why keep heels down? - Page 2

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why keep heels down?

This is a discussion on why keep heels down? within the English Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    05-07-2011, 12:31 AM
Balance, balance, balance, and safety. If you have your foot straight, you have a bigger chance of getting hung up on the stirrup. A well-trained rider will really only have his toes, or the ball of his/her foot in the stirrup.
If your unable to push your heel down (Western riders!) then your stirrups are to long. I noticed that on my Western saddle, on my Aussie, I have such amazing balance because the stirrups are *perfect*.

If your horse bucks, you can clench those legs and stick more like velcro instead of ending up on your teakettle
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    05-07-2011, 01:33 AM
Western saddles have adjustable stirrups to ya know ;) I have my heels down when riding western. Granted, it's not the same extent as in h/j....dressage riders also ride with only a small incline to their toes. The long leg helps with balance I've found as long as you are not reaching down to your stirrups with your toes, they should rest easily there with a slight bend to the knee.
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    05-07-2011, 02:03 AM
It tends to bother me when people thinking that the heels far down is needed while riding english. I had trainer once that punished everyone in my lessons again and again because I could not get my heels down. When I finally managed to make it look like my heels were down I was in excruciating pain and it brought back my shin splints with a vengeance because I was rolling my ankle and forcing my heels down. But my coach was happy with it because it 'looked right'. Truthfully I have very short muscles and tendons, and with multiple Track injuries I was not flexible as everyone else.

The importance (I later learned after ditching the instructor) is having your WEIGHT in your stirrups. You do not want to be pushing with your toes but more of resting and relaxing through the stirrups while using them as a support. My heels tend to be horizontal or a tiny bot below the horizontal, but that is where my physical body will let me be. I am secure and balanced in line with my ear,hip,heel perspective. What it should look like is if you put the ball of your foot on a step and let the rest of your foot and heel hang over and relax, whatever position your ankle takes is one similar to the look in the saddle.

An exercise to show you why having you weight in your heels is important is sit on the back of a horse, let your heels be up and have someone pull your reins forward towards the horses head, mimicking if the horse threw its head or put it down to buck. You will find yourself on your horses neck and there is little you can do about it. Then put your weight in your heels and have the person pull, you will find that you have better balance and security to hold yourself up in that instance.
    05-08-2011, 06:07 PM
Ever watch Fred Flinstone stop his car? See how it makes his upper body stay back instead of tip forward? If your horse jumps a jump awkwardly, and your heels are down like Fred Flinstone, you'll still be over your center of gravity and not on your horse's neck. It just gives you a solid base of support.
    05-08-2011, 06:10 PM
When you put your heels down you drop all of your weight into your legs. You want your weight in your legs so that you are not heavy on the horses front end. Also your heels are your main point of balance. If your heels are down you don't fall forward or fall behind.
    05-08-2011, 10:13 PM
Your ankles are your shock absorbers on your horse, so they need to be soft and relaxed. If they are forced down that is just as bad as if they are up and you are using your ankle to brace in the stirrups. You want your heels down and lower leg soft and relaxed yet engaged. It is simply impossible to grip enough to stay on a horse - you stay on by keeping your center of gravity over your horse's center of gravity.

If you look at pictures of where a horse's center of gravity is and line it up with the rider it makes a lot of sense.

Heels down is about soft, not forced, to allow your body to to balance with the horse and move the horse and transfer the shock of movement through the ankle. Watch a jumper on landing or dressage rider when doing a test - their ankles take the "bounce" - most people think heels down is correct, when rather ankles soft and stirrup on ball of foot is correct which due to physics and leverage means your heel will be down but able to flex with movement of the horse.

Oh and when I say watch a jumper on landing - I mean any decent rider haha and landing bc i've seen riders have their legs slip back (even gp riders) but on landing their leg is under them and they flex through their ankles to absorb the shock of landing the way the horse's fetlocks flex. If you tried gripping, you'd slam the horse in the back. Hope that helps!
    05-22-2011, 09:28 PM
It keeps your position ALOT more solid. Many hunter trainers do drill this because it is soso important. If your heel isnt down the more likely you will get off balanced and your horse will also. This can cause you to even fall off while clearing a fence! Also to me it seems keeping my heel down is more comfortable than not keeping it down.

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