new rider, trouble with my feet alignment during posting
I am a very new rider. In my lesson yesterday I tried posting and every time I straightened my leg to rise up, my feet would go forward and kind of push me backwards. This was due to my feet not being in a straight line directly underneath my shoulders and hips. I had the stirrups on the balls of my feet and I think the stirrups were properly measured to be the right length (we measured them from the tip of my finger to under my armpit).
So how in the world do I hold my feet in the proper position so that when I try to straighten my leg to go up, I don't either fall backwards or push my feet out forwards?
When I look at some pictures of English riders is appears that their feet are not totally in a straight line with their hips and shoulders, instead it seems like their feet are in the same position as mine which is just a bit forward of the hips.
Maybe I need to have the stirrups lower so my knees are less bent? In posting I know you are not supposed to lean forward or backwards so I guess I just need to figure out how to get myself into the proper alignment to go straight up and down.
This is fun. Stand up in the stirrups (horse standing still). Ok, your bum is sticking out, right? And your shoulders are forward to counter balance your bum. Here's the fun part. Stand up straight and push your hips forward, push hard. You need to be straight up. Usually about now the horse moves and the laughter begins. Try again. Now, only when you are straight up are you allowed to sit in the saddle. I want you to try to sit on the pommel. It won't happen even if you think it will. It will place your hips in the deepest part of the saddle, over your legs. This is how you can correct your position. By the way, you'll get so good at standing in the stirrups you'll be able to do it when the horse is walking which will help you realign your position.
I don't have specific advice. Usually a lot of this works itself out with a few more lessons and you naturally find the way to post that is most efficient. The alignment excersiaze that Saddlebag gave is good. Hang in there!
Thanks for the encouragement about this getting worked out in a few lessons. I think I will get the hang of it sooner or later.
It is nice to have an objective and a goal in mind for my next lesson, and I'm glad to have found this forum.
It isn't so much a heels-hip-shoulder alignment, as keeping your center of gravity over the stirrups. That CAN be done in some riding with a heel-hip-shoulder alignment, but not for a forward seat:
That is a picture of Gen Patton taking a jump, but if you draw a straight line up from the stirrups, you'll see roughly equal weight in front and in back of the stirrup. In this sort of riding, your body unfolds as well as your legs during the upward thrust (which comes from the horse, not from trying to stand up in the stirrups).
The picture below shows someone who is NOT a good rider (me), trying to post lightly in an Aussie style saddle:
If you draw a vertical line up from the stirrup, you'll see I'm a little too far forward and that has driven my stirrups a little behind the stirrup bars. As a rule, the stirrup straps ought to stay vertical and the stirrups not move...and no, that ideal doesn't describe my riding. But I'm not grossly off, either.
"So how in the world do I hold my feet in the proper position so that when I try to straighten my leg to go up, I don't either fall backwards or push my feet out forwards?"
First, don't straighten your leg to go up. Let your leg unfold as the horse's movement pushes you slightly up. As best as I can figure it, you want gravity on your side - and tension in the leg muscle pushing against the stirrups to raise you prevents gravity from being your friend.
When your rump is in the lowest part of the saddle, where are the stirrup straps & stirrups, assuming the straps are vertical? If it is under your hip, then you can keep your back vertical while going mostly straight up. If your saddle is designed to put them a little forward (BTW - I read recently that a British Cavalry manual from the early 1800s said a plumb line dropped from the soldier's shoulder should land an inch behind his heel...just an odd historical fact), then you'll need to lean a little to keep your balance over the stirrups. How much depends on you, the horse & the saddle.
You might try riding at a walk and trot while standing in the stirrups. That will help you develop a feel for the balance point so you can unfold legs (and body if needed) above that balance point.
And remember - the picture proves this advice comes from someone who is NOT an expert!
Thanks for the pictures! I am going to need to reread this thread before my next lesson.
REading your response I'm putting two and two together to see how the motion of the horse aids in the rider's up down motion. I am not very coordinated because I don't think yesterday I really got the right beat, but I was so concerned with my feet not being in the right position and my legs pushing forward that it was hard to think about when to go up and when to go down.
Maybe if I practice posting while sitting still so I can get to the point where I can go up and down comfortably?
I think I was also leaning forward too far which I'm sure is going to get me thrown off a horse at some point.
My first time trotting it felt like I was riding the Black Stallion... yes I am totally new at this!
Getting your hamstring muscles strengthened will help. Also, it can be good while you're riding at a walk to take your feet out of the stirrups, let your legs hang, kind of dripping over the horse's sides. That will sit you deeply in the saddle.
Rotate your feet from the ankles, do it clockwise and then counterclockwise, a couple of rotations each. That will loosen up any tension in your ankles (because you get alignment problems from holding tension anywhere in your body on the horse).
Swing your feet from the knees (your thighs stay pretty still, but they do NOT squeeze the horse). Just think of your feet as being rocks, tied to your knees by a piece of string, and set them swinging.
Then go back to letting your whole leg drip down the horse's side. You may be able to feel a difference in how your pelvis is aligned back-to-front and how your hips are moving side-to-side. When you pick your stirrups back up, try to keep the looseness, in your leg joints, and the new alignment in your pelvis.
It is surprising how much flexibility you can get on the fly, as you ride, by doing some little stretches like this, and what a huge difference that can make in your seat.
On the posting, don't hoist yourself up by your thighs or any other part of your body. The horse's movement will naturally bounce your butt off the saddle. All you do to post is *let that happen* and don't try to make it any higher or taller than it is *naturally*.
Also, you do not go straight up and down when posting. You swing up and forwards, and down and back. Like I said above, do not try to MAKE anything happen there - just LET it - but when you are letting it, think about your pelvis coming a little forward THROUGH your elbows.
If you're interested in learning more about this stuff between lessons, I highly, highly, highly recommend "Centered Riding" by Sally Swift. You can get it from Amazon, and at any bookstore that has a shelf of equestrian books. It is EXCELLENT.