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Help me get a quiet leg!

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  • Help me get a quiet leg!

    Title pretty much says it all! I want to look elegant, and make my riding look effortless. I have a good seat, I have quiet hands, I have a lovely, leggy horse who is easy to ride, and I have the worst problem with a wiggly, jiggly lower leg.

    I am 5'11, lanky build. Horse is 17.1 WB, same build. His barrel pretty much falls away below my knee. I have long long legs and a shorter torso- pretty ideal build for a dressage rider, right? But I tend to ride with my stirrups on the short side to get some leg around the barrel, and some stability for my leg, but I don't want to always ride like that. He's a little lazy, mainly in the canter, but would be a heck of a lot more responsive if I didn't bop him every stride.

    This is a problem I've always had to some extent on big movers, or lazy ones. My first dressage horse was much like my current, and even a well respected clinician had a wiggly ankle at the least. On hot horses I seem to be able to control it, even on my trainer's dainty 15'2 sensitive mare- legs much more still. Ironically, it is at it's worse on my 17 hand TB- but he the laziest TB I've ever met, and has a lot of movement.

    I hate it, I hate watching myself on a video; it looks like I am jabbing with my heels every stride, even if I don't feel my heel or spur touching them.

    I'm going to make my PSG debut this year, and I want to show off my lovely guy to the best of my ability, and not distract him, my aids, and the judge with my ugly legs.

    Help me with your wisdom! I like yoga, I know I have tight hip flexors. My trainer wants me to ride her mare more to memorize the feel of a quiet draping leg. Any other ideas?

  • #2
    I find that the unstable lower leg is a reflection of a weaker upper leg.
    so, I'd shorten those stirrups a little more, and practice some 2 point. Keep it fairly short sessions though.

    Your lower leg really doesn't need to reaching for his side. He can understand an aid from the part of your leg that is touching him on his barrel.
    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.


    • #3
      I was going to suggest 2 point as well, but also perhaps some hip exercises to loosen that joint and allow your leg to drape better, especially if your thigh struggles to lay flat against his big barrel.
      Proud COTH lurker since 2001.


      • #4
        Only farmers ride with their calves

        My first dressage instructor drilled that idea into me.

        Think about riding the horse more from your core (thighs and seat) than lower leg. Everyone says this but it really does help. If the aids come more from the thighs, the lower leg can be passive most of the time.

        Hip flexors are key. Here is a good series of stretches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg3y96ijATw

        Key points for safety and comfort;
        Optimize the separation of your legs-too much and you risk a groin injury, too little and it is hard to maintain balance. I kneel and have about 6-7 inches between my knee caps.
        Make sure your foot has enough separation from your body that as you come forward, you knee doesn't go past your big toes. Also keep your shoulders over your hips, don't let your upper body fall forward toward your thigh.

        If you do warrior I, think of driving your back leg down while curling your pelvis forward a little. That stretches out your hip flexor and top of the quad pretty well too.
        See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


        • #5
          You aren't alone! I have a 17.1 Danish mare with a HUGE trot and I feel like my lower leg is totally detached from the rest of my body. I've found that it's worse when I get tense!

          nhwr has some great suggestions! If you figure out the magic cure, be sure to share!


          • #6
            struggled with this...found that my lower leg was absolutely too floppy. To quiet it, I think of keeping my leg on him like a well secured belt- sort of stretching my leg down and wrapping it around his belly. Also had to get to the gym and working on all those leg muscles! ugggh!
            "I'm holding out for the $100,000 Crossrail Classic in 2012." --mem
            "With all due respect.. may I suggest you take up Croquet?" --belambi
            Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club!


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the info and ideas guys!

              I think I have a pretty strong upper leg- I've been told its too strong. Without stirrups I can "hover" above the saddle easier than opening my hips and sinking deep. I can try more 2 point, but its pretty strong; I jump regularly, and evented and did IHSA not too many years ago. I'm also a runner.

              I'm thinking more along the lines of more flexibility or a different leg position, but I could be wrong!

              Here's any older video of me doing training level test- so I really should not need much leg aids.


              • #8
                First off, at 5'11" you are going to have more trouble than those of us who are too short for our legs to fit around our horses. It's one of the only advantages to being a shrimp - that if our legs are not still there's a 99.9% chance it's due to a flaw in our riding!

                That said, if you still ride like you did in that training level test, I suspect there are changes you could make to help improve yourself. You need upper leg strength, but not to squeeze - I'm going to try to remember how an example posted by someone on this board worked.... Put a 1/2 full water bottle on its side and put your thumb and index finger over it. Keep them straight and try to pick up the water bottle with the area closest to your hand. The bottle should squish and fall. Now "drape" your fingers - don't squeeze nearly as hard, but let them wrap. That's the kind of feel you want with your legs, rather than trying to hold yourself in the saddle with your thighs, and it also helps you sit better and give you more freedom to use your seat as you wish.

                At least with the old video you appear to have the same issue I have been fighting (as another former IHSA rider, probably with the same root cause!) When you use your leg on your horse, does your leg get shorter rather than longer? If so, you are using the front of your thigh (and your tight hip flexors) more than your back of your thigh/hamstrings/glutes. I used some pilates exercises to help isolate and learn to use the back of my thighs and it made a huge difference in how still my legs were.

                Hopefully some of that has helped - I've been re-learning my seat altogether so thinking about all the many little details, and assume you know quite a bit of what I just posted, only I don't know what you do and don't know.

                For inspiration, you should watch Edward Gal. I prefer the results of training from some other international riders, but for sheer perfection in riding and presenting a horse in competition, I think he's the best in the world. He's also the long and lean type... and even his lower legs move a little!
                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.


                • #9
                  I'm about 5'9" with long legs, particularly thigh and my horses are 16.3 and 17+.

                  Watching your video, I can see we have similar problems. For me I think the issue came from my inner thigh being too strong and taking over when I felt insecure. I still struggle with it to some extent on one side. I focused on making my outer leg (particularly my outer thigh) stronger and loosening my hip flexors, it helped a lot. I can use my thigh without my seat popping out of the saddle. Now it actually helps me sit more securely. It will get your toes pointed forward too.

                  PS Another great yoga pose for this is camel. And your horse is cute
                  See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                  • #10
                    OP, do a search on my old posts. I am nowhere near PSG but received a lot of advice that, based on your request, will be VERY helpful! Good luck!
                    LarkspurCO: no horse's training is complete until it can calmly yet expressively perform GP in stadium filled w/chainsaw juggling zombies riding unicycles while flying monkeys w/bottle rockets...


                    • #11
                      You need a saddle that fits you so that you don't sit on the cantle. (looking at the video) your thigh is bracing against the knee roll pushing your butt up the cantle. You should be sitting in balance in the middle of the saddle, allowing independent movement of your limbs, with a relaxed thigh. That ain't happening
                      ... _. ._ .._. .._


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Sancudo View Post
                        I think I have a pretty strong upper leg- I've been told its too strong.

                        Here's any older video of me doing training level test- so I really should not need much leg aids.
                        Take it from this gal who used to squat 400lbs in high school (and have the bum knees to prove it), it's not a strength issue. You struggle with the same thing I do, long lovely femur, smaller barrel horse, and strong legs.
                        Here's what has helped me:
                        1. think about having soft thighs
                        2. knees pointing down
                        3. think "1,2,3 push the ground down with flat foot"
                        4. more weight in your pinkie toe
                        5. think about using your shin instead of your calf when you do need an aid down there (which should be rare)
                        6. try flapping your thighs like a chicken while in seated trot a few times and then back to quiet (great longe exercise, but can be practiced alone if you have an understanding horse)
                        chaque pas est fait ensemble


                        • #13
                          the commonest reason i find for a busy lower leg is grippng with the knees, and causing a fulcrum effect on the lower leg.

                          If it is not that, then it cold be that you are not relaxed in the joints of the leg, causing a piston like action down the leg.

                          good luck with finding the balance and combination of engagement and relaxation it takes to keep a quiet but effective leg