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Heels down - Is it really that important?

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  • Horse endurance riding tingly feet
  • Heels down work and ride boots

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    02-13-2013, 08:56 AM
  #11
Showing
Emerald, this exercise was taught to me as a kid to lengthen the muscles. Get a piece of 2 x 6 " lumber about a foot to two feet long. Put on your riding boots then set this about 2' out from a wall or piece of furniture which you will need for balance.Here comes the fun part. Put the ball of your foot, both feet, on the board. Your heels will be on the floor and you will be bent over to do this. Use the wall for balance and stand up and straighten your legs. No no, your bum isn't supposed to stick out. Now, pull your hips forward as far as you can and you will feel the pull from the glutes down to your ankles. Hold this for a few seconds then relax. When the laughter subsides, try it again. Why not do this during a tv show. By using the board you are stretching those muscles you need for riding.
     
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    02-13-2013, 09:00 AM
  #12
Weanling
It doesn't matter one bit if your heels look like they are down or not. What matters is if your weight is down properly through your leg. On some people this will result in a heel that drops way down, on others with different muscles and tendons it will look as if the heel is barely down at all. You say you have a stable leg, and if this is true then your weight is distributed properly and the rest is just aesthetics.

My heel does not drop down as far as some peoples' because I am a runner and my calves are muscular. The only time this matters is when I show. Then I have someone pull my boot heel down a bit so there is a slight air space inside my boot, which gives the impression my heel is down more than it is.
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    02-13-2013, 09:49 AM
  #13
Trained
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.
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    02-13-2013, 10:27 AM
  #14
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
Do an Internet search for pictures of "endurance horse" or "dressage horse olympic". You won't find many low heels.
For one thing, the endurance stirrups many riders use are too deep to allow for heels down. But there is a consensus in the endurance world that heels that are too low can cause circulation and/or nerve issues in the foot when practiced over many miles. This can cause numbness, tingling or toes that are even colder than they need to be on a winter ride.
     
    02-13-2013, 11:30 PM
  #15
Weanling
It very much does matter that the rider is 'feathering' into the heels (elasticity from the joints of the hip/thigh/knee/ankle. WHY do we desire to have the heels lowered? Because only then is the calf 'bulked' so that when (the inside of) it touches the horse it is felt (Try this: flex heel/feel calf/it is filled up, then point toe down/feel calf/it is flaccid, the horse can feel the first, not the second). And why does is the heel not down? Usually because riders are using the heel or back/spine of boot.

In order to get more flexibility, do LOTS of two point. But in the two points all the joints much be flexing, not standing/locking knees/forcing heels down. The body WILL transform (fairly quickly if you spend time on it)...you can also stand on a step and lightly bounce (with all the joints flexing/sorta like soft squats).
     
    02-13-2013, 11:40 PM
  #16
Yearling
Never bounce to stretch, its a good way to tear something. Coming from a lot of injuries I thought I would put that out. When bouncing you tend to not have as much control how much of your own weight you are slamming onto your tendons, muscles, ect. Standing on a stair then letting your heels SLOWLY stretch down until you hit your limit then hold it for 20s, then take a break, then do it for another 20s, break, again.

I have short calves because I walked on my toes while I was in my major growing stages as a kid. Weight in my heels means just below level with my heel and that is after a lot of stretching. I had many trainers yell at me to force it down. I started having sharp pains in my ankles, and after I was becoming too sore to walk (in a bad way) I stopped. Years of running has taught me the difference between good and bad soreness, forcing it down and possibly rolling the ankle to make it look like your heels are down do a lot more damage than stretching and just letting your body tell you what you can and can't do.
Kayty and bsms like this.
     
    02-13-2013, 11:47 PM
  #17
Yearling
For picture examples of what I have managed to accomplish with 2 years of work. (the new one is taken at an angle in which it is looking up, but you still get the point)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg P1010331.jpg (63.0 KB, 118 views)
File Type: jpg 384598_2419924572196_1073870133_32071495_162887774_n.jpg (88.5 KB, 117 views)
     
    02-13-2013, 11:54 PM
  #18
Weanling
There is a difference between a light bounce and ballastic/slamming movement....I agree with not doing the later (which can cause injuries). But too many try to force stretching, and that doesn't work.

I like the back outline of the second, but the toes are more correct in the first (keeps the thigh flatter/etc).
     
    02-14-2013, 12:00 AM
  #19
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by gottatrot    
For one thing, the endurance stirrups many riders use are too deep to allow for heels down. But there is a consensus in the endurance world that heels that are too low can cause circulation and/or nerve issues in the foot when practiced over many miles. This can cause numbness, tingling or toes that are even colder than they need to be on a winter ride.

True! The wide stirrups we use do makes it difficult to get the exaggerated heels down look, but we have our weight flowing through the backs of our legs never the less. Endurance equitation is all about making it easy for the horses to carry us, and easy for us to ride for hours. No frills.

I was trained as a jumper, so I still ride a bit like a jumper. I keep my toes pointed slightly out, leg on the horse, heels down. That crap hurts after 50 miles. I've had to adapt and learn to ride in a more relaxed way. My toes would be so numb mid way through a ride! I try to keep my toe and heel level. By no means do I balance on my toe, but I also don't put all the weight I can in my heel.

And everyone called me "hunter princess" for months.
     
    02-14-2013, 12:07 AM
  #20
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by equitate    
There is a difference between a light bounce and ballastic/slamming movement....I agree with not doing the later (which can cause injuries). But too many try to force stretching, and that doesn't work.

I like the back outline of the second, but the toes are more correct in the first (keeps the thigh flatter/etc).
I believe at that point it comes to control of the bounce and the muscle to be able to do it lightly and slowly. I won't argue too much as I don't know for sure. I just know that in general bouncing=bad, and have always been taught by professionals to do a steady hold. The main gist I was trying to get across is the same, forcing does not work other than to cause injury.

I could pick apart the flaws in both of them. ;) I was merely trying to give a representation of the flexibility in my ankle over the past two years. I believe I was trying to apply heel pressure in the bottom pick to try and correct some over bend. I almost always was playing with heel pressure on a tracking right circle to keep him from falling out on that shoulder.
     

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