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What's wrong with my leg position?

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  • What's wrong with my leg position?

    I'm getting back into riding regularly after several years off. I have ridden occasionally over the past couple of years, but it was always English and I find that my position is better in an English saddle.

    I find that in the western saddle, my toes are really turned out. In order to apply leg pressure and get my legs around the horse's barrel, I end up turning my toes out even more. What am I doing wrong? If I consciously try to keep my feet parallel to the horse, it feels like all my weight is on the outside of my feet rather than spread across the balls of my feet.

  • #2
    I had this same problem until I took some English lessons and learned how to properly position my leg.

    It's not your feet, it's further up your leg in your thigh/hip -- it sounds like you're rotating everything outwards instead of inwards. You still should have the inside of your thighs (not the backs) and calves as the portion against the horse.

    Drop the right stirrup and try this -- let your leg dangle for a few moments and get it to really relax. Lift it up a little way from the saddle and rotate your whole leg inwards as you trace a clockwise circle with your lower leg (you should feel the inner portion of your thigh smooth up against the saddle). Find your stirrup again, keeping your inner thigh against the saddle -- you should feel the saddle throughout the length of your thigh and almost to your knee. Repeat for the left side, tracing a counter clockwise circle.

    You should find your whole leg more "on the horse", your feet naturally rotated so they're either parallel or just slightly rotated out from the horse's barrel, and also feel a better sense of being draped on either side of the horse instead of perched on top by just your seat bones. You should now be able to add leg via the meaty bit of your calf by an inward press instead of only having your heel to use.


    • #3
      Adding to VaqueroToro's comments - many times people feel that they need to hold on by squeezing, which also tends to rotate that hip out. When I sit on a horse my leg is neutral. Also check that your stirrups are not too long. You may have to lengthen them slowly (as in "a few rides per stirrup length") if your hips are particularly tight to keep you from reaching and standing, which can also cause the rotation.


      • #4
        Depending on the saddle, it might be that the stirrups turn out (look at a picture of a new western saddle from the side - the stirrup 'openings' are facing you. You have to have super-legs to keep those suckers facing forward unless you do an attitude adjustment on them. Wet the fenders really well, then turn the stirrup opening forward and stick a broom handle (or 2x4 or whatever) through them. BE VERY CAREFUL to twist the fenders correctly or you'll be in a worse predicament than you were originally! Leave them overnight or for a couple days. You might have to repeat. The adjustment is done when the stirrups hang 'openings' forward.

        You might then have to work on your foot angle (toes forward), but at least you won't be fighting the fenders too!
        Equine Photography in the Northeast


        • #5
          VaqueroToro has your answer, mainly.

          Yes, the problem is high up, even though you see it in your toes.

          And I'll go higher up still! Which "end" of your booty are you sitting on? Would that be on the jeans pockets or are you rolled up toward the business end of things? The latter is the correct way to sit. It lets you engage your core and rotate your hips so that you legs hand down, spread eagle on the horse.

          If you sit back on your jeans pockets, you're going to have a heckuva time keeping your femur facing forward as it comes out of your hip joint.

          Also, some saddles with wide twists or flat, open seats discourage people from sitting correctly. IME, you can overcome that with practice and get very comfortable sitting correctly in just about any saddle.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat


          • #6
            Get off your pockets.
            ... _. ._ .._. .._


            • Original Poster

              Thank you! I will try that exercise, Vaquero.

              ccoronios - I have tried that trick already. Stirrups are good now, but the problem is me!

              I am probably perching and too far forward, rather than sitting on my pockets and am probably trying to grip with my legs rather than let my weight sink down into my seat and heels. I learned to ride in a very forward seat and find the concept of a deep seat very difficult to master.

              OneGrayPony - I did shorten my stirrups yesterday. I found that I was reaching for my stirrups; especially when I'd post the trot. It feel much better after that.

              I'm going to spend some time riding without stirrups and I'll try the exercises that you've all mentioned.

              Thanks again I really appreciate the tips.


              • #8
                glitterless (love the name btw) as a not-so-long-ago convert from hunter world I feel your pain (although I was *not* forward enough for the hunters)! It'll take some adjustment but I will say that I now feel wayyyy better in my western saddle. With your added detail, I find that engaging my abs helps me from getting hollow backed, which is a bad habit from hunterland. Also thinking about really plugging into my horse's back instead of riding him. And yes, I actually have to think "sit more ON my pockets" vs the opposite. But that's just an exaggeration to make up for the tipped forward/hollow-backed thing that I had developed.

                Good luck!! Enjoy it!!


                • #9
                  To add to OGP, I have the same arched back problem that I have to fight when riding hunt seat. So I have identified 5 ways that I sit. Not all are correct, but it helps me to "feel" how I am sitting.
                  1 - Arched back, pelvis rolled forward, sitting [I]there[I], ouch - bad no matter what your discipline.
                  2 - Taller, pelvis rolled more back between ouch and bones, good for light in the seat and getting out of tack when needed.
                  3 - Pelvis rolled even more onto bones, cannot relax because you are bruising skin over bones.
                  4 - Pelvis rolled even more so just behind bones, now relax and drape your legs, soften back movement, that's the spot.
                  5 - Rolled farther back, literally, onto the edge of your pockets and he'll probably stop or squirt forward, depending.

                  When I get my core strong, head tall, shoulder blades together, and #4, all is well. Now if I could just keep it that way!
                  Never argue with a fool. Noone can tell who is who.


                  • #10
                    One thing that may be complicating things is that most western stirrups, when perpendicular to the horse, lie at a 30 degree (or more) angle to the ground. In that case, you have no stable, level platform for your foot, so you have to come up with some way of keeping your foot in the stirrup:

                    So you have to rotate your foot at the ankle, or higher up, to have your foot in good contact with the tread of your stirrup.

                    The only way to have a flat foot platform is to have an offset stirrup, or an offset stirrup leather/fender attachment.


                    • #11
                      Try riding the inside of your stirrup.

                      Or, try a narrower stirrup. Cutting stirrups, for example, have a narrow foot bed.


                      • Original Poster

                        My stirrups are narrow to begin wtih, so I won't go narrower, but I wonder if a different style would help. My stirrups are leather covered, big and bulky. I feel like an idiot because I actually have trouble picking my stirrups up. I thought I'd turned the fenders in enough (broomstick trick), but maybe it wasn't enough.

                        My horse just came out of training and my trainer watched me ride quite a bit. He kept telling me that I need to push my feet out toward my horse's shoulder - so weird compared to my hunter training! I want my heels, hips and shoulders in a line. Trainer is really big into sitting deeeep in the saddle (on my pockets) and pushing my feet forward. It felt so wrong, but my horse does respond to this.

                        I will keep trying everyone's suggestions. I am feeling more and more comfortable in my western saddle, but I have a longing to try my boy in an English saddle and see how it goes.


                        • #13
                          You don't want your feet pushed outwards toward the shoulder. You should ride with your leg under you, just like in English. Take a look at some top level WP riders' pics, and you'll see just that.

                          Maybe your saddle just doesn't fit your body? I love my two saddles (actually 3!) that the stirrups hang straight down, not out in front of me. I feel like I am riding English in a way, in those. And one is a synthetic! (Big Horn, nice saddles!)
                          "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James

                          Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.


                          • #14
                            I have never had a western trainer ask me to push my feet toward my horse's shoulders. You should be in line from shoulder to hip to heel, just like English.
                            I think I've seen reiners ride deeper, especially during the spins and slides, but really . . . feet toward the shoulder . . . what direction in western are you training in?
                            Another thing that will affect your leg position, in addition to stirrup length, is what the saddle is made for. A trail saddle will put you in a chair seat because the fenders are farther forward than an Equ saddle. A chair seat is more comfortable on long trail rides. If you want a proper leg without fighting the saddle, you need an equitation fender. They position your leg are further back.
                            You might just be fighting the saddle and that's a hard battle to win. Been there, doing that.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by glitterless View Post
                              My stirrups are narrow to begin wtih, so I won't go narrower, but I wonder if a different style would help. My stirrups are leather covered, big and bulky. I feel like an idiot because I actually have trouble picking my stirrups up. ng, but my horse does respond to this.
                              I was thinking more of an oxbow. I'm a little confused...you say that your stirrups are narrow, then you say big and bulky.


                              • #16
                                I like VaqeroToro's exercise, my English riding instructor taught me that. You can do it while you're riding, too, if you see that you've let your thighs roll out.

                                Also, not to get too scatalogic, but check whether you're riding with a tight hiney, (tight-assed?) that's keeping you perched up a little bit. Best to ride with the cheeks a tad relaxed so you can sink into the saddle. And now the jokes can begin.
                                It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.


                                • Original Poster

                                  LOL GotMyPony, it's quite possible. I'll try to figure that out during my ride tomorrow.

                                  Go Fish, the stirrups are, to me big and bulky in that they are leather covered and seem very solid. I put my feet in and I feel that they are stuck in the position that the stirrups/fenders have me in. I've seen stirrups on synthetic saddles and thinner looking metal stirrups that seem like they may move with the rider's foot more than mine would. I don't know if this is making sense. The actual part where my foot sits is narrow in that I don't have much space on either side of my boot - if I went narrower, I would literally be forcing my foot into the stirrup.

                                  MES, I'm not really training in any discipline - the trainer had put 30 days on my green horse for me in no particular discipline. The guy makes a living training and showing gaming horses, though and has a foundation in reining. I don't know much about the different disciplines myself and had never taken any kind of western lesson until I had a few sessions with this guy before I brought my horse home. Compared to my English training, this style was really awkward and unnatural. Maybe he was having my over-exaggerate my position to get my horse to respond as I wasn't always getting an immediate response to my aids.

                                  I have no idea what type of saddle I have. It's some kind of Western Rawhide. The rigging is kind of in the centre. I know it's not a barrel saddle and not a roping saddle. I am very western saddle illiterate!

                                  Edited to add:

                                  I rode in rubber boots yesterday and found that it was so much easier to get my heels down and have my feet in a comfortable position. I've realized that part of the problem is my stiff, old paddock boots. My feet and ankles felt so free last night! It's time to go boot shopping


                                  • #18
                                    The guy makes a living training and showing gaming horses, though and has a foundation in reining.
                                    Riding a gaming horse doesn't require specific equitation. If you want to learn to ride correctly with proper equitation, find someone who has a dressage foundation, or a good western trainer that encourages you to support your body with legs that fall directly under you, like in dressage.

                                    I am having the same problem right now BECAUSE I used to game. Now, when I need to ride properly and use my aids effectively, I keep falling back, my legs go into chair position, and I cannot use my aids effectively.

                                    If he is encouraging you to go into chair position, find another trainer.
                                    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                                    • #19
                                      If you want a proper leg without fighting the saddle, you need an equitation fender. They position your leg are further back.
                                      You might just be fighting the saddle and that's a hard battle to win. Been there, doing that.
                                      I'm having the same issue right now too. I have an equitation saddle, but it's still not quite right. It's a constant battle to get my leg where it belongs, and to keep it there. I can find that perfect balance position, then fall out of it within two strides because my fenders are still too far forward.

                                      My trainer has me get my feet under me, where they belong. Then, with one hand, hold the horn and stand in the saddle while keeping my leg relaxed thru my ankle and to my foot. When you're feet and leg position are correct, it's easier to stand in this balance position when you let go of the horn. The exercise is to get me familiar with my balance spot, and to eventually be able to stand like this and stay balanced without having to hold on. Requires a strong core, which we are also working on. BUT...I'm fighting against my saddle to do this.
                                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                                      • #20
                                        Another view is does your saddle fit you? Everyone's pelvis is different. I need a narrow twist and a slight rise in my saddle for my sloped pelvis. Otherwise I get tipped forward. I have had the same problem with my dressage saddles, and a saddle fitter pointed this out to me. I am solid in my dressage saddle, even for a gallop, hills or whatever. My new wade saddle, while it fits my horse, doesn't fit me. I have fought my position since I got it last October. It tips me forward so I constantly am trying to sit back. I found a little barrel saddle that is perfect for my pelvis and my leg falls right into place and still fits my horse almost most as well as the wade.

                                        If your saddle is not right for your pelvis, it can tip you forward and your leg may be too far back and that's why the trainer is trying to get you to bring your leg forward. Or, he is one of those that has you shove your legs forward and sit too far back on your butt.

                                        So, really pay attention where you are sitting in your saddle. Is your pelvic floor square on your saddle seat, do you have any space between your crotch and the saddle? I can stick my hand between me and the saddle if it doesn't have enough rise for me. Alternately, if you are bumping yourself and it isn't comfortable, a flatter saddle may fit better. My sis in law needs a flatter seat with the narrow twist, but our horses need the same wide tree. Tricky sometimes to get the right fit for both horse and rider.

                                        You haven't posted any pictures, it would be easier to see how you are sitting with pictures.

                                        Good luck.