Heels down - Is it really that important? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 12:25 AM Thread Starter
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Question Heels down - Is it really that important?

Keeping my heels down is something I've been struggling for for an extremely long time. This is because my achilles tendons are shortened, so I cannot physically keep a nice low heel. If I stand up in the stirrups, press all my weight down, and brace against the stirrups to sink my heel as low as possible, it barely looks like I'm trying at all. When riding my toes are level with my heels, and I cannot fix that unless I brace against the stirrups.

I have a fairly stable leg with and without stirrups. It's keeping my heels down that is a huge issue. By doing constant stretching I am slowly able to lengthen my tendons so that I'll be able to get my heels lower, but that takes a lot of time (it's a long-term thing, not something that'll be fixed in a day). My question is, how important is it to get my heel down lower? Should I be investing more effort, or perhaps focusing on something else (if so, what)? And if it's that crucial to get my heel down, what are some tips to get a lower heel?

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post #2 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 12:46 AM
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If your weight is in your heels as you ride, they will gradually lower on their own.

Also it may not be your achilles that is the issue. Your calf/hamstring might be really tight. So stretching those out will help.

I have the same problem, my heels aren't low, but my lower leg is reasonably strong/stable except for the fact that if, when I'm jumping, I fall back into the habit of pinching with my knees, my lower leg will swing back. I haven't been picked up on my heels in a while.

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post #3 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 01:08 AM
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ride dressage. Your heel only needs to be level with your foot.
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post #4 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 01:37 AM
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does your trainer know this? I have that too but my trainer knew so she could tell when I was trying and when I wasn't
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post #5 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 01:43 AM
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I have the same problem... Many sprained/strained ankles and ligament damage later and it takes a ginormous effort to have "heels down" - what feels exaggerated to me is barely passable as flexion. However, with time I've found that I have increased my flexibility by stretching and making a huge effort while riding. It hurt a lot at first, but it'd getting easier to do. Practice and stretch, then do it some more.
My GP coach said "crack your ankles and get used to the pain, it will go away eventually."
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post #6 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 03:37 AM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
ride dressage. Your heel only needs to be level with your foot.
Not just dresssage,the heels should never be forced down as it needs to be soft and springy. Aim for a natural drop of the weight of the leg into the stirrup not pushing them down, if riding short for jumping then the heels tend to naturally go lower.
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post #7 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 04:16 AM
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By sinking weight into your heels, it allows your weight to be placed in your seat rather than down the front of your body, which will encourage gripping of the thighs and knees, thus taking the lower leg slightly off the horse.
Lifting your heels lifts your seat.
There is not a single discipline in which raised heels is desirable - obviously this is because of the stability of this position, not because instructors love to pick on heels!

A dropped heel shouldn't come from forcing the heel down (though I speak only from a Dressage background - hunter/jumper riders seem to force their heel to a painful looking angle!!), but from relaxing the leg, engaging the core and allowing your weight to flow down the back of your leg.
I have quite flexible ankles, and ride with a solid and deep seat, as a result my ankle is generally quite down with a very loose knee and upper leg.

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post #8 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Kayty View Post
(though I speak only from a Dressage background - hunter/jumper riders seem to force their heel to a painful looking angle!!)
It looks painful (and can be sometimes if you've been out of it for a while!) but for jumping it's the same principle: dropping the weight into the heels means you have a stable lower leg, and though your butt is out of the saddle over the fences, that weight in the heels helps you keep your balance. Not to be confused with bracing against the stirrups over fences though, as some people do :S that's just defensive riding and puts your weight in the wrong place.
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post #9 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 07:37 AM
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one of my friends had an issue like that with his legs (didnt ride though) and he saw a physical therapist or something that gave him exersizes to help him! You could try that.
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post #10 of 27 Old 02-13-2013, 07:50 AM
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Stand on a stair with your toes only and dip your heels. Stretch them like this several times a day. It will loosen everything up. Unless you walk on your toes I doubt its impossible for you to get some heels down action. You don't have to make it a 45 degree angle, a little dip would be perfectly acceptable.

I believe they also make adaptive stirrup pads that are on an angle for riders with disabilities. That could be useful as heels down has always been drilled into my head as a safety thing.

Here's a pic!

Http://images03.sstack.weblinc.com/resources/sstack/images/products/processed/10297.b.detail.jpg

Last edited by SlideStop; 02-13-2013 at 07:56 AM.
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