Using your legs and seat properly
 
 

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Using your legs and seat properly

This is a discussion on Using your legs and seat properly within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category
  • Use leg pressure riding horse
  • How do you know when your horse is bending properly

 
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    08-02-2011, 05:00 PM
  #1
Weanling
Using your legs and seat properly

Hey guys, I'm not sure if there is already a thread on this, if so, please point me in that direction, but anyway...

In dressage, how exactly should you be using your legs? For me, it always feels like [when applying leg pressure] I am squeezing just with my calves in an attempt to keep my hips / seat open, or when I use my thighs, it feels like I start restricting my hip / seat movement. Does anyone have this problem? How do you keep your seat moving while trying to use your leg?

Also, when asking for a bend, how do you apply your legs properly? More specifically, should you be using your thighs more, or your calves? When you try to use your seat to aid in bending ( if you do at all?) how do you keep mobility and allow your horse's movement while applying that aid?

Any advice would be great, Thanks!

~Lona
     
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    08-02-2011, 08:13 PM
  #2
Weanling
Hi!

I'll take a crack at it but hopefully one of the gurus will put your thread on their radar.

In dressage, how exactly should you be using your legs? For me, it always feels like [when applying leg pressure] I am squeezing just with my calves in an attempt to keep my hips / seat open, or when I use my thighs, it feels like I start restricting my hip / seat movement. Does anyone have this problem? How do you keep your seat moving while trying to use your leg?

I'm not sure I'm following your question but it sounds like perhaps you are getting tensed up and need to relax. Only when I'm tensed up do I notice major movement restriction.

Also, when asking for a bend, how do you apply your legs properly? More specifically, should you be using your thighs more, or your calves? When you try to use your seat to aid in bending ( if you do at all?) how do you keep mobility and allow your horse's movement while applying that aid?

In a circle you would place your inside leg at the girth and the outside leg behind the girth so that you can curl him around your inside leg. The inside leg will be active while the outside leg will be supportive. So, your calves will be working. Yes I sit on my inside seat bone to promote and maintain the bend to that direction. You could inhibit the movement if you are hanging too much on the inside rein. Are you sure it's your seat that's getting in the way?
     
    08-02-2011, 08:26 PM
  #3
Weanling
Thanks Shasta1981,

Quote:
I'm not sure I'm following your question but it sounds like perhaps you are getting tensed up and need to relax. Only when I'm tensed up do I notice major movement restriction.
It sort of feels like when I try to activate my muscles, they cause my hips to tense up and thus restrict my seat movement. I'm not sure how I can relax my hips while keep my leg on and working.

Quote:
In a circle you would place your inside leg at the girth and the outside leg behind the girth so that you can curl him around your inside leg. The inside leg will be active while the outside leg will be supportive. So, your calves will be working. Yes I sit on my inside seat bone to promote and maintain the bend to that direction. You could inhibit the movement if you are hanging too much on the inside rein. Are you sure it's your seat that's getting in the way?
I've never really had a problem with my hands ( or I think I don't ), even on a loose rein though it feels like I am restricting my horses movement.
     
    08-02-2011, 08:40 PM
  #4
Weanling
I see. I wonder if your leg is creeping up when you are trying to put it on, thus not down and around your horse? Do you get the same feeling when you ride without stirrups?
     
    08-02-2011, 08:48 PM
  #5
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shasta1981    
I see. I wonder if your leg is creeping up when you are trying to put it on, thus not down and around your horse? Do you get the same feeling when you ride without stirrups?
I do know my leg does creep up when I try to put my leg on, not majorly, but usually enough for me to loose a stirrup. I try to remember to keep my legs stretched down and around my horse, but I think in my attempt to use my thighs, I tend to scrunch up my leg, if that makes sense?
     
    08-02-2011, 09:00 PM
  #6
Weanling
I think so. I would be willing to bet that if you do some extra work without stirrups and focusing on getting your leg around your horse and relaxed you will have an easier time overcoming what you are describing. That is what I would do. =)
     
    08-02-2011, 09:10 PM
  #7
Super Moderator
I think this is just an awesome question and demonstrates a lot of perseptiveness on the part of this rider in that she is aware that when trying to use a leg aid, she might be tightening up her hip and bum and interefereing with the horse's forward or sideways movement. Many riders are blissfully unaware of this. So, dear, may I commend you wholeheartedly for your awareness!

I am so totally NOT one of these great dressage gurus you speak of, but since I DO understand what you are getting at, may I take a stab at it?
The reason I DO understand is that I can have the same problem sometimes and AM working on this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lonannuniel    
Hey guys, I'm not sure if there is already a thread on this, if so, please point me in that direction, but anyway...

In dressage, how exactly should you be using your legs? For me, it always feels like [when applying leg pressure] I am squeezing just with my calves in an attempt to keep my hips / seat open, or when I use my thighs, it feels like I start restricting my hip / seat movement. Does anyone have this problem? How do you keep your seat moving while trying to use your leg?
I think that you do use your thighs when you use your leg, but not in the way a hunter/jumper might really clamp on for security over a jump. YOu use them more in the way of having more weight kind of "flow" down them.
Also, when you are riding in a way where you aren't putting on a leg aid strongly, your legs should be just "draping" down the sides of the horse, and following the motion. This includes following his rib cage as he breathes or as it sways with each hind leg stepping under. The optimal is to have your leg just carassing his side, following it like a twin. Then, when you need to add more pressure such as activateing more bend or asking for a leg yeild, you make that leg feel longer , tighten the tendon that runs down the inside of your leg to bring your whole leg firmer on the horse, but still breathing with the horse (if you can feel it to follow). Really sensitive riders will be applying the leg aide in a slight "pulse", following the sway of the ribcage and timing with the lift forward of the hind leg that they want to affect. If you lift UPWARD with your heel, to put your heel inot his side, you will lose your stirrup.

If you need to put a more quick and perhaps dramatic leg on (like "lets go now!"), then use the inside of your ankle and kind of slap it in on his side. Don't raise your heel and squeeze, just either "flutter" your ankle or if larger imput desired, slap it against his side, but still think long leg.

Also, when asking for a bend, how do you apply your legs properly? More specifically, should you be using your thighs more, or your calves? When you try to use your seat to aid in bending ( if you do at all?) how do you keep mobility and allow your horse's movement while applying that aid?

Any advice would be great, Thanks!

~Lona
I think it's really great that you don't want to lock up your hips by tightening when applying an aid. It takes practice but think of the aid as lasting for a step or two and you follow that barrel with your whole leg.
Also, you can tighten your back and core muscle WITHOUT pinching your buttocks. (you don't want to pinch your buttocks as it will raise you off the saddle and make you stiff ) Practice . Think of kind of tightening the muscles just under your ribs, off to the side (like where your kidneys are) You may feel your ribs move back and downward a little and shoulders move back and down, too. You are bearing down more than sucking your tummy in. Sucking the tummy in brings your tummy back toward your spine and encourages you to curl over your belly button, a no no.
engagning your deep core muscles and the ones in your lower back will actually make your tummy stick out abit butr willl firm the support of the back and make yoiu really solid in the middle, from where you are stable to apply all the other aids.

Wow, I really went to town there.

All my stuff is in red, even inside the quote. Sorry.
     
    08-03-2011, 04:15 PM
  #8
Weanling
Thanks you two!

Shasta ~ I definitely have to work on some stirrup-less work, I keep meaning to but never really had the confidence to take them off all together, do you by chance know if just lengthening them would have the same effect?

Tiny ~ thank you! That was very detailed, and ( after riding today ) I am starting to get what you were talking about! I'll have to keep practicing though!

If anyone else has any input, please feel free to share!

Thanks
     
    08-03-2011, 07:22 PM
  #9
Weanling
Do you have someone who can lunge for you while you work without stirrups? I honestly think that is the best way to go since it gives you more of an opportunity to focus on yourself. You can also grab some mane or a strap if you start to feel off balance which makes it far less scary! You can definitely gradually take your stirrups down hole by hole if they are too short in the first place but for this I think it would actually be easier to bite the bullet and not use them at all while being lunged.

Tiny - interesting imagery with thinking of using muscles by the kidneys! I am going to try that tomorrow.
     
    08-04-2011, 11:25 PM
  #10
Trained
Part of the Dressage seat is learning how to use the stirrups, like how in a forward seat you art pushing weight into the heel to stabilize yourself. In Dressage the stirrups should serve to aid the leg in conforming to the barrel of the horse while allowing it to remain "breathing". I like to think of having the feeling that my entire leg from seatbone to ankle is about 1 mm from the horse.
From there using the leg is very simple if you are able to isolate each part. An aid with the thigh serves to straighten or bend the horse and with the calf to emphasise a seat aid and the heel as a correction. The leg should however always feel like it is cascading down the horses side directly from the hip. This is why a good saddle is the best foundation to learn on.
Before you can have a stable leg however, you need a strong seat. This is where the no stirrup work can be a good tool but you still need to be able to use your seat with stirrups.

Good luck
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