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THANKS! How do I get my heels out of my horse's sides?

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  • #21
    I have this same problem! Rode in a couple clinics so far this year and the first time she gently asked, "are you kicking her on purpose every stride?" Ummm, no. She had me stand while posting, for 3 or 5 strides, then sit, then stand, etc so I was using my thigh instead of my lower leg. She also told me to use my ham string and 'imagine you're (just barely) pushing your heel into my hand.' Definitely made me use different muscles! I would never even consider wearing spurs until I get this worked out. Madam Lady would definitely object!

    She's not an advocate of heels down either, thinks your feet should be level... My instructor wants me to warm up w/o stirrups while doing "bicycle legs" which sounds somewhat like what DownYonder recommended - only while moving so obviously not as extreme, it gets me in touch with my seat bones and stretches my thigh and loosens the hip joint.

    I am a rank beginner at this thing called dressage so feel free to disregard. but do agree with everyone else who says shorten your stirrups.

    Good luck!


    • #22
      I had an Event trainer that broke me of that in one night lesson in the indoor.
      All I know is that I cannot ride that way anymore. She taught me to allow my whole leg to hang down and relax everything, especially my ankle.
      I do not even know how I did it, but it is the most natural position in the world now. I did the EXACT same thing you are doing. I do see that you have a lovely long leg and it does not fit the horse as well, so I think that is part of the difficulty. Darling horse by the way. Good luck.


      • #23
        If you stop thinking of "heels down" and start thinking of the weight dropping into your heels with a springy loose ankle it will help. The weight should drop down through your knee, down through your heels-not stop there. That and a slightly shorter stirrup, will help.

        That along with riding in two point-staying up- will help. For this you do need a shorter stirrup and the weight will settle in your heels. I warn you, your thighs may scream!
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


        • #24
          I will admit I will revert back to that at times when leg yielding or cantering sometimes. My reason is being taugHt when i barrel raced to hang on. I didn't wear spurs barrel racing so I started to hold with my knee. It's a hard habit to break for sure but you have to learn to relax around them and rely on the balance of your seat instead.
          Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


          • #25
            I was also taught you had to earn your spurs. You don't have an educated leg yet. I'd also take your stirrups away and learn to relax your leg and let it fall out of the hip. This is great to do in the walk warm up or in a lunge lesson. My beginner lessons eons ago were to w/t/c without stirrups to develop and find our seat/balance. Then take them back and feel the difference. All of a sudden we found our stirrups and our base of support.

            Take your spurs away and learn to ride off your leg correctly. Carry a whip if need be but your nagging him and he will become dead to the spur.


            • #26
              You are so brave for posting these and your position is not as bad as you write that it is!
              In the first picture your heel is into your horse because you don't have the left bend you need coupled with the fact the in that moment your horse is distracted to the right. Want to know another tell-tale sign you don't have the left bend you need there? You are twisting your upper body out (look at your inside shoulder). When your horse doesn't have the bend you need it will sometimes feel like it is hanging its rib age off of your inside leg & feel to you like it is falling in. And in an effort to keep your circle on the correct arc the rider will start twisting away from the falling in feeling while also digging in w/ the inside leg to hold up the horse and pretty soon you have the picture you posted. This "phenomenon" can/will become worse in a test because you don't have the ability to work in a smaller circle or shoulder in/lateral for a quick schooling that will give you your bend back. For the record, the problem in your picture is behind and underneath you. Ask me how I know.
              You keep saying you are new to dressage...I think you're doing great!


              • #27
                Originally posted by right horse at the right time View Post
                Paula - I asked about doing this today. We want to try it another day and do it right rather than removing the spur yet and allowing me to get away with it.
                I agree w Paula - lose the spurs!

                This is a good exercise for everyone to try on occasion: what happens when I lose my spurs? Whip? Stirrups?

                At the lower levels I don't think anyone should really need spurs. Is your horse dead to your leg? It doesn't look or sound like it.

                And if you lose your spurs you will stop feeling like you need to bring your heel up to put them on the horse.

                I used your quote above because I'm not sure what you'd be getting away with. I think I just don't understand your point on that.


                • #28
                  Originally posted by right horse at the right time View Post
                  Redhorses, thanks! We tried that first exercise today, and I got a muscle cramp in my gluteus (medius mostly). My IT band is super tight as well...I think that I need to do some serious stretches so that I AM able to do that and see where my lower leg falls. Or drink some wine and loosen up that way! The second exercise - I think we do this. I bring both of my legs up (at halt) with my knees in front of me (is this what you mean? or do you mean bring the ankle up behind?), and this also drops my legs in the right place. It sort of scoots my butt under me, then drop my legs so they hang freely.
                  No, sorry - when you pull your ankle to your bum you want to have your knee pointing at the ground, vertical thigh. You want your seat in the right position before pulling your ankles up. You can do this as a stretch off the horse too, but off the horse it's easy to let your leg rotate out and have your foot too much behind you. It's a good stretch to do off the horse, just be careful to bring your heel more towards your hip than your tailbone and keep your thigh parallel to your other leg. The bulk of the horse prevents this and gives your leg the inward rotation to get the inside of your thigh on the horse when you're in the saddle.

                  I will try the next exercise you explained next time I'm on...I think this will really help. Trainer does something similar where I have to "bicycle" my legs up in front of me (raising my knees in opposite strides), which uses different muscles and then I unknowingly relax the ones I need to relax (plus my legs are exhausted!), so my legs hang down nicely then.
                  The pointing toes exercise works at the walk to release and reset your muscles. Trot and canter can come much later - it gives a different benefit at the faster gaits. There's no hurry - it will give you better results if you're fairly comfortable riding the bigger gaits as it will highlight any tendency you have to hold on with your legs.


                  • #29
                    You could just drop your stirrups for a minute in warmup that helps me. If you feel as nervous without them as I am then just walk . (green horses lol)

                    In downward transitions what does your seat do? I have a feeling either your feet come forward to brace or you pull your knees up a bit.

                    For me the downward transitions with leg lightly on puts me in the correct position. You should not feel your leg go BACK and on but underneath you and on.

                    I find if I do this into halt from walk even, just legs on sittting tall but not SPUR it reminds me this is the leg I need MOST of the ride not the toe out spur leg

                    Good luck!
                    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by CFFarm View Post
                      A good visual is to realize that the energy you have runs out of your toes. You want that energy going forward just like your horse's energy.
                      I like this visual.


                      • #31
                        Great advice so far. I just wanted to add a little trick that my Dressage instructor in College showed me. At the halt, take your feet out of the stirrups. Lift your leg straight out from the saddle (someone on the ground can help at first). Then rotate your your toe inwards (helps one leg at a time). It made my hip bones pop at first! While doing that let your hip rotate. Gently place your leg back down and it will be in a completely different postion (the contact with the saddle is in a different point- before you touched the saddle with the back of your calf, now its the side). It's amazing the difference when you put your leg back on the saddle. Works great for pinching knees too. I hope it makes sense, because it's really helped me in the past.
                        Proud owner of Belle- 17.2h PerchxTB-wannabe dressage horse & Fayah 14.1H arab-trail horse extroidinaire!


                        • #32
                          I also do stretches befor I ride and that helps a lot. My training always knows when i didn't stretch before i ride because I'm a lot more stiff and my leg doesn't hang as well and I'll start pinching.
                          Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                          • #33
                            In order to achieve a balanced seat you have to be able to recognize the feeling of that, off the horse. Try this. Go sit on the top board of a 4 board fence. Sit up straight, then remove both your feet and hands from the fence. Once you can achieve that balance on a horse you should be able to develop independent movement of your limbs whilst riding. Without that balance you're pissing in the wind ! Saddle fit (you and horse) is a MAJOR factor in achieving this balance on a horse. You have to view this problem as not merely a "leg thing" all the pieces have to be aligned for it all to work. The problem is, that unless the rider develops a good seat when they are starting, they cannot recognize when it's not working and why. So - you should forget all about showing etc. and find a trainer that can teach you on the lunge line, how to sit.
                            Last edited by Equibrit; Apr. 12, 2013, 08:05 PM.
                            ... _. ._ .._. .._


                            • #34
                              I just found your thread. I have this same problem too, and my new instructor gave me this wonderful exercise to help:

                              She told me to take my feet out of the stirrups,
                              Rotate the entire leg inward (so the toes are pointed in), but think of it coming from where your hip socket and your thigh meet. That is where the rotation needs to occur.

                              Now, every time you ride...think of pointing your toes in towards the horse's belly.

                              Now, when my toes point outwards, my horse will get sticky, so I know immediately, that I need to rotate my toes inward.

                              The important key, is that the rotation come from the hip, not just the toe.

                              She also raised my stirrups 2 notches...which helps a bunch as well. It's not an easy fix...and will take a lot of time to develop.
                              Unashamed Member of the Dressage Arab Clique
                              CRAYOLA POSSE= Thistle


                              • #35
                                Work on strengthening your hip abductors, gracillis, soleus and peroneous longus. Concentrated development of this group of muscle will pay off rapidly.
                                See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                                • #36
                                  I also wanted to add, that I started taking pilates lessons nearly 2 years ago. This has been the biggest help in isolating those very, very tight IT band muscles, and the tightness in my hips, thighs and lower back.
                                  Unashamed Member of the Dressage Arab Clique
                                  CRAYOLA POSSE= Thistle


                                  • #37
                                    I think you've gotten some really good advice on this thread. I believe the solution has several parts, including the great stretches people have suggested and some yoga and/or pilates to both strengthen your core and teach you (if you don't already do this) how to isolate parts of your body. What has helped me, in addition to those things, was two other things. 1. Having a clinic with someone whose focus it was to break me of the bad habit my legs were in. We spent 3 days being very focused on it and it got my mind very aware of when it was happening. I wasn't riding in spurs at that time. 2. When I earned my spurs, I wanted to be doubly sure I didn't accidently hit him with them, because he had been abused by spurs in the past. He knew the moment I was wearing them and it took us a month to get back in the swing of things where he trusted me to use them correctly and nicely. Because I was SO focused on being fair to him...and I knew how to use my body by that time, I didn't end up with my toes pointing out and my heel/spur digging in.

                                    Good luck on your journey...


                                    • #38
                                      I'll play

                                      Your stirrups are too long. Your saddle has an enormous knee roll and to me, though I doubt you've ever heard this, looks too small.

                                      Get a bigger saddle without all the padding. Take your spurs off until you can control your leg. Ride with a loose, hanging leg, with no stirrups. Put your stirrups up where they belong and put your heel d o w n.

                                      It won't be that hard to fix. Very nice horse. And I envy your long legs.


                                      • #39
                                        One thing that can help is to move the "fat" of the back of the thigh out of the way. When you sit in the saddle, grab the back of your thigh and pull it out and away from the saddle. That should roll your thigh to the inside and your whole leg will be turned in a bit....


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by RobinL View Post
                                          One thing that can help is to move the "fat" of the back of the thigh out of the way. When you sit in the saddle, grab the back of your thigh and pull it out and away from the saddle. That should roll your thigh to the inside and your whole leg will be turned in a bit....
                                          I was debating on whether or not to suggest this, since I don't know if she has enough fat for it to make as much sense as it does to those of us who have more ample supplies. ;-) It definitely helps get the feel of how the thighs are supposed to be turned to have as much flesh behind the thigh bone as in front of it.
                                          If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.