exercises to help student keep their heels down? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 12 Old 08-10-2011, 09:33 AM Thread Starter
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exercises to help student keep their heels down?

I have a student who is progressing very well, however I want to help him along with keeping his heels down. I gave him homework which is to stretch is calves at home with a loose knee joint after working out to help loosen the muscles. And of course in the arena I keep correcting him.

Any other suggestions on what we can do in the arena to help him make it more of a habit to keep his heels down? Any balance exercises or other? I really want to keep it fresh - me reminding him constantly is not going to be fun for either of us!

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 12 Old 08-10-2011, 09:45 AM
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To help me keep my heels down I would stand on the bottom step on my staircase, hold on to the railings, and let my heels strech down over the edge. I would recommend trying that.
And for balance he could try to do his riding exercises on an extra large exercise ball. That might work too.
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post #3 of 12 Old 08-11-2011, 07:35 AM
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Simple - get him to stand up in the stirrups. First at halt, then walk, trot and eventually canter. He'll work it out pretty **** quickly that if those heels aren't down he'll go straight over the dash!
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post #4 of 12 Old 08-11-2011, 08:02 AM
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Simple - get him to stand up in the stirrups.
First at halt, then walk, trot and eventually canter.
He'll work it out pretty **** quickly that if those heels aren't down he'll go straight over the dash!
Exactly, practice the '2 point' position.

Also, tell him to think 'toes up' instead of 'heels down'.
Sometimes I have to remind myself about my heels, and 'toes up' works better than 'heels down' for me, LOL!
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post #5 of 12 Old 08-11-2011, 09:20 AM
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If he is riding a good school horse who will be unfazed by this exercise, have him put his foot into the stirrups backwards. Instead of putting his toe in the front, have him put his heel in the back. Then tell him to lift his toes and go on riding. If he does not keep his heels down, his foot will pop right out of the stirrup.

I'll try to find a photo of this if you're confused about the placement of the foot.

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post #6 of 12 Old 08-11-2011, 09:30 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone! In our last lesson I started him on 2-point with the exact hopes that it'll encourage him to find his balance with his heels down. It sounds like this is on the right track so we'll keeping working on that.

I do think it just comes with time, which is what I tell him so he doesn't get discouraged. And I share with him that this is someone everyone has to work on continuously, including me and the zillions of riders who are far more advanced and experienced!
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post #7 of 12 Old 08-11-2011, 12:30 PM
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It's not about "Keeping Heels Down", it's about "Allowing Bodies Weight To Flow Naturally Into Your Heels". Of course, our heels are an important factor to keeping us solidified in our tack, but in order for it to occur properly, we have to be using our bodies correctly.

Our weight must beable to naturally flow from our heads, down into our seats, down through our legs and into our heels, but that cannot happen if we are gripping or pinching somewhere.

You're on the right track of having your student work on his 2 point position, that is very important, and to find balance over his feet - very important - but you wont achieve weight in his heels if he is gripping or pinching, he has to learn to open his legs to allow that weight to naturally dispurse.

There has to be correctly leg placement in the saddle. Knee's opened, calves properly placed on the horses side, foot properly placed on the irons, leathers at correct length for riders leg - all must work together to allow the rider to find their weight in their heels. To allow their heels to anchor them in their tack. If there is a missing link somewhere, this will be difficult to achieve.
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post #8 of 12 Old 08-11-2011, 12:35 PM
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Another thought,.., practice his 2 point position over cavaletti poles.
Especially at the trot.
The horse has to pay attention to foot placement over the poles, so he's looking forward and down (with back rounded nicely),
And rider has to look up and ahead to ride thru the ground poles.
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post #9 of 12 Old 08-12-2011, 10:32 PM
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Just a tip. Sometimes it helps if you ask them to put down their knee, not their heel. Also the other posts are incredibly valid. When I was a beginner, my trainer would have the whole lesson line up in front of her and stand in their stirrups while she lectured...You learned pretty quickly how to balance and sink into your heels.

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post #10 of 12 Old 08-13-2011, 01:46 PM
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I think the beginner's problem is mainly in the balance of the upper body. Until he can feel safe, he'll be tense in the thigh and knees, and of course then the heels go-- wherever! I myself find that warming up without stirrups, letting the legs hang, and doing upper-body movements (swing the arm, touch the horse's ears, then your heel, the rump-- that sort of thing) makes me more independent, my seat more settled, and when I take up the stirrups, my legs feel longer, and the weight can drop into the heels more naturally. I don't like to force a position.

Other than that, I admit when I was young I used to stand on the steps, like TheQuietGirl wrote.
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