The Chronicle of the Horse
MagazineNewsHorse SportsHorse CareCOTH StoreVoicesThe Chronicle UntackedDirectoriesMarketplaceDates & Results
 
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 22
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Question H/J'er in a former life, now how do I make my legs long for this dressage thing?

    Being rather short, I don't have much leg to work with, and coming from a hunter/jumper background, I sure do love my stirrups short...but I really want to figure this whole dressage thing out!

    In my last lesson, my dressage teacher was really starting to pick out faults in my equitation (... I used this term loosely). Where I feel I am suffering most right now is in my leg position.

    Anyone have any tips/exercises that will help me 1) drop my knee (this is my biggest problem), 2) learn to drape my legs more w/o pinching with my knee, 3) help me open/position my hips correctly to enable a better leg position?

    Thank you!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec. 16, 2003
    Location
    Staunton, VA, USA
    Posts
    2,520

    Default Lots of riding without stirrups

    at walk at first, and practice leg yielding etc.
    Later add in short trots, and work up to canters.

    But walk as much as you can with no stirrups, that'll get your leg long.
    MW
    Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
    Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
    New edition of book is out:
    Horse Nutrition Handbook.

    www.knabstruppers4usa.com



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Default Thanks for the reply!

    Melyni, thank you for the reply. I have been riding as much as I can without stirrups, or at least as much as my horse will tolerate, but I find that when I pick my stirrups up again, I feel like my hips revert back to the same, incorrect position. What is a good guild for how long my stirrups should be for dressage?



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 31, 2009
    Location
    USEA-Area 3/USHJA-Zone 4/USDF-Region 3
    Posts
    379

    Default

    To open your hips, do a couple of quick "legs away" while you are warming up. Pull both legs out to the sides, then let them close softly against the saddle again. Repeat as needed.

    To open your thighs, do a mounted quad stretch. Grab your right ankle with your right hand and point your knee straight down. Gently lower that leg and repeat on the opposite side.

    Pilates, yoga, or ballet could help if you have tight hip flexors keeping your knees from dropping.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2005
    Location
    Northeast
    Posts
    12,247

    Smile

    Put a mental image in your head of sitting on the horse but kneeling. Have your instructor check that this puts your heels under your hips. This should allow your knee to drop down and open the angle at your hips. But do remember that those muscles tendons and ligaments have been short for a long time, so not only will they be unwilling to stretch, but they will tell you that your new correct position is totally incorrect. So focus on dropping your knee and allowing the weight to drop through it. It can't go through if you're pinching your knees.
    I'm hoping you are doing this in a dressage saddle. Doing it a jumping saddle is harder because of the relationship of the bars to the seat.

    Making your shoulders stay back is another part of the equation

    It's many short battles, but a great war.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Default Thank you

    Quote Originally Posted by The Centaurian View Post

    Pilates, yoga, or ballet could help if you have tight hip flexors keeping your knees from dropping.
    Going to a hot yoga class tonight!!

    Thank you for the suggestions



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by merrygoround View Post
    I'm hoping you are doing this in a dressage saddle. Doing it a jumping saddle is harder because of the relationship of the bars to the seat.


    I am riding in a dressage saddle...much to my own discomfort

    As you stated, my teacher also tells me I should always feel like I'm kneeling.

    Thank you!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 11, 2009
    Location
    England
    Posts
    402

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WSQHGal View Post
    Melyni, thank you for the reply. I have been riding as much as I can without stirrups, or at least as much as my horse will tolerate, but I find that when I pick my stirrups up again, I feel like my hips revert back to the same, incorrect position. What is a good guild for how long my stirrups should be for dressage?
    I was always told that your stirrups should be at the height of the ankle bone, if you were to hang your legs loosely. I have the same problem as you- what feels like normal to me, almost looks like jockey to length to onlookers



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by nomeolvides View Post
    I was always told that your stirrups should be at the height of the ankle bone, if you were to hang your legs loosely
    This is how I learned to measure my stirrups for H/J, but it doesn't seem logical to me that it would be the same rule of thumb for dressage?



  10. #10
    rambobarbie Guest

    Default long legs for dressage

    I too came from a H/J background and the biggest problem I had was stretching my legs long and staying tall and back with my upper body in the saddle. IMO, the biggest obstacle is getting your body to retrain itself to open up your hip angle from your thigh to base - I'll bet you find it easy to stay tall when your legs are forward and stretch the leg longer when you are leaning slightly forward.

    My best advice is to concentrate on getting your upper thigh back and leaning WAY back in the saddle (exaggerate it - it's so much easier to come forward with the upper body if you overdo it than vice versa) and forget about everything else. If your hip area seizes up from time to time, you are probably on the right track. At the walk, try locking your knee in place and slowly moving your entire leg (with knee locked) back as far under your body as you can all the while thinking LEAN BACK. Once you take your stirrups back up, they'll feel at least a hole shorter!

    Riding without stirrups wasn't particularly helpful for me to correct my position because I spent a lot of time that way when I rode H/J and I still had a drawn up leg! Good luck, I've never looked back!



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Default :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by rambobarbie View Post
    I'll bet you find it easy to stay tall when your legs are forward and stretch the leg longer when you are leaning slightly forward.
    Ding, Ding! You hit the nail on the head with that one.

    Thank you, thank you. Great suggestions!



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct. 24, 2006
    Posts
    323

    Default

    I think the whole kneeling feel is a good one. I also think that doing some scissor kicks at the walk while warming up help me to really find my seatbones while stretching out my hip flexors and allowing my leg to drape. (If you don't know what they are-- drop irons, then moving only from the hip-- keeping knees straight, extend one leg forward while at the same time extending the other leg back. Then slowly move the back leg forward and vice versa. The trick is to make sure you are only swinging your legs through the hip joints, NOT the knee)



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec. 15, 2003
    Posts
    1,474

    Default

    Go to a dude ranch and spend 3 or 4 days doing at least 4 hours a day of trail riding in a western saddle with the stirrups at the length the cowboys set them (which feels SO long, even if you're used to riding dressage length).

    I've gone on a couple of long weekends to a dude ranch with some not as horsey friends, and always come home feeling so much deeper in my seat and longer in the leg. Of course a couple of weeks sitting in an office 8 hours a day takes away much of the benefit, but some stays.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec. 27, 2001
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    7,041

    Default

    lots of good advice! Give it time, too -- I remember starting in dressage from a H/J background and finding my saddle too straight in the flap (it was an adjustable saddle, so the "dressage" flap was sort of kind of dressagey); my knee kept migrating forward. Eventually I had to sell that saddle because it was too forward for me in the dressage position.....

    The "quad stretch" exercise described by Centurian is great. See if you can get some longe lessons from a dressage instructor; I learned to sit the trot properly this way, starting with holding one ankle at a time behind my butt as the horse trotted around. It's HARD and you can help it along as others have said with your gym stretches and workouts.

    Ultimately you WILL feel as though you are kneeling and very soft through your legs. As an eventer I can tell you that this will in no way diminish your ability to ride in a proper jumping saddle with proper jumping length stirrups and jump a course.... it's just a different set of tools!
    The big man -- no longer an only child

    His new little brother



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep. 8, 1999
    Location
    Libertyville, IL USA
    Posts
    4,108

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Melyni View Post
    at walk at first, and practice leg yielding etc.
    Later add in short trots, and work up to canters.

    But walk as much as you can with no stirrups, that'll get your leg long.
    MW
    This is hard when you are an h/j gal. We seem to revert right back to the closed knee angle. I would add to this, walk without stirrups with your toes pointed DOWN and do toe circles. Have someone watch you and remind you to "stop equitating", meaning, let the thighs RELAX. I teach mostly h/j but ride dressage myself. I have my students walk this way between all trot and canter sets and tell them that the goal is to ride with balance and not strength. Meaning I don't want to see any muscle tension. I want all the energy to drain out the toes, to let their leg drape. They should staying in the tack with their balance, moving their seat with their horse. They seem to like it and it enlongates their leg. I also find it helps them feel the rhythm of the walk and develop a softer contact. Best of luck. Dressage is fun.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar. 24, 2010
    Location
    Tucson
    Posts
    7,219

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gry2Yng View Post
    This is hard when you are an h/j gal. We seem to revert right back to the closed knee angle. I would add to this, walk without stirrups with your toes pointed DOWN and do toe circles. Have someone watch you and remind you to "stop equitating", meaning, let the thighs RELAX. I teach mostly h/j but ride dressage myself. I have my students walk this way between all trot and canter sets and tell them that the goal is to ride with balance and not strength. Meaning I don't want to see any muscle tension. I want all the energy to drain out the toes, to let their leg drape. They should staying in the tack with their balance, moving their seat with their horse. They seem to like it and it enlongates their leg. I also find it helps them feel the rhythm of the walk and develop a softer contact. Best of luck. Dressage is fun.
    This. No stirrups and toes pointed down gets the stretch going that being used to h/j eq without stirrups doesn't. Think about having the inside of your thighs on the horse (a good fix for leg problems in most disciplines, but in dressage thinking this while stretching down is a completely different beast from h/j), and think about pushing your hip sockets forward. That funny runway walk models do where they seem to be leading with their pelvis? That's how you want to sit on your horse!

    Your legs will tell you where your stirrups belong. Don't think you have to go to a "correct" length right away. Work on stretching yourself, and keep your stirrups just short enough that you can manage to post without pointing your toes, and can keep some weight in your stirrups and keep them on your feet. Try to train yourself not to think "heels down!" because if you do you will never get the softness in your ankles you need - and will have the stirrups the wrong length for you and your build. Your final stirrup length will depends on how much your hips stretch, and how you use your seat. My upper legs are positioned almost as if I were standing after 6 months of work on getting to a dressage stirrup length (as a former h/j rider in my last equestrian career), and that's what is comfortable when my seat is deep in the saddle. Shorter makes me feel as if my legs are pushing me out of the saddle. Posting trot is a challenge, and if my horse lifts his back I almost HAVE to sit because I don't fully clear the saddle. This isn't a right/wrong length, though - it's just what my body tells me is right for my riding.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct. 31, 2008
    Location
    Canton, TX
    Posts
    938

    Default

    No stirrup work.

    If you dont have the leg for anything more than a halt or walk, no worries. Get on your horse, cross those stirrups at the halt, and just let your leg hang. Dont worry about heels down or proper eq, just let your legs go. Really concentrate on relaxing from the hip. If this is a difficult concept for you, break the legs into parts.. wiggle your toes and ankle, then let them drop. Pull your knees/thighs on/off the saddle so you can feel your hip let go. Push your leg back from the hip in an exaggerated fashion (remember, we're just halted here!) and swing it back from the hip up in the direction of your horse's croup.

    Then walk around a bit, letting your leg hang from the ball of the hip.

    This is a good "before lesson" habit to get into anyway. Before your lesson, go thru this routine and stretch your legs and hips out.

    Its also helpful to start your no stirrups trot work on the lunge.

    And, dont pressure yourself to go from "jumping length" to dressage length stirrups in one day. Work a hole lower than you're accustomed to, until that feels second nature. Then drop another hole. And so on
    Rural Property Specialist
    Keller Williams Realtors

    TexasEquestrianProperties.com
    Email Me for Horse Property!



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2005
    Location
    uk
    Posts
    15,319

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WSQHGal View Post
    Being rather short, I don't have much leg to work with, and coming from a hunter/jumper background, I sure do love my stirrups short...but I really want to figure this whole dressage thing out!

    In my last lesson, my dressage teacher was really starting to pick out faults in my equitation (... I used this term loosely). Where I feel I am suffering most right now is in my leg position.

    Anyone have any tips/exercises that will help me 1) drop my knee (this is my biggest problem), 2) learn to drape my legs more w/o pinching with my knee, 3) help me open/position my hips correctly to enable a better leg position?

    Thank you!
    ride and exercise without stirrups which will make you sit deeper into your
    saddle look here last page for ideas and tips for simple exercises you can do with your horse
    http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=178116



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2009
    Location
    West Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141

    Default :-)

    Thank you everyone!! Great suggestions! I will try them all!



  20. #20
    Join Date
    May. 16, 2000
    Posts
    4,725

    Default

    The crux of your problem is not your legs, it is your seat. The legs are merely a reflection on how you are sitting. Be sure that you are balanced evenly on the three points of your seat: your pubic bone and your two seat bones.

    Once you have done this, make sure your upper body is on (not in front of or behind) the vertical. From there, relax your hips and let your legs drop straight down. I would urge you NOT to ride without stirrups. Riding without stirrups (esp. rising trot) tends to make riders pinch with their knees, which shortens the leg, causes the rider to close her hips, and puts the rider in a chair seat. You want to open your hips, feel all three seat bones, and drop your legs down.

    Get out of your chair for a minute and try this: stand absolutely straight with your feet a shoulder's width apart. Then put your hands in front of you as though you are holding the reins and bend your knees as though your feet are in the stirrups. If you are properly aligned, you will be able to stand like that almost indefinitely. This is the position you want to have in the saddle. It shows that you are correctly balanced. When you are correctly balanced, you will be more effective in the saddle and able to help rather than hinder the horse's balance.

    If you can take longe lessons on a quiet horse in which you can focus all of your attention on your position, you will be able to improve your seat and, consequently, your leg position much more quickly and effectively.



Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 9
    Last Post: Jul. 20, 2010, 08:14 AM
  2. Replies: 2
    Last Post: May. 15, 2010, 10:25 PM
  3. How do I make them understand, this is my life!
    By EquitationRider in forum Hunter/Jumper
    Replies: 96
    Last Post: Oct. 26, 2009, 03:24 PM
  4. Western saddles - long legs & medium legs?
    By Risk-Averse Rider in forum Off Course
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: Sep. 6, 2009, 01:27 PM
  5. How to make a good dressage bun with long hair? HELP!
    By downthecenterlinetheycome in forum Dressage
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: Mar. 7, 2009, 07:35 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
randomness