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Correct leg position?

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  • Correct leg position?

    Hello everyone. I recently started with a new trainer and I have had about 5 lessons with her already. I have had multiple trainers over the past year, I have taken lessons in 3 different states and they have all told me to put my leg/foot in the same position, until now. I will try and explain this as best I can, so please bear with me! She has me put my leg in the same position as if I were in my half seat (heels down, leg slightly behind the girth) but, instead of having my toes faced outward while my leg is on the horse, she tells me turn them inward so that the whole length of my foot is on the horse. I'm not sure if this is correct position, or just to strengthen my legs, but it has become very painful. Normally I would not complain about this because I know all trainers do things differently, but does this sound right? Is this really the correct leg/foot position? I usually will not question my trainer, but keeping my ankle and foot like that is becoming increasingly painful, even days after my lesson. So basically my question is, what is the correct position when just riding on the flat? Should my leg really be behind the girth, not just at the girth? Should the whole inside of my foot be on the horse or is it okay for my toes to be pointed out? Please feel free to ask any questions, I did try and describe this the best way that I could. Any help is appreciated.

  • #2
    Your foot should be at a relaxed angle... Unless you're pigeon toed, I can't see having your entire foot on the horse being comfortable or correct...

    You don't want duck feet either, but the angle of your feet should be natural according to your conformation... not anything forced or unnatural


    • #3
      Yeah, your hip is really what determines how turned out your foot will be. Fighting the angle your hip joints put your feet at will cause pain, often in the knee, as that joint is then getting torqued really hard.

      One of my hip sockets is slightly shallower than the other and the toe on that side turns out more (riding, walking, running...). Nothing horrible, just more than the other foot. It is what it is, if I try to forcibly straighten out the foot on that side, my knee really hurts after a while. Many years ago, when I was doing equitation, my trainer and I were try to force that foot to turn in more and be even with the other. I ended up at the orthopedist due to pain in my knee...he determined that my knee was just fine, the problem was my hip and told me to stop doing that or my knee wouldn't stay fine .

      Even George Morris is tolerant of conformational differences, you'll see in his comments on some Practical Horseman pictures..."toes turned out to a degree appropriate for rider's conformation". Yeah, you don't want extreme "duck feet" and those could be a strength or tightness issue, but toes turning out slightly, I think is normal for most of us.


      • #4
        My feet splay outward... when I'm walking, riding, etc. I have to work hard to keep them straighter forward. I've never been asked to force them into a position where they are flat against the horse, just that I work on keeping them not as far out as normal (as they have been known to brush a wall or catch a jump standard if I don't consciously think about them).


        • #5
          My feet also splay outward, as I think a result of the way my legs are conformed, my toes do seem to point out more than the average person on a horse, but I attempt to keep them straight in order to have my whole leg on the horse at about a 20-30 degree angle. Perhaps the trainer is telling you this as an exaggeration, because if you're constantly thinking about keeping your toes in a little more, it could correct the muscle memory. You might not even realize that you have duck toes normally, and they're just trying to correct that.


          • #6
            I believe the foot along the horses side is common in an instructor with a dressage background.

            I had a trainer that was having me keep my foot and toe facing forward. While it wasn't painful, it definitely wasn't comfortable. I ended up clinicing with Greg Best a few months later and asked him. He said it was BS and that when you are going over a fence, you should have your toe out at a slight angle...and it was conformationally impossible for the majority of riders to comfortably and securely ride over fences with their toe pointed straight out.

            I've taken that and run with it. I'm definitely not extreme with my toes.

            Now I have had a young teen that has started riding one of my horses for me. Her heel is FREAKISHLY down and toes out (duck feet). I've been having her weight her little toe, which has corrected both the toe and extreme heel (although I'd still kill someone for her leg...) and eliminated her chair seat! (which was an unexpected bonus).

            I don't have her focus on "toes straight" More weighting the outside of the toe to prevent that ankle from rolling to an extreme on the inside of the foot.


            • #7
              Could be that the new trainer is trying to correct toes too far out by over correcting...but, if that's the case, she should say so, so you understand what the goal is. I've never heard of having the whole foot against the horse's side (mine wouldn't do that anyway, as my legs are long and my foot falls below the widest part of the belly on all but massive horses).

              When I was taking dressage lessons last year, the dressage instructor wanted my toes pointing more forward than the HJ trainers do. She showed me where the wear/dirt/sweat on the inside of my boots should be if I'm using my leg correctly. It wasn't so much about my toes per se, as what part of my calf I had on the horse. In order to achieve that, it wasn't about forcing my toe in, but about stretching my hips to allow my whole leg to turn in more, from the hip, not the foot. Stretching exercises off the horse, as well as on, were what it took to get my leg more appropriate for dressage.

              And, I agree that having toes straight ahead, particularly if that is not the way you are built, isn't very practical for jumping...it would really mess with your base of support.


              • #8
                While the look of toes pointing straight forward with your whole calf against the barrel is a great picture, it just isn't realistic for most riders.

                I always think if the horse disapeared from under me, would I land standing or fall on my ***? I want my position to put me in a balanced stand/crouch.

                That gives me a good visual on how my balance on the horse is.

                IMO, you want to have your stirrup balanced on the balls on your toes so that it supports those joints directly under each toe. This would make it so the outside of your stirrup is just slightly behind the inside.
                When you get the stirrup there, stand up in the saddle and find your balance. That is your ideal position.

                Never force your toe inwards, this can lead to ankle problems or worse rolling your ankle. It would be like trying to walk with your toes pointed together.
                Your weight is then not evenly distrubuted and your support (ankle), is taking access strain on the outer side. Never good.

                All that being said, I did have a trainer reposition my foot so it was perfectly straight. Then asked myself the same question you are.... I find out the above! The hard way AND at a show.

                Oops, forgot the rest. Don't focus on heels down, just sink your weight into your stirrup. I got do focused on heels down that my ankles got sore.
                Plus, I like to have my toe just at the front of the girth so that my ankle bone hits at the back of the girth. This way I am not pitching myself onto my horse's forehand, making it harder for her to lift the shoulder.
                Last edited by pryme_thyme; May. 3, 2013, 11:15 AM. Reason: Forget to answer entire quesiton...


                • #9
                  ok im going to try to explain this as much as possible, i went from being a hunter/jumper rider to eventer to mostly classical dressage of lately due to me being pregnant.

                  so here goes, your trainer is correct in her idea... but not correct in how to fix it. This is an issue that will take you a long time to correct as it is doing myself and all riders who strive to do it correctly. You want your toes forward, calf completely against the side of the horse and thigh relaxed as your riding on flat and in between jumps, when you actually jump your foot can rotate out to a 45 degree angle to allow your hips to close the way they are supposed to. The biggest thing that trainers do not explain or even understand is that it is not your foot that needs to go forward, you need to twist your thing to rotate from your hip socket.

                  when you sitting in the saddle, physically lift your thigh/ leg off the saddle and use your hands to rotate your thigh backwards so when you lay your leg back on the saddle your foot is flat against the horse. It may feel uncomfortable but should not be painful. You will have to do this multiple times while you ride as your position will move. Eventually after you keep doing this it will become muscle memory and you wont have to fight so much to keep the position.