Keeping my "legs on"

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Keeping my "legs on"

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  • Horse spook and bolt with novice rider
  • Keeping legs on while riding

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    10-16-2011, 10:44 PM
Keeping my "legs on"


I am a novice rider, trying to fine-tune my basics and control of the horse.
I find that horses tend to bully me. Even the horses who have been known to be the best horse for novice riders. Horses tend to get spooked very easily while I am riding them. They bolt, dart off etc. As a result, I have had a few nasty falls. I can't keep falling this way.

My instructor has told me that keeping my legs on, will help. He meant for me to hold the inside of my calves very firmly against the horse's girth. He said that this position, while riding the horse on the bit; will help me to hang on when the horse does funny stuff.

However, I found that very often when a horse starts to buck etc; I can't calm the horse down at all. I sink into my seat, keep my legs on, do half-halts, yet the horse is determined to get me off. It also seems that whenever the horse is spooked, he seems determined to get me off.. and not so much a matter of getting away from the spooky object.

SIGH, what do I do?

Also, during cantering, is it possible to keep the legs on as my instructor has told me? Wouldn't this make the horse go faster? Is it also possible to canter with the horse on the bit, without stopping him altogether?

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    10-16-2011, 11:18 PM
First of all, if you are a novice rider, I wouldn't have you ON horses that buck, bolt or spook much. That's no fun! Learning to ride should be fun, not frustrating. I wonder about this instructor. I wonder if she is putting you on the right horse for you to be learning on.

I think that by having your lower calf on you will also want to have your weight down into the heels, letting your ankle flex and drop the heel down. I often think of that more as lifting my toes up.
But more importantly, is whether or not you are sitting up straight. If a horse spooks and you are leaning forward, you will find it really hard to stay on. Sitting up straight, not curling around your bellybutton, and having strong core muscles will do more for you than gripping tight with your calf, IMO.

But really, all this is moot, to me. The bigger point, to me, is that you are not riding the RIGHT horse for you. One that helps you build confidence. You have to work up to being ok with riding a horse that might buck or spook. Personally, I have been riding 11 years and I still don't like to ride a hrose that bucks or spooks. T'aint fun. I want fun.

Would it be possible to change instructors?
    10-16-2011, 11:23 PM
Hi tinyliny, thanks for your advice. But the problem is these horses don't do that with anyone else with such frequency, except with me. Complete beginners have survived lessons on them without any falls. I seem to fall off at every lesson. Argh.. am I doing something wrong? Or is it something about my riding? It seems to only happen at this school. There aren't many riding schools which offer private lessons in my country :(

Also, if possible, could you pls answer about question about cantering on the bit pls? Thanks a lot!
    10-17-2011, 12:06 AM
I have two instructors I learn with. I have fallen off the horse with both instructors teaching me :(
    10-17-2011, 12:35 AM
Well, I see that you have to work with what you have , not what you might like to have.

Yes, you can canter a horse with leg on and on the bit. If the horse speeds up with leg on, then think of leg "down". If the horse does this it might be because you are "clamping" on. You would be better to think of thigh on, heel down. This way you have body weight and contact to the horse all the way down. When people clamp too hard with the calf, frequently the heel comes up and the rider will lose the stirrup. Does this happen to you?

As for being on the bit at the canter, if the hrose IS on the bit, it helps the rider in many ways. If the horse is on the bit, he will usually flex at the poll, lift his back up more and be less on the forehand. All of these things make it easier for the rider to go with the horse and stay "in control". The horse should not stop just because you take up some rein contact.

It just seems that your instructor is having you do things that you are not ready for. She is not having you build a confident seat at the slower gaits, enough. It does help the rider to be able to make a connection via the bit to the horse, but if the rider cannot sit somewhat securely, then THAT is a whole that needs to be fixed first.

The horse will be able to read your lack of confidence and might be giving you a harder time than the others. If you had a secure seat you would be ok with laying a whip on him, right? You would know that most of the time spooks do not mean falling off (though falling off happens, no matter what. You know that, right?)

I just think that you might benefit from doing some lungeline lessons where all you did was build the muslce memory to be better able to sit up straight, and move WITH the horse.

But not to discourage you. You might be in a slump now, but don't worry. Slumps pass and then youll go up to the next level.

IF you wanted to post a video we might be able to see some points that are very easy to improve upon.?
    10-17-2011, 03:45 AM
Thanks for your tips, tinyliny! I will try my best to apply what you have shared.

As for the video, will try to get someone to take for me one day.. definitely not my instructor.. hahaha..

    10-17-2011, 07:11 AM
I agree with tinyliny. I think you need to step back a little and build up your basics and your confidence before trying to canter on the bit with horses that are, I think, reading your lack of confidence and taking advantage of it. If you keep falling like this, you may want to look for a better riding school with better horses. I understand that this might be one of the only places but you will not learn much of anything bleeding on the ground!
    10-17-2011, 07:29 AM
Btw, what can I do when a horse is trying to buck or shake me off? How do I calm it down asap and stay on? Thanks!

To answer tinyliny's question, my foot does come out of the stirrup sometimes but its usually because I don't keep my heels down, and I have weak ankles. So there's not much power when I flex the balls of my feet downwards. But they are getting stronger; riding has helped!
    10-17-2011, 07:49 AM
Pick their head up and make them go forward. Be sure your butt is firmly in the saddle- sit/lean back a BIT if you have to- and make sure your heels are down!

For spooking, heels down, move with the horse, and keep calm. Pat their neck and breathe, reassure them and yourself that there are no tigers in the viewing room waiting to eat you. Exude confidence.

For weak ankles, there are ankle stretches you can do at home. I have to go to school but I'll write a bit about them here later if you want.

Good luck!
    10-17-2011, 08:03 AM
Are you nervous or uptight? A horse can feel nerves and will take it as a chance to play up. Others will get nervous with you. If possible, id try riding an old horse that has been there and done everything to help your confidence.
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