Tips on Keeping Heels Down??
   

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Tips on Keeping Heels Down??

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  • Tips keeping heels down riding
  • I am having trouble keeping my heels down while riding

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    01-06-2012, 12:55 PM
  #1
Foal
Tips on Keeping Heels Down??

I've always had trouble keeping my heels down. I went to see my doctor several weeks ago and it turns out the muscles in my lower legs are unnaturally tight, resulting in a lower than normal range of flexibility in my feet and ankles. Even the way I walk is affected; I tend to walk more on my toes than normal which also shortens the tendons in my legs.

I've been working on stretching out my calves daily using exercises the doctor gave me (including standing on the stairs and sinking the weight into my heels which I know is a common riding exercise). So far it hasn't really made a difference. I have a fairly secure lower leg, and it doesn't swing around or come off the side of my horse while riding (I've been told and I've seen videos of myself riding). However, I can never seen to get my heel down. I sometimes find myself popping out of the saddle at the canter when the horse I'm riding gets excited or jumping off my toes when getting into 2-point position. It's a very unstable position and even though I try, it feels nearly impossible to jam my heels down.

What are some ways or exercises I can use to help lower my heel? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
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    01-06-2012, 01:33 PM
  #2
Trained
Stop thinking "Heels Down" and retrain your thought process to thinking "Weight In Heels". It isn't about shoving them down, it is about allowing the natural weight process to naturally occur from your head, down into your seat and down into your lower leg. It doesn't matter if your heels are at a 90 degree angle, a 40 degree angle or even a 5 degree angle....just so long, as you are allowing your heels to do their job...

You need to allow your heels to be your anchors and by allowing them to do this, you must permit your bodies natural weight to flow. Ensure that your leathers are at the proper length. Then ensure that your feet are placed in your irons correctly - where the base of the iron is at the balls of your feet, the outter bar is placed at the tip of your pinky toe and the inner bar is placed at the ball of your big toe - that way, your ankles can relax and flex and act as shock absorbers.

Then, your heels will be allowed to do their job - which is anhor you in your tack. Open up your knees, do not grip or pinch..the moment you do that, you block that weight flow from occuring. Opening up your knees and allowing that weight to flow down.

Once you've found that, now you can work on stabalizing your lower leg, at the girth. As George Morris says, you are not ontop of your horse, you are wrapped around your horse. So, by opening up your knees, allowing that weight flow to occur, your legs can then wrap around your horses girth.

Make sure your feet are balanced under you, glue your calf to your horses side. You want to find your "sweet spot" as I call it. You don't want your toes pointed completely forward, nor do you want your toes so pointed out, you're mimicking Charlie Chaplin. Find that sweet spot, find YOUR proper calf placement.

THEN - you are solidifed in your tack. You wont have to reach for your toes.

Work on your two point position over, and over, and over, and over again. Muscle memory.

Proper leather length
Proper placement of foot in iron
Finding your calves sweet spot
No gripping, no pinching of knee's, allowing weight to flow into your heels
Muscle memory of lower leg at girth
Wrap around your horse

It'll all come, when you put all the correct puzzle pieces in the correct spots. One piece at a time, you'll soon beable to see the whole picture.
jinxremoving, bsms, amp23 and 5 others like this.
     
    01-06-2012, 01:59 PM
  #3
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by MIEventer    
Stop thinking "Heels Down" and retrain your thought process to thinking "Weight In Heels". It isn't about shoving them down, it is about allowing the natural weight process to naturally occur from your head, down into your seat and down into your lower leg. It doesn't matter if your heels are at a 90 degree angle, a 40 degree angle or even a 5 degree angle....just so long, as you are allowing your heels to do their job...

You need to allow your heels to be your anchors and by allowing them to do this, you must permit your bodies natural weight to flow. Ensure that your leathers are at the proper length. Then ensure that your feet are placed in your irons correctly - where the base of the iron is at the balls of your feet, the outter bar is placed at the tip of your pinky toe and the inner bar is placed at the ball of your big toe - that way, your ankles can relax and flex and act as shock absorbers.

Then, your heels will be allowed to do their job - which is anhor you in your tack. Open up your knees, do not grip or pinch..the moment you do that, you block that weight flow from occuring. Opening up your knees and allowing that weight to flow down.

Once you've found that, now you can work on stabalizing your lower leg, at the girth. As George Morris says, you are not ontop of your horse, you are wrapped around your horse. So, by opening up your knees, allowing that weight flow to occur, your legs can then wrap around your horses girth.

Make sure your feet are balanced under you, glue your calf to your horses side. You want to find your "sweet spot" as I call it. You don't want your toes pointed completely forward, nor do you want your toes so pointed out, you're mimicking Charlie Chaplin. Find that sweet spot, find YOUR proper calf placement.

THEN - you are solidifed in your tack. You wont have to reach for your toes.

Work on your two point position over, and over, and over, and over again. Muscle memory.

Proper leather length
Proper placement of foot in iron
Finding your calves sweet spot
No gripping, no pinching of knee's, allowing weight to flow into your heels
Muscle memory of lower leg at girth
Wrap around your horse

It'll all come, when you put all the correct puzzle pieces in the correct spots. One piece at a time, you'll soon beable to see the whole picture.
Thanks so much, that's very helpful since I never really thought of it that way. I'll definitely try that.
MIEventer likes this.
     
    01-06-2012, 02:07 PM
  #4
Foal
I've had trouble with heels down as well! This post really helped me see it in a different view. Instead of trying to focus so much on your actual heel being down, I can now think of it as putting my weight down into the stirrup correctly and distributing my weight, so that I can ride more efficiently ^^
MIEventer likes this.
     
    01-06-2012, 08:13 PM
  #5
Banned
I gave up months ago about worrying if my heels are down or not.

I started paying attention to the looseness and suppleness of my hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. Once I started stretching well before every ride and developing a sound seat that didn't require me to pinch with my knees and thighs to try and stay on the horse, my problem of losing stirrups magically disappeared.

Why is that you ask? Well, I'll tell you. All that tension in your body blocks your weight from flowing to the BALLS of your feet. Weight on the balls of your feet is what keeps the stirrups secure. The heels go down only because the ball cannot (it is resting on the irons).

And even if the heel doesn't go down enough to be noticeable, so long as weight flows to the balls of your feet, your legs will be tight against the side of the horse, they will not swing back and forth, you will not lose stirrups, and your upper body balance will be much better.

Anyway, that's what I've learned by doing.
     
    01-08-2012, 10:27 PM
  #6
Started
I find myself enjoying the ride way too much that I lose concentration and my toes are pointed down. Usually that gets fixed by one of two ways: I realize & quickly correct it OR: my coach yells at me lol

Anyways, one of the first times I ever rode: the instructor recommended that when I was doing something where I would be standing: (for example: doing dishes, hair, makeup, cooking) that I should get too phonebooks and put my toes on them to stretch the leg and get it used to being in that position. I actually never tried it but when I saw this thread I immediately thought of it..you should try it out :) let me know how this works
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    01-10-2012, 08:31 PM
  #7
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by mildot    
I gave up months ago about worrying if my heels are down or not.

I started paying attention to the looseness and suppleness of my hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. Once I started stretching well before every ride and developing a sound seat that didn't require me to pinch with my knees and thighs to try and stay on the horse, my problem of losing stirrups magically disappeared.

Why is that you ask? Well, I'll tell you. All that tension in your body blocks your weight from flowing to the BALLS of your feet. Weight on the balls of your feet is what keeps the stirrups secure. The heels go down only because the ball cannot (it is resting on the irons).

And even if the heel doesn't go down enough to be noticeable, so long as weight flows to the balls of your feet, your legs will be tight against the side of the horse, they will not swing back and forth, you will not lose stirrups, and your upper body balance will be much better.

Anyway, that's what I've learned by doing.
Sorry, I'm a little confused. I've always learned that the weight should flow through the stirrups and into your heels, not onto the ball of your foot. Then you would just be bracing against the stirrup and forcing you forward out of the saddle, if not you are gripping and balancing with your lower leg. Also, putting the weight on the ball of your foot causes 'jumping on your toes' because when you go over a jump the weight is in the ball of your foot/your toes instead of your heels.

Contrary to your point 'Weight on the balls of your feet is what keeps the stirrups secure. The heels go down only because the ball cannot (it is resting on the irons).' , weight in the balls of your feet will not keep you secure. If this were the case, it would be completely safe to ride with your toes pointing down (which, of course, it is not). I know from facts and from experience. When I ride I have a natural attendance to put the weight in the balls of my feet. This puts me off balance even though I do not pinch with my knees (a personal pet peeve of mine).

At least, that's what I've always been taught. Which is why I posted the question. :)

WesternBella -- thanks I'll try that. :)
MIEventer likes this.
     
    01-11-2012, 12:35 AM
  #8
Super Moderator
Your are right. Weight must go down and through your ankle, not end at the stirrup or ball of your foot.

One thing I have done to help me remember to keep them down, even when not standing in my stirrups, (I mostly ride Western now, but some dressage) is to move my heels down as far as they will go WITHOUT increasing any pressure on the stirrup pad. No more pressure there than your little finger could tolerate if it was under you boot. To do this requires that I raise the front of my foot so that I am "feeling the stirrup" but not pushing on it.
When my heels are down as far as I can, I also lift my leg off the saddle a wee bit, which will allow the whole leg to fall downward another half inch or so.

THEN, you cease ALL muscular contraction or push or pull of any muscle in your whole leg. Just let them go limp. They will retain the correct position without an ounce of brace in the stirrup.
Now, the trick is to keep that position with a soft leg.

Have a go@!
     
    01-11-2012, 01:43 AM
  #9
Showing
For me, I think about stretching my leg down instead of forcing my heels down. You know how when you give a good yawn and stretch, you try to reach out as far and big as you can, perhaps to pop a few bones back into place? Well the same concept applies to your leg. Stretch like you're yawning, stretch that leg all the way down with toes pointing and all.. then relax. It'll help you keep your leg long and loose and if you feel that you are losing your stirrup, just stretch that leg down evenmore.
tinyliny likes this.
     
    01-11-2012, 08:37 AM
  #10
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by mildot    
...All that tension in your body blocks your weight from flowing to the BALLS of your feet. Weight on the balls of your feet is what keeps the stirrups secure. The heels go down only because the ball cannot (it is resting on the irons)...
Quote:
Originally Posted by emeraldstar642    
Sorry, I'm a little confused. I've always learned that the weight should flow through the stirrups and into your heels, not onto the ball of your foot...
I think mildot is correct.

Weight cannot be 'in your heels' because there is nothing under your heel. Your heel, like your knee, is a hinge. Unlike your knee, the heel has no possibility of actually supporting weight, since there is nothing underneath it. 'Weight in your heels' is mental imagery, not physical fact. None of your weight is supported by your heel, because there is nothing under your heel to stop the effect of gravity.

If the stirrup is on the ball of the foot, then the heel is a hinge. Weight can flow thru your heel and have the stirrup support the ball of your foot. Hinges can resist the flow if the hinge is pressed against the horse (fixing the hinge in space), or if we use muscle tension to transfer the weight somewhere else.

If you fix the hinge against the horse by pressing your knee into the horse, then you have no control on how the hinge works. It will affect your riding by the combination of gravity & the horse's movement. You lose the hinge and create a pivot point.

However, one of the big advantages to a hinge is that we CAN apply muscle tension to it, and absorb shock by slowing the motion of the hinge. I don't jump, but I've read that an advantage to jumping with the stirrup on the ball of the foot is that it allows your ankle to flex. Muscle tension applied to the hinge slows the motion, and absorbs some of the shock.

When instructors say, "Weight in your heels", I think what they really mean is to relax the muscles around the hinge, and allow gravity to pull your heel down as far as your body allows it to go. This also transfers all the weight possible into your stirrups, making them more secure on your foot. You can ram your feet home in the stirrup and remove the hinge, but that is considered bad riding in English riding - unless you're riding polo or steeplechase.

MIEventer wrote:
"...You need to allow your heels to be your anchors and by allowing them to do this, you must permit your bodies natural weight to flow...that way, your ankles can relax and flex and act as shock absorbers.

Then, your heels will be allowed to do their job - which is anchor you in your tack. Open up your knees, do not grip or pinch..the moment you do that, you block that weight flow from occuring. Opening up your knees and allowing that weight to flow down..."
As a mental picture, weight going into your heels is what it FEELS like you are doing. As physical fact, your weight is either carried in your seat, your thighs, your knee (bad) or the ball of your foot. You heel cannot carry your weight because it has no support. However, any gripping with your knee will block the flow of weight, and any tension in your calf pressing down will lift the hinge, bringing your heel up and losing the function of your heel as a hinge.

Polo & steeplechasing doesn't involve vertical jumping, since steeplechase jockeys jump in a fairly flat style. They can ram their feet home to reduce the chance of losing their stirrup, but they lose the hinge. That is OK for what they do. In that case, the weight really is in your heel (or just in front of it).

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
your are right. Weight must go down and through your ankle, not end at the stirrup or ball of your foot...
When weight goes through your ankle, it must end at the stirrup.
     

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