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Tips on Keeping Heels Down??

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  • Get your heels down downward dog tip
  • All weight carried in heels

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    01-11-2012, 09:26 AM
  #11
Super Moderator
Heels should never be pushed down as this would mean the leg is not relaxed, the foot can be almost level with the heel only slightly lower, it certainly should be supple and able to flex. Weight does indeed go on the ball of the foot as that it the part where the stirrup is so physically it is taking the load, but the natural weight of your leg allows the heel to drop slightly lower. Hope that helps. Generally if you get your position correct (lower leg under you, with heel under shoulder / hip) then your foot will naturally improves it's position.
     
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    01-11-2012, 09:38 AM
  #12
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
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).



When weight goes through your ankle, it must end at the stirrup.
\

You are thinking too analytically again BSMS It isn't actual weight, it is more a visualisation. Your actual weight should be no where near your stirrups - it should be sitting in your butt. For English riding, you should be able to knock the stirrup out from under a rider's foot, both without resistance, and without causing their leg to change position. Sure, it is carrying some of the weight of the leg, but it isn't being forced down onto the stirrup bar and holding it there.
     
    01-11-2012, 10:08 AM
  #13
Trained
I cannot help being analytical. It is how my mind works. I see everything as levers, weights, center of gravity, etc. I am unusual in that, which is why Sally Swift is a famous writer who has helped thousands, and I'm just an old fart posting on the Internet!
     
    01-11-2012, 10:25 AM
  #14
Trained
Good advice, already suggested!!
Try some yoga to help you with your ankles/heels/ball of the foot. Look up some poses that specifically require you to shift your position and bring your heel down to lengthen and stretch your calves. I especially LOVE downward dog for this. To do it correctly you must have your hands splayed, back straight, buttocks upwards, with your legs straight at an outward angle, and I fully plant my feet on the floor. An excellent stretch. I like going from staff pose, to cobra, then to downward dog. I repeat this several times every morning.
I've been doing yoga for years and my flexibility, especially in my thick legs and ankles, is quite remarkable and I have a "natural" heel down position in my stirrups.
Downward Dog
     
    01-11-2012, 01:23 PM
  #15
Trained
^^ If someone placed me in that position, I'd need weeks of recovery in the hospital!
FlyGap likes this.
     
    01-11-2012, 01:38 PM
  #16
Super Moderator
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
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).



When weight goes through your ankle, it must end at the stirrup.


Drawing it out with force vectors would certain show a lot of weight travelling down in a line that goes through the ankle, through heel, too.
However, techinically speaking, yes, the hinge of the ankle (not heel, ankle) does transfer that force to the stirrup, via the ball of the foot. It is there that the equal and opposite force is applied to the force vector , which is in effect cantilevered off of the ankle to the ball of the foot.

Not all of the rider's weight will be part of that force due to much of it being held with resistance via the rider's muscular grip of the horse and the resulting friction of leg to saddle.

And, as you said, the muscle tension of the calf will also absorb some of this weight/force and thus act as the shock absorber.

The real idea behind saying let the weight go through your ankle is to not try to lock it or put additional force into the stirrup than goes there by gravity, but contracting your calf muscles (which is what you do when you point your foot or press the ball of your foot down below the ankle)
     
    01-11-2012, 02:28 PM
  #17
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
^^ If someone placed me in that position, I'd need weeks of recovery in the hospital!
Okay... you only do what you're capable of doing. Just like the horse.. you don't want to force the horse OR YOURSELF into some sort of cookie cutter frame. Start with a very low downward dog, and then build up to being able to get all the way up there.

If you need to start by shoving your heels down at first, and then slowly building that leg (via 2-point and off horse exercises) then that's what you do.

No one gets it right away, it's all about little building blocks. Everything in life is. We can't talk until we learn to make noises. We can't learn to make noises without manipulating the voicebox. We can't manipulate the voicebox until we can manipulate our fingers and toes and body as a whole.

So, back to the OP, you can't keep those heels down while relaxed until you get control of distributing your weight, which you can't do without being aware of your leg muscles.. which you can't actively feel until you target them. You can't target them until you work them. You work them by keeping those heel pressed down (if that's what it takes) and finding exercises on horse like two point )great for keeping legs stretches and teaching your heels to stay down) or off horse exercises.

Does that help?
     
    01-13-2012, 08:59 AM
  #18
Foal
Thanks everyone for the great replies! You've all been very helpful. :) My next riding lesson is tomorrow, in the mean time I've been practicing some stretching exersices and I'll see how it goes.
     
    01-13-2012, 10:16 AM
  #19
Yearling
I have such a pet peeve with heels... People are constantly balancing off of the balls of their feet and they are not allowing their weight to sink down into their heels. Before I do anything, I always stand in my stirrups which puts my legs in the correct position, and allows my lower leg to be pushed down, then into my heels. MIeventer gave you the best tips :) hope all these posts help!
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