I have many issues... LOL - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 08-02-2009, 08:17 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Lima, Montana.
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I have many issues... LOL

So I used to ride Western... I still do, I guess, but I want to learn English, you know, just to learn new things, plus it's a challenge. Anyway, I've grown up riding Western so when I went to show western, it was so ridiculously easy. Lol, I had the posture down, my horse knew the form, it was awesome. Haha. But I've never done any type of English and no one in my family or even anyone around knows English... So I'm basically training myself with what I can take away from what others post on this forum, books, magazines, youtube... Youtube is awesome. ha. But anyway, here's some problems that I've discovered. Some of them have already been discussed, such as getting her nose in, especially when my mare is used to Western, a loose rein... But here's a few that I don't quite understand. Any replies or help at all is welcome! I'm going to post pictures probably on Wednesday. So here's the first one.

I can't keep my legs back. They keep coming forward and it feels like I'm unbalanced with them back, but at the same time I know it's horrible that they're that far forward. I really struggle with it. If I constantly think about keeping them back... lol, just chant LEGS BACK, LEGS BACK, LEGS BACK!!! to myself, it doesn't get so bad, but then I can't focus on anything else. Plus, my horse isn't very forgiving about me being off in my own world, as she percieves it. She figures if you can't keep up you should get off. LOL.

Second issue: My hands. How close should they bee to the horse? How far in front of the saddle? How in the heck do you keep the still? My hands move so much... I think. I don't know, I just have a hard time remembering to keep contact with her mouth, too. The western rider in me, I suppose...

Third Issue: Toes in, right? and are your heels even or down?

Fourth Issue: I can't seem to keep my stirrups at the canter.... The trot is fine, the sitting trot is really good considering she has a very springy gait and I have awful balance, but at least I can keep my stirrups in that gait... >.> I just seem to lose them? Mostly it seems to be the one on the rail. After I lose it I can't seem to find it again unless I break down to the walk and then I can put my foot back in.

Fifth issue: My mare won't cantereasily... And she picks it up really well bareback or western, but I can't make her go without looking very awkward and kicking her hard in English. I don't even know what else to say here. ha.

Sixth Issue: This might sound really stupid... But what is a half halt? I've read about it but I still don't understand... Is it like stopping but still being in the riding ummm form?

Ha, what can I say. I DO have lots of issues. Teehee. Thanks SO much!


To rein a horse is not only to guide him,
but also to control his every movement.
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post #2 of 13 Old 08-02-2009, 09:12 PM
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Wow, that's a lot! Don't worry about it, mostly it will take time. I will try and address some of these as best as I can in writing. Sorry if I speak in circles.

Simple things first: Technically, your hands should be four inches apart, two inches above the withers. Thumbs on top and a 90 degree bend in your elbows. Your elbows should be supple and your fingers should be closed (I struggle with that part, haha)

Saying "Toes in" is correct, but it's an oversimplification. Don't just roll your ankles and jam your toes in. It hurts. I know. You want to rotate your entire leg in from the hip...it's hard to do yourself if you're learning. Try taking your legs off of the saddle and rotating them. I know that if my trainer comes over to yell at me about my leg and turns it FOR me, I become much more secure. Practice, practice.

One thing that just pushing my toes in did to me was it caused me to pinch with my knee (Do you know that idea?). It's not good. If you are insecure in an english saddle then you will most likely fall into that habit, everyone does. Basically, it means that you are gripping with your knee to stay in the saddle. You shouldn't be. You should be riding with your calf. If you're pinching with your knee, your lower leg will be swinging and it will be unstable. If you're riding correctly with your calf, your leg will be much more still (also, probably it will hurt a bit in the good way because you will be building new muscles)

This brings us to our next issue: heels down (this is the only way to ride with your calf). Down, down, down! Possibly the most important thing. It's the root of your entire position. If you think you have a decent position but you don't have your heels down correctly, then your position is entirely superficial. Do you have english boots? The stirrup should be placed on your foot in the same place as the line of sewed leather or whatever that crosses the toe of the boot. Try standing in the stirrups, first at the walk (or trot, may be easier.)

You will fall down. We all do.

(my computer is dying, let me post this, switch computers, and continue)
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post #3 of 13 Old 08-02-2009, 09:30 PM
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I don't have much to say 'cept for this - The reason you can't hold onto your stirrups at the canter is probably that you don't have your heels down. I have major issues with this as well. I just started English a few months ago. My instructor has to constantly yell at me to stretch my heels down at the canter. That's something I always forget and then I end up all over the place with no stirrups and all off balance.


One man's wrong lead is another man's counter canter.
"Adjust Your Pleasure"
2006 Medicine Hat Paint Gelding
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-02-2009, 09:42 PM
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So, you will fall down. There are a few reasons for this.

1) your leg will slip in front of or behind you. Solution for this? Heels down! Jam them down. Standing in the stirrups will actually help you with your overall leg position. If you can become balanced while standing with your heel...where? Down!, then slowly try to keep the lower leg position as you lower yourself gently onto the saddle. Feel that? THAT'S your 'seatbelt', so to speak. That's what keeps you on.

2) Your hips will creep up, get in front of where they should be, you will experience a moment of surprise, and then crash back down into the saddle. In order to fix this, I have to explain something else:

The concept of the "balanced seat position" in english riding is simple: A straight line from your heels to your hips to your shoulder (when you are just sitting or posting or whatever)

Standing in your stirrups does not have to be like standing on your front porch. In fact, it doesn't work like that. If you try to stand "straight up", you will fall. Try it. Seriously.

While keeping your heels firmly down, remember that you can keep a bend in your hips. You have to. You have to sort of "counter" the slight bend in your knees with a slight (opposite) bend in your hips.

Am I making sense? This is the part I have trouble explaining without a horse.

Your lower leg should always, always remain in the same position. Above that, you balance your hips with your shoulders. If you are in a "2 point" "half seat" or "jumping position" (all the same), then your shoulders will be down closer to the horse, right? The trick here is to maintain your balance by using your hips. When you go into two point, at the trot for instance, instead of just leaning forward over the neck, you have to actually bring your hips BACK farther over (out of, but over...closer to the cantle, but still in the air, you see?) the saddle. There: We have your lower leg, which is your base, and it pretty much bisects your upper body. You are balanced. If your shoulders are too far forward and are not countered by your hips, you will lose balance and fall forward. This is simple physics, this is logic, this is wonderful. When you go into a 3 point (somewhere between a 2 point and a standing, to simplify things), your shoulders come up a little more, so your hips can come a little more forward. When you stand, this happens again. The point is, when you stand, you do not become a straight line! The "zigzag" shape of your body, the slight bend in your knees and hips, help you absorb the shock of the gait and remain stable.

One more thing about the "toes in" thing that may help. Stand on the ground. Your feet are facing front. Your legs are facing forward.

Straddle something (you pick...). Are your toes out? are your knees out? Are your hips rotated? Don't do this on your horse. You want your legs to pretty much face the way they do when you're standing, but with a horse between them. The tricky bit of this is to not fall into the habit of pinching with your knees! See above...

Sitting the trot! This is again different than western. I'm sure, as a western rider, you have a pretty good seat. In the above text, we pretty much talked about your lower leg position, your base. I told you that it didn't move, right? So, when you sit the trot english style, you can't rock back onto your butt and shove your legs out in front of you. You have to get the hang of keeping your lower leg in that golden position, heel nice and stretched down. In fact, if your heel is really stretched down, this will be easy. Keep that position when you sit the trot. Keep your leg underneath of you and your shoulders stretched high and open. Your hips should be the only thing that moves with the horse. Don't collapse your back, don't shove your legs forward, tempting though it may be.

Once you can properly anchor your lower leg and still maintain a graceful sitting trot, you will be able to canter. Simply put, move your outside leg slightly back without losing the heel down stable goodness, give a little squeeze with your inside rein, make sure not to drop your inside shoulder, sit down (JUST like you would to go into a proper english sitting trot) and squeeze with your legs while pushing with your seat. Furthermore, once you can do this, you should be able to canter without losing your stirrups because your lower leg will be strong and stretched down. Practice two-point or standing trot around the arena, laps and laps at a time. It will hurt, but it will get your heel down (you can't maintain twopoint without your heel being nicely down), it will improve your balance, and it will build steely muscles.

I have to go now, I've spent like 45 minutes on this post haha. Please bear in mind that these are all just the fundamentals. Pick up as many books on the subject as you can, and I would really suggest trying to have a few lessons with an english trainer if at ALL possible. Good luck! Also, pm me anytime! I would love to help you out if you need anything.
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-02-2009, 09:53 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Lima, Montana.
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Oh wow, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! This will help lots I'm sure...

Yeah I live in a very very rural community, I would have to drive 3 hours to get to the nearest English trainer... Some of the people in my 4H club live closer than I do so they've gone a few times... Plus I live on a ranch and it's always busy so getting lessons is pretty much out of the question...

But I am going to a clinic the 4Hers are putting on just for English, and since it's mostly a western community, I should get some really good one on one time with the oldest kids that have had lessons... (One of them has shown and placed at the AQHA Big Shows Level as we call them... and WON. )

But anyway, I just want to improve as much as I can. And I'm sure she'll help me, but it's just one clinic, you know...

Again, thanks! Lol, I'm sure I'll PM you sometime...

To rein a horse is not only to guide him,
but also to control his every movement.
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post #6 of 13 Old 08-03-2009, 02:52 AM
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First issue: legs back, wouldn't worry to much until heels are down, better to have it too far foward than back, will probably come together when you fix your heels, or if not, work on it later, it's not going to affect your overall stability until you are much more advanced.
Second issue: earthtones got it right, but I would recommend getting them locked on the neck until they are more stable, I would rather see someone secure their hands in the neck, than bouncing two inched above the wither.
Third Issue: When I was learning I had the benefit of an equitation star point out that my long legs allowed for a toes to be parallel to the horse, not in, not out, but didn't make it out like short legged people could acheive this, now it seems it has become a trend to have everyone do this, again a minor issue, work on your heels being very far down. Practice on a stair, put your toes on it so your heel is hanging over the edge and bounce. Really push them down. This will also help prove to your body that your heels being down will not make you slip out of the stirrup.
Fourth Issue: Probably due to your heels, like everyone said, but you have revealed to hole that you can't pick them up while cantering, I would practice dropping and picking up your stirrups at the canter. Then when it happens at a show (God forbid but you know Murphy's Law, and I have had this happen) you wont have to break gait. I know you probably wont be showing any time soon, if at all, but it's still going to happen when you least want it too and that was the only example I can find where it would count.
Fifth Issue: Crop? Might help, you may not even have to use it, but the threat might make her listen. When I am sensitizing a horse to leg, I make sure to give a normal kick and when they don't respond I use a kick and crop to make them associate that leg means go. Using the crop independently won't make her realize why you had already asked her to go forward.
Sixth Issue: Ok I am no dressage buff and I may slaughter this explanation, but here goes, a half halt is a pull using only one rein, the outside I believe because the inside is your bending rein, to ask your horse to slow or check themselves at whatever gait they are doing, essentially half a halt or slow down cue, but not really a stop cue. It isn't even really meant to break gait, but collect the horse more. I could have completely gotten it wrong about how to properly execute it, but the idea is there. It's meant for collection not stopping.
Hope I helped, I may get told I was wrong about some of my assesements about what was the most important things to work on IMO, but thats all this is My Opinion.

Troubled TB ~"A thorn by any other name will prick just as deep." @-'--,---
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post #7 of 13 Old 08-04-2009, 12:54 PM
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Shelby. Riding English is all about the way you sit and disperse your weight on what is very often a small saddle. It is also about how the horse carries itself with you sitting up top. The saddle is shaped differently. The reins have a buckle and you hold them in two hands.
To get the gist you'll need some help from the centre of the arena - if you have got one. You can't learn and at the same time school the horse with the reins in one hand and a laptop in the other.
And you have yet to get to the "posting" trot. How are you going to learn that on your own?
You need some help. If English is what you really want to do, then find someone who is prepared to show you the basics - ie how to sit on the three seat bones upright holding the reins in two hands with the toes point forwards and up and the heels down. Oh and the horse has to hold the bit between its teeth and you mustn't pull too hard in case you hurt the horse's mouth.
I suggest very strongly that you get help before you practice too hard otherwise you will imprint the wrong sitting position into your mind and it will be difficult to remove at a later staqe.
Go to www.sustainabledressage.net and read what she says on "the seat". Incidentally your legs don't go "back" - the heels should go "down"
But nothing should be on your mind until you are sitting upright (90 degrees) on three seat bones with your toes forwards and your heels down with your hands lightly holding the reins in light contact with the bit between the horses teeth. But you've got to hold the position and revert to it constantly. You've got to build some new muscles especially around the pelvic area, To learn you really need a (schoolmaster) horse who understands what you are trying to do.
You have had some excellent advice from the other posters - but you'll be a saint if you can do it on your own.

I admire your tenacity.


PS You could always fly to Europe ( or the NE of USA) and
take some lessons.
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post #8 of 13 Old 08-04-2009, 02:25 PM
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Nita @ Middle of Nowhere (North Dakota?). Learning to ride English. Needs tutor.
Have you ever thought of arranging an exchange with a qualified English riding instructor? It is holiday time here now and maybe too late but
Hartpury College in Gloucestershire UK runs academic courses for students of equestrian studies. Some of the students will already have
British Horse Society instructor qualifications. In return for board and lodging they would teach you to ride English - you teach them Western. But you would have to promise to protect our English violets from those cowboys.
Look up Hartpury College on the internet - there are full details there.
Send an email to The Bursar and ask.
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post #9 of 13 Old 08-04-2009, 03:32 PM
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How long are your stirrups when you ride English? The same length as when you ride Western? The first thing I thought of when you mentioned your leg position/keeping your stirrups is that your stirrups may be too long. Your stirrups should be shorter when riding English; if you take your feet out and let them stretch down, the bottom of your stirrup should be right below your ankle bone. Shortening your stirrups a couple holes should help stabilize your leg.
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post #10 of 13 Old 08-04-2009, 04:31 PM
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a half halt was explained correctly on this but i would like to elaborate a bit it is a gentle squeze not a pull at all no one should see you doing it at all only your horse should notice and it is used for collection and if your horse seems a bit zoned out to get his attention back or tell him when you are about to do something like a transition it is not used to do the transition but warn about the transition that is coming either an upward or downward one! hope that helps
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