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Keeping a still leg over fences

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  • Keeping a still leg over fences

    Does anyone have any tips for keeping a still leg over fences, or just two-point tips in general? I’m going to be riding in an 18 inch cross rail class half-way through October and I’ll gladly accept any tips or exercises to improve half seat and two-point!

  • #2
    Ride in two point a lot. Ride with no stirrups. It's a strength thing. Two point until your thighs burn and practice until you can two point indefinitely.

    Once riders have some foundation going into 2 point can help fix a swinging leg so I'm guessing you are a fairly beginner rider. Dont be too discouraged. It will come.

    How much saddle time do you get? One lesson a week or your own horse? I'd go two point on hour long trot trail rides several times a week.


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
      Ride in two point a lot. Ride with no stirrups. It's a strength thing. Two point until your thighs burn and practice until you can two point indefinitely.

      Once riders have some foundation going into 2 point can help fix a swinging leg so I'm guessing you are a fairly beginner rider. Dont be too discouraged. It will come.

      How much saddle time do you get? One lesson a week or your own horse? I'd go two point on hour long trot trail rides several times a week.
      I ride three, sometimes four days a week on my lease horse, but the strength part makes sense - or for me, lack thereof haha. I’ll definitely start doing more to build a stronger foundation, and for riding in general. Thanks so much!


      • #4
        Hacking without stirrups is a great idea. Also, doing gymnastic grids without stirrups. Once you have the grid mastered without stirrups, tie your reins in a knot, and go through without your reins. This assures you aren't using the reins as a brace to hold you in place. Gymnastic grids don't have to be big jumps - poles on ground, 6" or 12" cross rails or mini verticals. They really help with a number of things - balance, coordination, your seat, and really feeling what the horse is doing... besides being a whole lot of fun!

        Gymnastic grids usually have bounces, one stride and two or maybe three stride combinations in a series of jumps. Typically 4 - 7 fences all in a row. Ask your instructor/coach about them. Maybe you can arrange to do grid work once a week or so.

        One other thing that works on some horses (though not all) is to think "squeeze" with your legs, right as you leave the ground at the fence... like your legs are stuck to the saddle with glue. I know it is old fashioned, but I think back when full chaps were all the rage, it was easier to learn to jump because you stuck better to the saddle than wearing britches. But alas I am an old lady now and learned to jump way back in the 1970s, and I know most, if not all, riding programs have their clients in tights or britches these days!.

        Jumping position takes time to master. You'll get there. And good luck at your show.
        ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


        • #5
          As you jump more and have time the saddle to develop your jumping position, it will come in due time. I *will* my lower leg - and the key is lower leg, be sure not to pinch with your knees - to stay in place. Out of saddle exercises help with leg strength, too - cycling with resistance, lunges, deadlifts, squats, etc.


          • #6
            For me practicing over low fences and gymnastics and focusing on landing in my heel that helped me keep my leg there and ready for that action. It also helped me stay off my horses back for a stride after.


            • #7
              If you are swinging your lower leg back over jumps, you are pinning your knee, and using it as a fulcrum. Your lower leg swings back, and your upper body rotates forward, your knee pinned. Pull your knee OFF the saddle, and relax it. Put your calf on the horse, and press your weight down into your heel. Don't let your weight get caught up in your knee. To pin your knee will make you less secure in the saddle. And this is not only seen in green riders, one sees it at the higher level shows these days too, in the hunter division, with the "drama" that is currently popular, and, apparently, winning ribbons. It's amazing that this type of riding is seen at higher levels, and it's a shame. Fix it now, fix it right. If you are riding in a saddle with a big knee roll, find a different saddle. Big knee rolls give a rider something to pin their knee into, and thus encourage it, which is counterproductive. Find a saddle without this accoutrement. Take the stirrups OFF the saddle, and put them in your tack box for a month or so, fondly known as "No Stirrups November", the month in which riders walk funny, and moan and grown a lot. And develop their seat and leg strength. You need to be able to do anything that you currently do with stirrups, without them. Developing these muscles is a new experience in pain, but once you understand this, it will remain with you throughout your riding career. And you will be a secure and effective rider. When your weight is truly in your heel, and your knee is relaxed and not pinned, your heel works like the keel of a sailboat, to keep you upright and secure in the saddle. It is never the saddle that makes you secure, it is your seat and leg. In the "old days" many children spent a lot of time riding bareback, walk, trot, canter, gallop, jumping, and thus learned naturally how to keep themselves securely on and upright. Sadly, this is not often the case any more, and it shows. Good luck, and advil is your friend.


              • #8
                Lose your stirrups. We tend to fight the motion of the horse instead of go with it as it takes core strength and flexibility in the hips, like doing the Hula, to follow the horses motion. We try to force our lower legs to compensate for our seat not following. Walk if you have to, you have to build up to long sessions at canter and then going over low fences without irons. But devote time every day to dropping the irons and relaxing your body down into the horse to follow its movement with your seat.

                This is in addition to the two point and half seat work mentioned above. If you are older or it really hurts , you can take it slow starting at the walk. But you gotta do it every ride to progress so your body can develop muscle memory, strength and balance. Like any other sport if you want to get to a serious level and compete.

                Yoga and Pilates off the horse help too. Yoga and many Pilates exercises don’t need any equipment, lots of reference materials online or in books. They develop core strength and balance. Many riders find them very useful and easy to work into any spare 5 min anywhere. I was surprised how much they helped myriding and helped me understand how important core strenth is in riding.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  Look at a lot of pictures so you get a mental image and obviously you have eyes on the ground. A flip through a Horse & Hound will show you some horrible examples of derring do riding, but not exactly stylish. The eventers have the best form to function positions, because they cannot afford to be too far forward in case of s trip.

                  George Morris and his ilk teach the best equitation, not jumping ahead of the horse, leg stable in position and not moving back, crotch not ahead of the pommel, soft hand, eyes up. American styling.
                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                  • #10
                    I struggle with this too. Nancy is correct as I do this. I pin with my knee and then my lower leg swings. Just taking my knee off improved my lower leg dramatically but it is going to be a hard habit to break.
                    "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope


                    • #11
                      For me the most important part was keeping weight in the heels. Having heels down is your anchor to a quiet lower leg.


                      • #12
                        One thing that's easy to practice and really builds strength is to drop your stirrups at the walk and two point but WITHOUT pinching your knees. Builds a ton of strength and muscle memory, but bc you're walking, you can really focus on your position. You don't have to worry your distance or pace. I was shocked how hard this was at first, but it's made a big difference.


                        • #13
                          I just finished the latest Denny Emerson book and he says (paraphrasing) in there somewhere that you should focus on your grip being in your heel. Meaning, heel, achilles tendon area, not the knee. Get your knees loose and not gripping. Also, he says to think of pushing your seat BACK. I think this is important Riders (like me) tend to want to two point and move forward over fences, which is incorrect. Just think, butt back. And if you look at truly good riders, their backsides are in the right spot, not in front of the pommel like many rides of today. Good luck and HAVE FUN at your show.


                          • #14
                            Not sure if anyone has already said this and I missed it, but one thing that helps sometimes is thinking of lifting your toe/pointing your toe to the sky, vs. thinking about pushing your heel down.

                            In the air, I think about pushing my butt back, stretching my weight along the back of my leg and into my heels (or lifting my toes - some people do better thinking about heels, others thinking about toes, but it's essentially the same thing in the end), and relaxing my knees.

                            I agree with everyone else, though - it's largely a strength issue. Shorten your stirrup a hole or so and trot in two point for as long as you can stand, then give yourself a break, and go back to two point at the trot again. It's like going to the gym for any other muscle group - it should be hard work, but do give yourself breaks.

                            Personally, I do better with things like this if I wear a watch and give myself sets to do...because I'm a bit of a wuss, and will stop the minute I get mildly uncomfortable, unless I know I have to do something for a set amount of time. LOL. So, for example, trot in two point for a minute and a half, rest for 45 seconds, and go for another minute and a half, or whatever is a bit challenging.


                            • #15
                              Keep your eyes up. the horse and ground are underneath you, you don't need to look at them.

                              Visualize yourself as being one of those inflatable clowns with sand in the bottom. the "sweet spot" in your two-point starts in your thighs. it's a little bit of strength, but it's about balance too, and possibly more. lots of two point at the walk will help you learn just how little movement is required for you to throw off the balance. you've got natural shock absorbers in your ankles, knees, hips. use them by keeping a soft, supportive leg draped around the horse, not pinching or shoving your heel down or posing.