problem with my shoulders - I can NOT put my shoulders back (all the way) and hold them there without causing myself a great deal of pain. I'm sitting up straight, but my shoulders will always be slightly rounded. It's how my back is built (and, yes, I have an honest-to-god medical diagnosis of this). And again, instructors just can't understand.

    Thank God for my most recent instructor, who understood BOTH issues and didn't have a problem with either as long as I was doing the best I could and being effective. Now, why did I have to go and move an hour and a half away from her?!
    Proud member of the EDRF



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MelantheLLC View Post
    Do I ever hear you. I've never been able to get my achilles tendons to stretch, but I'm not even sure that's the problem. It's as if there is a block of wood at the front of my ankle that prevents the angle from closing past a certain point. I feel that pull from behind as I stretch, but then I hit a block in the front that is solid.

    Where most people can squat and sit on their heels, at least on tiptoe--I will roll backwards before I can get all the way down.

    Been that way since birth apparently. All the baloney about stretching on the stairs, etc; useless.

    I get the same thing! It feels like there is just something blocking it from going any further. I don't feel much pull at all from behind my leg... but it feels like something is there stopping me from flexing my ankle past a certain point.


    If I try to force my heel down, it just pushes me into a chair seat and is worse than just letting them be almost level.
    "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"



  13. #13
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    Mar. 6, 2007
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    I bet all the heels down challenged people would dance beautifully en Pointe
    "Dressage" is just a fancy word for flatwork



  14. #14
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    Sep. 12, 2008
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    Middleburg, VA
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    Mistyblue, I'm with you!!! had surgery for bonespurs and had lots of scaring removed. But my heels fall to the floor.

    For those of you who can't get your heels down...I do understand. Try this, instead of pushing or trying to get the heels down try to push the knee down the flap of the saddle and to lengthen your thigh. I have been able to have that help many kids who just can't bend.
    Proud Mama of a BOY rider



  15. #15
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    Jan. 16, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by eventchic33 View Post
    Try this, instead of pushing or trying to get the heels down try to push the knee down the flap of the saddle and to lengthen your thigh. I have been able to have that help many kids who just can't bend.
    This is definitely more useful for stabilizing and strengthening the seat, at least for dressage. The "kneeling" position helps turn the toes in too.



  16. #16
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    Erm, nope. I wouldn't be able to dance en Pointe either -- my toes don't point.
    TIMBERRIDGE SPORTHORSES:
    www.timberridgesporthorses.com
    --> Just Press Start // '99 Oldenburg
    --> Always The Optimist (reg. Simply Stylin) // '02 Thoroughbred



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by MelantheLLC View Post
    This is definitely more useful for stabilizing and strengthening the seat, at least for dressage. The "kneeling" position helps turn the toes in too.
    My horse is really wide and I have all kinds of problems getting the hip angles right. Any special ideas on that?



  18. #18
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    Aug. 17, 2006
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    ONTARIO CANADA
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    yep I cant put my heels down, because the muscle on the top of my foot doesnt work properly(and yes i dont walk normally either) putting my heels downs is almost physically impossible for me i strive for a level heel.

    physio didnt help much
    Beyond the Ring-para dressage, training, coaching


    TEAM PRINCE VEGETA OF SAYJINS



  19. #19
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    Feb. 7, 2005
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    I have a lot of ankle problems from past injuries and cannot get my heels very far down. If they're level, that's often as good as it gets. My weight is still properly in my heels, it's just that they physically do not flex. I use a pair of jointed stirrups and I do foot circles from the saddle while the horse is walking around to warm up. After I'm well warmed up and have done some trotting, they may be a little better at the trot/canter/and two point, but are never going to be perfect!



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MelantheLLC View Post
    This is definitely more useful for stabilizing and strengthening the seat, at least for dressage. The "kneeling" position helps turn the toes in too.
    You know, I *used* to think I couldn't get my heels down properly. My hunter trainers would always admonish me for it. Then I started taking dressage lessons and my trainer would tell me that my heel was too deep! When I started to learn to get my toes up instead while "kneeling", I found I could lengthen my leg more and bring my lower leg back. Whereas thinking "heels down" would make me jam my foot forward, tighten my hip flexors, and lift my thighs up--making me lose my stirrups and get off balance, especially at the canter. Now on days when I ride hunt-seat, I feel that my leg is in a more appropriate position and that my legs can move more fluidly than when I'm constantly worrying about "heels down".
    Last edited by linquest; Oct. 29, 2008 at 07:47 PM. Reason: missed a word
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