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Leg Position Woes

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  • Leg Position Woes

    After riding jumpers for a long time, and then taking a break of a few years, I had my first dressage lesson today. My trainer said my upper body and hands were excellent, but that my leg is too far forward. She thinks this is due to years and years of half-seat with my heels plunged deep toward the ground, toes out a bit. I can see that.

    She said that my calf should have no contact with the horse, and my foot should be parallel to his barrel. She wants me to rotate my thighs forward and turn my heels and lower leg out, basically locking my knee into the roll. She said my lower leg should be loose and floppy?

    I was able to obey her request at sitting trot and canter, but posting was a total nightmare. My lower leg felt unstable and my stirrups were sliding around. I tried to imagine that I didn't have a lower leg at all, and post from the thigh, which made me more stable and more relaxed. Unfortunately, when I relaxed, my calf collapsed onto the horse's side and she would yell at me again. She wants me to post with no weight in the stirrups, with my foot parallel, no contact with the horse's side from knee-down, heels under hips, with my thighs squeezed tightly around the horse.

    I understand what she wants, but I am confused about how to get there. When I do the above, I am tensed up and basically forcing my lower leg out, like I'm trying to stay up on roller skates, which created an incredible pain my hip. If I relax my lower leg I can post better, but then my calf touches the horse and she says this is a no no.

    Does anyone have any input? Is pain in the hip okay or am I doing it wrong?

    Thanks in advance! I know almost nothing about dressage or this trainer, so I am trying to make sure I am learning correctly.

  • #2
    No weight in the stirrup at all.... that is the strangest thing I have EVER heard!!!! What if your horse were to buck, spin, shy, rear etc. etc.?

    Maybe this is the jumper in me coming out, but I always put a substantial amount of weight into my feet for that specific reason plus the fact that what animal can be truly comfortable with 60kg (give or take) of weight sitting directly on their back?

    I have never heard that said, nor have I heard of not having contact with the lower leg or riding with the thigh squeezed tightly around the horse? I have limited experience with a variety of dressage instructors, tried two and am still with my second one after many many years so can only offer my limited personal experience with different methods.

    To be honest, this sounds odd to me.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I found it strange too, but I have never really ridden dressage. She said upper level horses don't ever need to be touched with the lower leg...they just respond when you bring your leg back but with space in between the horse and your leg. Sure enough her horse does move laterally without me touching him with leg, but I wasn't sure if that was correct or if she just trained him that way.

      It went against every thing I have been taught about dropping weight through your heels. It was so difficult to me, I was focusing so hard that I was sometimes on the wrong diagonal and I would totally phase out what the trainer was saying.

      Comment


      • #4
        No lower leg? What the?
        Yes, no weight in the stirrup, just rest the foot there, then your leg will remain supple.
        Dressage properly ridden, one should not see any leg movement or any other aids...remember the horse should appear to being doing it on its own.
        www.hartetoharte.org
        Ask and allow, do not demand and force.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          @Spirithorse, yeah, once during the lesson I tried to bring my outside leg back to bend the horse through a corner and the gentle pressure just from that made the horse (an old schoolmaster no less) surge forward really dramatically. I found it really bizarre that any calf at all meant "go." And trust me, I was riding him very lightly--no kick, no spur.

          I am not sure how to address this with the trainer. She is an eventing trainer so maybe she's just not good at dressage. Though I wasn't much impressed with her jumping position either. I am so distraught because I was to become a working student with her. I can only afford to pay for lessons with labor.

          Comment


          • #6
            She is probably making you exaggerate the leg being off. Legitimate teaching tool.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            ---
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by alg0181 View Post
              @Spirithorse, yeah, once during the lesson I tried to bring my outside leg back to bend the horse through a corner and the gentle pressure just from that made the horse (an old schoolmaster no less) surge forward really dramatically. I found it really bizarre that any calf at all meant "go." And trust me, I was riding him very lightly--no kick, no spur.

              I am not sure how to address this with the trainer. She is an eventing trainer so maybe she's just not good at dressage. Though I wasn't much impressed with her jumping position either. I am so distraught because I was to become a working student with her. I can only afford to pay for lessons with labor.
              It COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you misunderstood and/or rode with more leg than you thought. And it COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you haven't ridden in years and you were sitting on a well trained, potentially sensitive horse. It MUST be that the trainer isn't any good. Yeah, that must be it.
              "Are you yawning? You don't ride well enough to yawn. I can yawn, because I ride better than you. Meredith Michael Beerbaum can yawn. But you? Not so much..."
              -George Morris

              Comment


              • #8
                Well, I can only speak from my own experience but I cannot agree with squeezing tightly with the upper thigh. I mean, if I am asking for collection then I sort of suck the horse's back up with the thigh, but I'm still not squeezing tightly. The leg does need to be down and back with toes in, but I believe it needs to remain supple all the way from the hip down to the heel.

                As for no weight in the stirrups, I think that is an individual thing. There are certainly moments where I have no weight in the stirrups, but for certain movements or again, asking for collection, I do push into the stirrups. But I am definitely not squeezing the horse with my calf while doing so, just weighting the inside stirrup or both if necessary.

                And the horse surging forward from light calf pressure, that is a VERY GOOD THING!!! My horse does the same, it is how I have trained him. I think you were perhaps aiding the horse much more than you realized, and that may be why the trainer was so adamant about keeping your legs off the horse. Dressage is about getting a definite reaction from the lightest of aides, so it sounds like this horse is very advanced, so you will need to step up your game to ride him.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This should not stop you from being a working student.
                  Eventing trainers are usually not well versed in dressage...well Wayne Quarles is.
                  To bend a horse just add pressure to the inside leg....do not move it back. You might have better results, especially with an old schoolmaster.
                  Be open with your trainer and ask questions, relate information you obtain from other sources, see if she is reponsive. If not then she might not be right for you. Also, is the schoolmaster a horse she trained and rode? That would make a difference too!
                  I take clinic with Wayne Quarles and he is fantastic with the elements of dressage, yet he is an eventer. And how I ride is how he teaches.
                  www.hartetoharte.org
                  Ask and allow, do not demand and force.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
                    It COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you misunderstood and/or rode with more leg than you thought. And it COULDN'T POSSIBLY be because you haven't ridden in years and you were sitting on a well trained, potentially sensitive horse. It MUST be that the trainer isn't any good. Yeah, that must be it.
                    Um, it could very well be one of those above things. That's why I am trying to find out what is normal. I don't have any standard to judge this trainer by. I am simply opening myself to all possibilities. I am not saying she is bad or good, but for your information I saw other things that concern me with this trainer (thin horses, kids on hot/rearing horses, smoking during lessons, not to mention she was very late to her lessons today). So try not to be so jumpy, jeez.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post
                      She is probably making you exaggerate the leg being off. Legitimate teaching tool.
                      I thought about this too, so I asked to clarify. But that's when she said that you should never use calf, ever, just bring the leg back.

                      I think I was not clear about my question to her though. Maybe she just means for me to never use calf, for now.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by alg0181 View Post
                        Um, it could very well be one of those above things. That's why I am trying to find out what is normal. I don't have any standard to judge this trainer by. I am simply opening myself to all possibilities. I am not saying she is bad or good, but for your information I saw other things that concern me with this trainer (thin horses, kids on hot/rearing horses, smoking during lessons, not to mention she was very late to her lessons today). So try not to be so jumpy, jeez.
                        Yeah, but you didn't say any of those things. You didn't say "maybe I miscued the horse" or "maybe I didn't understand" or "maybe I'm out of shape and not as in control as I thought". What you did say was "maybe she's just not good at dressage" and "I wasn't impressed with her jumping either".

                        I'm not exactly putting words in your mouth.
                        "Are you yawning? You don't ride well enough to yawn. I can yawn, because I ride better than you. Meredith Michael Beerbaum can yawn. But you? Not so much..."
                        -George Morris

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by dwblover View Post
                          And the horse surging forward from light calf pressure, that is a VERY GOOD THING!!! My horse does the same, it is how I have trained him. I think you were perhaps aiding the horse much more than you realized, and that may be why the trainer was so adamant about keeping your legs off the horse. Dressage is about getting a definite reaction from the lightest of aides, so it sounds like this horse is very advanced, so you will need to step up your game to ride him.
                          Your post was informative, thanks.

                          I asked her during the lesson--no calf, ever? And she said nope. Maybe she misunderstood my question. I was asking generally--as in, should all dressage riders avoid calf--and not specifically about this lesson/horse/me. Maybe she meant just for me to avoid calf. But then again, she did ride to show me, and did ask the horse to leg yield without actually applying any leg. She just drew her heel up towards her hip without touching his side.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
                            Yeah, but you didn't say any of those things. You didn't say "maybe I miscued the horse" or "maybe I didn't understand" or "maybe I'm out of shape and not as in control as I thought". What you did say was "maybe she's just not good at dressage" and "I wasn't impressed with her jumping either".

                            I'm not exactly putting words in your mouth.
                            I also said multiple times that I found it strange, due to my experience and previous riding, which I explained, BUT that I don't know enough to know what's right, and in fact did ask in my original post if I was doing it wrong. I have been clear that I don't know anything. Do I have to put a disclaimer after every comment? Explain everything that happened from the time I arrived at the barn until I left? Give me a break. You didn't see her ride or jump, and in the context of some other things I saw, it concerned me a little, and I have the right to be concerned without having to justify everything to you.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by dwblover View Post
                              Well, I can only speak from my own experience but I cannot agree with squeezing tightly with the upper thigh. I mean, if I am asking for collection then I sort of suck the horse's back up with the thigh, but I'm still not squeezing tightly.
                              Oh also...it's hard to explain but she didn't want me squeezing in with my groin muscles, but rather rotating my thigh all the way forward and actively pushing my thigh into the block. It does help keep my leg parallel but makes me very stiff, obviously, in the thigh/knee.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by alg0181 View Post
                                I thought about this too, so I asked to clarify. But that's when she said that you should never use calf, ever, just bring the leg back.

                                I think I was not clear about my question to her though. Maybe she just means for me to never use calf, for now.
                                It could also be that she means no back of the calf. In the proper leg position, you use the inside of the top of the calf to reinforce weight and seat aids for bending, flexxion and forward engagement. But one of the hardest things to teach converted hunters and/or jumper riders is that the back of the boot should be clean.

                                By learning to open your hip and allow your thigh to swing more perpendicular to the ground ( not completely just closer to 75 degrees than 45 ) you should be able to roll your thigh forward and keep your lower leg more still but be able to use it.

                                As you first described it, it sounds as though she wants you gripping with your knees, and I know that isn't right. But if that is how your new trainer is maybe exaggerating so you can get the hip flexxors to open and loosen, give it a shot.

                                As far as eventers that teach dressage, I know of many - Doug Payne, Mike Plumb, etc, that excel at it.
                                bad decisions make good stories

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  go here and read page one and all links
                                  http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=178116

                                  alter your stirrups correctly then it will improve your position

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    throwing this out there

                                    This book spells out a lot of what your instructor is talking about.

                                    Ride with Your Mind Essentials: Innovative Learning Strategies for Basic Riding Skills by Mary Wanless

                                    Also, I have struggled for years with leg position, and then sat on an uphill horse will a well-fitting saddle, and had all those issues disappear.

                                    Stirrup length can be a big factor too.
                                    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                                    A helmet saved my life.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Behind the 8 Ball View Post
                                      It could also be that she means no back of the calf.
                                      She said at any given moment, someone should be able to put their hand clean under my calf right underneath the knee without touching my leg.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Sounds normal!

                                        I started in eventing/pony club with some hunters and I was taught to have a tight, gripping leg.

                                        The last 2 years, I've switched my focus to just dressage and had to reteach my leg. My dressage length stirrups have dropped 3 holes in that time (2 in lesson one, and I've lowered them one more since then).

                                        I think my trainer said it was S. Peters that explained leg contact...you should only have a feather's worth of pressure between your leg (from top to bottom) and the horse...that way, when you need to use it, your horse is sensitive to slight aids. The horse was doing exactly what he's been taught. It takes a LOT of practice, but what your trainer is asking didn't sound all that off...sounds like she's exggerating to get you to feel what you should be feeling through your seat and to STOP gripping? Of course, I haven't seen you ride, but my experience "retraining" for a dressage seat/leg/body was similar. I was gripping/pinching with my leg (what we've been taught to do jumping/pony club/eventing!) and it feels like you have no weight in the stirrups b/c your leg isn't used to being stretched longer. It gets easier as you learn that your CORE muscles absorb the shock/movement. It might be easier to re-learn WITHOUT stirrups and on the longe...just a thought.

                                        I'm also 5 10, long legged, and riding a 15.1 morgan (and a 17 hand big bodied selle francais)...I find the morgan much easier to drape my leg on as she is only of medium build and my big boy is SO WIDE, that even with a narrow twist saddle, it was like riding a thelwell!--it was HARD to learn not to grip on him!!

                                        It sort of sounds like you didn't enjoy/didn't buy into your lesson though.

                                        Good luck!
                                        Last edited by HollysHobbies; Dec. 22, 2010, 09:58 AM.

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