First, a bit of background: I took some riding lessons in my teens, and I was constantly told "Toes straight ahead/heels down". But I didn't have much spare money for riding, and then went into the military and didn't ride a horse for nearly 30 years. At 50, I bought a couple of horses for my wife & daughter and started riding again.
After a few months of riding like the Tin Man, I discovered that pointing my toes out allowed my stiff legs to relax and I could almost sit in the saddle. That was my first hint that what I was told 30 years ago might not be right. Toes ahead may be good, but a relaxed leg is better...and for a guy in his 50s, relaxing ANYTHING while on horseback is a challenge.
Since then (2 years), I've read a lot of books. I'm concluding that good riding doesn't have a lot of hard rules, but techniques that vary with the type riding, rider and horse involved. What works for someone in their teens may not be possible for someone learning in their 50s, and different types of riding (jumps, dressage, trails, etc) require different approaches.
I normally ride with either an English saddle or an Australian saddle, depending on what I plan to do and my confidence that day.
On an old thread I read the other day, someone had posted pictures of Australians riding - and everyone in the picture had their feet about as far forward in the stirrup as possible. I had read this was also done with cutting cattle. I did some reading on the Internet, and here is what I came up with (with all the reliability of Internet postings!): It is a common stirrup position for cutting, reining, campdrafting, polo and steeplechase. I also remember reading a book by George Morris that mentioned in passing that jumpers used to 'home' their stirrups but that it is now considered a bad habit.
Julie Goodnight posted: "Even though I teach students to ride with the stirrup on the ball of the foot, I tend to ride in the home position, particularly when riding Western. It's one of the rare times I will say "Do as I say, not as I do." For most riders, it is safest and most effective to ride with the stirrup on the ball of your foot.
For some disciplines, like cutting, working cow and even reining (my favorties!), riders like to have their foot all the way in the stirrup as an insurance policy against losing the stirrups. When the horse is moving dramatically and performing at high speed, it could be disastrous to lose a stirrup at the wrong moment. " Question answered by Julie--where to put your foot. . . . | Facebook
Meanwhile, most everything else I've read says it is dangerous because you will get your foot caught in the stirrup if you fall...but who is more likely to fall than a steeplechase jockey? And it seems that the most violent riding is typically done with the foot rammed home. So my question:
Is it dangerous? If so, why is it common for rough riding? Are they accepting one danger because of greater concern for another? Unless you use a size 12 boot, is your foot really more likely to be caught in the stirrup?
I ask because I think one of my biggest faults is that I don't relax into the saddle, but stay tense (and above the saddle). If I feel nervous, I tend to stand up in the stirrups. Wouldn't it be better to ride deeper, with a longer leg, and maybe slip my feet forward a bit so I won't worry about losing the stirrup? And if I'm riding in an Australian saddle, wouldn't it make sense to ride it like...well, an Australian? I will never compete anywhere in any event and have no intention of ever trying to jump anything over 18". Our Arabians reserve the right to get 'concerned' at any time...what is best for staying in the saddle? Thoughts?