English Rider Legs 'kicking' at Trot, Balance Problems?

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English Rider Legs 'kicking' at Trot, Balance Problems?

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  • Lower leg moving in trot
  • Horseback riding a trot and kicking

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    01-25-2013, 12:49 AM
English Rider Legs 'kicking' at Trot, Balance Problems?

I personally, along with countless other riders I've seen share a similar equitation issue, when posting to the trot, instead of the leg and foot staying quiet against the horse's side, heel down, and steady, but not squeezing; the leg shoots outward away from the horse's side and back again creating a 'kicking' motion for lack of a better term to describe it. It's very unbalanced looking, and causes much aid confusion.
For many years I've pondered what causes this, and why some riders do this and some don't. I've always assumed it was maybe due to an imbalance in the rider, or lack of muscle. However I've never really found a clear answer to this very common in lower level English riding.
Care to put any thoughts to this? Or even what to practice to help, or work to improve the problem?
I do know that it is very irritating to the horse, and as a rider with this issue, know that I feel a level of imbalance, but I'm not sure exactly from where it stems from.
From one rider to another: any beneficial input is greatly appreciated. :) Thanks!
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    01-25-2013, 12:59 AM
I don't know which kind of riders you've been looking at, but there should not be an obvious outward 'kick' when rising. Yes the leg should close when the rider sits. But it should not be a kick.
What you're seeing is probably a side effect of poor rider balance, gripping with their knees/thighs and not engaging their core. In higher levels this can also be the case, sitting an extended trot on a huge moving warmblood can be incredibly difficult and often any rider tension will come out through slightly 'flapping' legs.
    01-25-2013, 01:06 AM
Flapping may be a better word.
Best I can describe it without having video to demonstrate is at the heel where the obvious line from hind of the foot to the toe in the proper slope from heel to toe when commonly posting to the working trot instead of remaining quiet and within reason still from the spot it rests next to the horse regularly (by the girth next to the 4th rib etcetc) the heel pushes downwards further, the sole of the foot pushes outward away from the horse, and the toe tips further upwards.
The suggestion of a weak core and pinching at the knee would make sense, and as common of a problem as pinching and weakness is it would concur with the commonness of the local level riding I'm surrounded by where the less experienced or just simply weaker rider may have symptoms like I described.

The next question then: How to correct or head towards improving the issue?
    01-25-2013, 01:42 AM
It sounds to me like you are trying to post by pushing yourself up out of the stirrups, rather than letting the movement of the horse push you up out of the saddle. If it were me, I would work on posting WITHOUT stirrups so I couldn't brace on them like that.
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    01-25-2013, 01:50 AM
I was doing this, unaware I was doing this, ignorance is bliss right? I switched instructors a few years back, she had me ride with no stirrups, posting, doing all sorts of patterns and my homework was to come back for the next lesson having a quiet lower leg. I did my homework and sometimes I have to go back & study a bit when I forget what I learned.
    01-25-2013, 02:21 AM
Rising without stirrups *can* be beneficial, but as a coach one must be careful of the individual rider with this exercise. It can very easily encourage more gripping of the knee to push themselves out of the saddle, thus a swinging lower leg, toe down and tipping onto the crotch.
Shortening the stirrups and riding in 2 point is something that I find more beneficial. It develops muscles and a stable lower leg which HAS to sit in the correct position with toes up or the rider will immediately fall forwards or backwards, as they physically cannot grip with the knee to hold on.

Core exercises off the horse will be immensely helpful, as the core MUST be strong for the rider to sit effectively and quietly in the saddle. Pilates is a great one to do, otherwise simply running with some basic exercises works very well too.
On the lunge, removing stirrups and reins and asking the students to move various parts of their body, lift their knees, rotate shoulders, ankles etc.
This helps to develop an independent seat, as it will be impossible to grip while having to move alternate body parts at walk, trot and canter.
    01-25-2013, 02:44 AM
So that was the point of all the 2 point she had me doing as well then? I thought she was being cruel! Do I really need more core exercises?
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    01-25-2013, 10:02 AM
2 point helps with more than just your lower leg. It also helps you learn an independent seat (which means that you'll be balanced regardless of what the horse is doing), help prevent you from balancing on your reins (very very common problem, I do it myself when I haven't been riding enough).

It's not about having a tight tummy either - it's about using it properly while riding.
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    01-25-2013, 02:49 PM
I have students working on this. They had never been corrected and were pushing from the stirrups to post. I'm not going to lie, it's been a hard one for them to break out of.
    01-25-2013, 07:00 PM
That was me just a few years back. Every time I rose, my legs shot forward. I was posting both incorrectly and behind the motion. I used the following things to fix it:

First I found my correct center of balance. I stood straight up in the stirrups and walked around that way until I could do it all day without holding onto my horse's neck for balance. Note: your crotch will be in front of the pommel.

Next I used my new found center of balance and went back and forth between posting and staying up in the standing position. I quickly learned that I was keeping my shoulders too far back when sitting and needed to be inclined a little more forward to stay balanced and make an easy transition between sitting and standing.

Next I posted every 3rd stride instead of every other. Horse found it a little annoying, but he put up with me. This one really keeps you over your feet very well.

For overall lower leg strength, I hiked up my stirrups as high as they would go, and rode around in all 3 gaits that way for about two weeks. Lots of burning pain in the beginning, but boy did that work well.

And finally, posted without stirrups. You have to keep what I would call "positive friction" with your lower leg and post by rolling up with your thighs. It's hard at first, but once you get it and go back to stirrups, you'll have whole new muscle memory in play and love your new quiet lower legs when trotting.

Hope this helps.

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