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Rider conformation considerations?

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  • Rider conformation considerations?

    I'm interested in learning examples of how common conventions should be adjusted to account for an individual rider's conformation. For example, for my height, I have a long torso and short calves, and find (after lots of trial and error) that shortening my stirrups *increases* my tendency to pinch with my knee. I don't generally have a problem with a swinging lower leg at any length, I just feel more balanced when my leg is slightly longer - I have to assume my proportions are contributing to this.

    Any other examples out there?

  • #2
    Shorter arms mean you might have to carry your hands higher.
    http://trainingcupid.blogspot.com/

    Comment


    • #3
      I think it's just trial and error.

      The people with invisible lateral imbalances or really dysfunctional hips have way more long term problems.

      Stirrup length will also change as you get fitter and more skilled. Stirrups will get longer in dressage and shorter in jumpers for most people as they progress. For a while I felt like the stirrups on my jump and dressage saddles were pretty much the same length.

      I am not 100% sure what people mean by "pinching with the knee" as that has never been my particular problem and I can't seem to replicate it from online descriptions . (My problems are slouching into a chair seat or getting into a chair seat in times of trouble or driving).

      Put your stirrups where they need to be right now and re-evaluate in 6 months or a year. Probably there are other issues in your seat that will also resolve with time and correct instruction.

      I think the "ideal rider" body for women is a bit taller than average, maybe 5 foot 7, with longer legs compared to torso, and lean. And fit. Basically built for multi sport athleticism

      Those of us who don't have the ideal body certainly can play with equipment to compensate.

      OP, I would also suggest checking ridet saddle fit. Your long thighs might mean you need a bigger seat or a more forward flap to be balanced.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think that the inclination to pinch with your knee has as much to do with the way your pelvis is built, and the horse you are riding as it has to do with the length of your legs. People like Scribbler are lucky enough to not have a clue how pinching is possible, and then there are people like me who struggled for ages because I couldn't figure how to not pinch my knees.

        To further complicate things, I think that the way that a person has to compensate for their conformation has as much to do with flexibility and the way that their body works (or doesn't) as it does with the way that their body is actually put together.

        For example, I have a build that is pretty close to what most would consider "ideal" for riding. BUT, my body doesn't work in a way that is advantageous to riding. My ankles don't flex much past 90 degrees, they only seem to want to get my toe pointing down (thanks to ballet as a child). So that means that even with all of my weight in my heels, my heel will be visibly flat, and all of the shock absorption must happen in my knee and hip. But then for work, I drive an average of 1,000 miles a week, so my hips aren't in great shape either. I've been told that the ideal jumping position would have my knee bent at a 90 degree angle, but that puts too much stress on my knee, and then the crookedness in my hips somehow gets magnified when I ride that short. So I have resigned myself to riding a few holes longer than I ought to, and the unsolicited critiques that come along with that. I have tried to creep my stirrups shorter gradually, but then several months down the road I usually end up crippling myself for a little while and going back to where I started.

        Comment


        • #5
          I suspect that people who have trouble not pinching with their knees probably have hip socket rotation that causes their toes to turn slightly inward of neutral. There's a wide range of normal for the way the ball joint sits together and you're pretty much stuck with the ligaments and tendons you're born with. I would be curious to video someone who pinches with their knees doing crossfit style box jumps. Do their knees collapse in on the landing?

          OP, I have struggled with tight hip flexors for most of my adult riding career. Recently, I started the 200 hour certification for yoga instructors. Last weekend studied the back bend asanas that are done partially or completely on the floor - e.g. - locust, bow, camel, etc. When I got on my horse to school on Tuesday, boom - effortlessly blew through the plateau I'd been stuck on for a couple months. I suddenly felt secure and confident without my stirrups and rode without them for as long as I could without smoking my leg muscles. Picking the stirrups back up I could feel the energy running unimpeded from my hip to the balls of my feet. And the stirrups felt too short even though I had recently lengthened them (dressage rider).

          To practice that kind of backbend without straining the lower back, you have to take care not to tighten your glutes/hamstrings too much. This is done by engaging a particular set of ab muscles that are partially responsible for enabling the pelvis to move independently of the rest of the torso. I haven't felt that kind of opening across my hips since the period I trained jiu jitsu 5x a week. All the backbend repetitions broke up some old fascia adhesions in the hip AND got that set of tiny core muscles working again. I normally hate cantering because I feel like an insecure sack of potatoes. This time, I was able to sit back on my butt and relax and open the hip flexors and step down into the stirrups. My super-sensitive Princess and the Pea horse must have felt it as well because he relaxed into frame without any other cue on my part.

          I do think that some horses and riders naturally fit together better than others based on their respective conformations. My femurs are very long despite me being short. I've always felt confident on very large horses that riders taller than me found nerve wracking to ride. Probably has something to do with my long legs. Current trainer brought up the fact that my horse don't seem to feel my leg aids despite me obviously trying and my legs being strong. She'd be yelling "Squeeeeeeeze him!" and I'd be going red faced squeezing and nothing was happening. It must have something to do with how my lower leg rests against the horse. I spent a huge chunk of my schooling session yesterday tinkering around with different angles of applying the leg. I'm still tired and stiff!

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Good points, all.

            Another thing I've noticed about myself, though I don't know if this is truly related to my conformation or if it's normal for everyone - In terms of my core strength, my lower back is perpetually a "weak spot", and when I'm riding correctly, even when fit, I will be stiff in my lower back the morning after a really good ride. So I'm thinking long torso = weakly coupled, in my case.

            Wanderosa, I'm also (primarily) a dressage rider, and in regards to my OP, find I prefer my dressage stirrups a hole longer than some instructors want too. If I warm-up without stirrups, I can easily go a hole longer than that!

            Comment


            • #7
              I have pretty much the exact opposite of the ideal body type for riding (especially jumping). Short and squat, with my torso longer than arms or legs, plus top heavy. I've found that what works best for me is not as conventional in some ways and I tend to focus less on equitation (and instead strive to be effective and not interfere with my horse). Of course, over time my equitation has improved because being effective with your body is the core principal of good equitation.

              I used to get stiff and sore in my lower back and I thought it was because I had a weak core. While I'm sure that was some of the problem, I also learned that you have to workout those muscles specifically. If you do, you'll find you're much less stiff and sore. Think RDLs, reverse back extensions, etc. in the gym!
              Equestrian blog: The Printable Pony
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              • #8
                Back pain is tricky. It can be joints or it can be muscles. If muscles, it can be strain or over use, or it can be spasms.

                My own ongoing problem is muscles spasms from overuse or bad posture.

                Just a couple days ago I came home from a busy but nonriding day (took my mare out in trailer to do a little tricks demo) and came home with everything hurting.

                Out of despair, I did some very gentle and basic stretching, the stuff I know I'm supposed to do, but always skip

                I felt fantastic the next day.

                The other thing is check rider saddle fit. For the past month, my own saddle has been getting reflocked and I've been borrowing a saddle.

                Both saddles are older Passier dressage saddles with moderate knee rolls and seats. However my saddle is 18 inch seat and the borrowed saddle is 17 inches.

                The borrowed saddle is visibly a bit small but when I sat or walked in it, it felt just fine, and familiar because same maker and era (different models).

                However when I canter in it, my mid and lower back get thrashed. This is on an older schoolmaster Andalusian mare with a wonderful collected canter. She has a lot of sproing to her canter, but you can just sit in the middle and she rocks underneath you.

                No problem riding this canter in the 18 inch saddle. In the 17 inch saddle, my back is being destroyed. I've quit cantering her until my own saddle returns soon.

                Best I can tell, the smaller seat is blocking the full movement of my pelvis and hips at canter, so the torque is being taken up by my lower back. I also think that my hips are not fully following her swing at the walk in this saddle.

                The borrowed saddle may also be sitting a bit back on her, as she has a huge shoulder.

                Interestingly I got a new to me Passier jump saddle in the fall. Ive been using it on my own horse. For whatever reason, the first few rides after I bought and restuffed it, I couldn't sit the canter in it. I dropped my stirrups a couple holes, did a lot of two point at the trot, and now its just fine.

                So, OP, the combination of problems you are reporting certainly merit having a look at your rider saddle fit and possibly a larger seat. Your long thighs may be pushing you too far back in the saddle and jamming your pelvis.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm 90% sure my right leg is longer than my left one. I noticed when doing calf raises on a stair that I was putting way more weight on my right leg than my left. My horse tends to want to drift to the right. And thinking back, I remembered that a year ago when I was going to the chiro regularly, he would always be tugging my left leg and adjusting it. I've been trying to concentrate on putting more weight on my left leg throughout the day (not easy).

                  I also have super tight hip flexors from sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day, so I've been trying to do stretches every day (I don't always remember to). When I'm riding, certain times I tense up and lose my stirrups. I though it was because my heels weren't down enough until someone pointed out that it is probably from my knees coming up due to my hip flexors being too tight to really stretch down. Which makes a ton of sense. I need to start going to a chiro again and doing more yoga, apparently.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I am built like Brutus and I also struggled with maintaining and improving my equitation while still being effective. I took a path much like hers. I also have hip and SI joint issues, which has made learning to sit down keep my leg still really difficult for me. As far as I can tell my leg swings right from the hip, as I have never had issues pinching with the knee, and my toes naturally point out, which pushes my knee away from the flap.

                    I think the best lesson in equitation and how form = function I ever has was when I rode a very large, dull gelding who had an explosive jump. If I didn't equitate I couldn't effectively ride him and he would jump me very loose.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My primary conformational issue stems from mild scoliosis - my back curves to the right, so I unintentionally lean that way in the saddle, which isn't a huge deal tracking left but results in the greenies falling in to the center of the ring when we're tracking right. About the only thing that fixes it is semi-regular bareback rides. I can't lean if you take the saddle away from me, so it really forces me to sit square and remember to keep my right hand up and back, since I tend to drop it unintentionally due to that shoulder already being lower. It's honestly kind of amusing for me to look in the mirror for the couple of days after any bareback ride and see my shoulders be properly square instead of having my right shoulder ~half an inch lower than the left

                      I'm also hyper-flexible in my joints, which, while not severe enough to warrant the diagnosis of a connective tissue disorder, does mean that I have a tendency to overflex through my ankles when my stirrups are short. Consequently, I'm usually more comfortable with a stirrup a little longer than it technically should be when I'm jumping (no issues with dressage length though). If I actually kept up with my physical therapy exercises to keep my ankles stable, this would probably be less of an issue, but they're very time-consuming so I'm not as good about it as I should be, unfortunately. If I really work up to it I can ride with "correct" stirrup lengths over fences, but it takes a long time of slowly shortening my stirrups for me to be comfortable.

                      Proportionally, I have a short torso and long legs (and just long limbs in general) - I'm about 5'9" (maybe a little taller if it's the morning, hahaha) but I have the inseam as my brother, who is 6'1". I ride in an 18" saddle with a forward flap when I'm on my own horse, just to accommodate the length of my femur (and I have to say it's glorious finally having a saddle that fits me correctly, as well as my horse, because I've spent most of my life riding in whatever fit the horse regardless of how it suited me).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My pelvic bone is lower than my seat bones. Because of this, I like my saddles balanced a bit higher in the back. Lots of women have this pelvic confirmation, so I don’t understand why more saddles don’t cater to it.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Scribbler, I don't have long thighs. Just a long torso and short calves. My thighs are either proportional to my height, or maybe a little on the short side (I'm 5'6"). When my legs are in the correct position in my dressage saddle, my thighs and knees sit well behind the blocks on my saddle, though otherwise the seat fits me (large enough for my pelvis, doesn't tip me forward, comfortable but not so roomy that I feel like I'm swimming, easy to balance in.) When a saddle is too small for me (jump or dressage), I feel it more in my quads than my back (or crotch, depending on how deep the seat is and whether it's tipping my pelvis forward or not).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by strangewings View Post
                            Scribbler, I don't have long thighs. Just a long torso and short calves. My thighs are either proportional to my height, or maybe a little on the short side (I'm 5'6"). When my legs are in the correct position in my dressage saddle, my thighs and knees sit well behind the blocks on my saddle, though otherwise the seat fits me (large enough for my pelvis, doesn't tip me forward, comfortable but not so roomy that I feel like I'm swimming, easy to balance in.) When a saddle is too small for me (jump or dressage), I feel it more in my quads than my back (or crotch, depending on how deep the seat is and whether it's tipping my pelvis forward or not).
                            Ok, but long torso and short calves means that relative to your calves, your thighs are long. You have a short cannon bone which is a good thing in a horse, at least.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Wanderosa View Post
                              I suspect that people who have trouble not pinching with their knees probably have hip socket rotation that causes their toes to turn slightly inward of neutral. There's a wide range of normal for the way the ball joint sits together and you're pretty much stuck with the ligaments and tendons you're born with. I would be curious to video someone who pinches with their knees doing crossfit style box jumps. Do their knees collapse in on the landing?

                              OP, I have struggled with tight hip flexors for most of my adult riding career. Recently, I started the 200 hour certification for yoga instructors. Last weekend studied the back bend asanas that are done partially or completely on the floor - e.g. - locust, bow, camel, etc. When I got on my horse to school on Tuesday, boom - effortlessly blew through the plateau I'd been stuck on for a couple months. I suddenly felt secure and confident without my stirrups and rode without them for as long as I could without smoking my leg muscles. Picking the stirrups back up I could feel the energy running unimpeded from my hip to the balls of my feet. And the stirrups felt too short even though I had recently lengthened them (dressage rider).

                              To practice that kind of backbend without straining the lower back, you have to take care not to tighten your glutes/hamstrings too much. This is done by engaging a particular set of ab muscles that are partially responsible for enabling the pelvis to move independently of the rest of the torso. I haven't felt that kind of opening across my hips since the period I trained jiu jitsu 5x a week. All the backbend repetitions broke up some old fascia adhesions in the hip AND got that set of tiny core muscles working again. I normally hate cantering because I feel like an insecure sack of potatoes. This time, I was able to sit back on my butt and relax and open the hip flexors and step down into the stirrups. My super-sensitive Princess and the Pea horse must have felt it as well because he relaxed into frame without any other cue on my part.

                              I do think that some horses and riders naturally fit together better than others based on their respective conformations. My femurs are very long despite me being short. I've always felt confident on very large horses that riders taller than me found nerve wracking to ride. Probably has something to do with my long legs. Current trainer brought up the fact that my horse don't seem to feel my leg aids despite me obviously trying and my legs being strong. She'd be yelling "Squeeeeeeeze him!" and I'd be going red faced squeezing and nothing was happening. It must have something to do with how my lower leg rests against the horse. I spent a huge chunk of my schooling session yesterday tinkering around with different angles of applying the leg. I'm still tired and stiff!
                              I did a ton of Yoga a while back (Moksha) and got to be decent at it. All the backbends gave me an unusual pain in my lower back over time. What was I doing wrong? Which are the little ab muscles I need to target? I could do camel no problem, and no pain in the movement, it would be later that night. I did all my classes with an instructor, not on my own.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Wanderosa View Post
                                I suspect that people who have trouble not pinching with their knees probably have hip socket rotation that causes their toes to turn slightly inward of neutral. There's a wide range of normal for the way the ball joint sits together and you're pretty much stuck with the ligaments and tendons you're born with. I would be curious to video someone who pinches with their knees doing crossfit style box jumps. Do their knees collapse in on the landing?
                                I was born with a leg deformity that is a noticeable, verging on extreme, version of what you're talking about. My femurs themselves are twisted. I can definitely tell you that riding by the book while jumping causing me to pinch with my knees drastically. I prefer now to leave my stirrups on the long side when doing anything that involves a lot of two-point, because then I can actually drop my weight into my calves, instead of my knees acting as pivot points.

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