Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
I started riding English, and drifted westward...until I ended up using an Australian-style saddle. I also started at 50.
FWIW: There are a lot of tradeoffs in riding. I totally agree that heels down is a good thing...provided it doesn't come from bracing against stirrups, or using tension in the leg to force the heel down. A stiff or tense leg forcing a heel lower causes a lot more problems than a relaxed leg with a level heel.
I think the REAL goal is that your weight - whatever isn't being supported by the saddle - flows uninterrupted into the heel. A low heel is a symptom of the excess weight flowing down, and not so much a virtue by itself. I believe a low heel is more functional in jumping, but I don't jump so I won't go there.
How low your heel goes IS limited by your body. My legs are pretty inflexible, which has been good for 40 years of injury-free jogging, but not so good for riding. Riding western, I have the option of moving my legs forward some. In fact, a lot of saddles tend to force my leg forward. A leg that is forward 4 inches will allow the heel lower just because it changes the angle of the lower leg with respect to the ground. If I bring my heel under my hip, it WILL be level (or worse)! But that depends on what style of riding you do.
Over 4.5 years, my heel has gone a bit lower. You can do stretching if you want, but there aren't any short term 'fixes', nor am I certain a fix is needed. Making a conscious effort to lower the heel for more than a few minutes while riding is a bad idea. In my experience, it almost always creates a bigger fault than heels 'too high'. I'd focus on letting the weight flow to your heels, rather than how low your heels go. Do stretching exercises off the horse, if it is important to you.
Do an Internet search for pictures of "endurance horse" or "dressage horse olympic". You won't find many low heels.
... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)