How do you ride with your legs? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Montana
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How do you ride with your legs?

Silly question to most of you I suppose, but I'm really clueless about it.
I've been riding since I was a small child, but my first 5-10 years were mostly bareback since I couldn't always find someone to saddle my horse for me. As I got older, I've had people tell me that I ride "like an Indian," meaning that I'm always holding on with my legs even when I've got stirrups. Sure, I use the stirrups too, but if a horse spooks my first instinct is to get into my seat and move with them.. not grab the horn or brace in my stirrups.
I've been reading up on training and such, and I do understand using your legs to apply pressure to aid in a turn, or to have your horse bend around your leg but that's about it.
I'm way out here in the middle of Montana and have never had a lesson in my life... I'm just curious what riding with your legs means to you?
Thank you!!
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 04:29 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: East Central Illinois
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I think you're bragging. Sounds like you have a very good seat already. If you research you'll find that the Romans didn't have stirrups. They were introduced from east Asia. Hungarian Cavalry rode a saddle without a girth. Most of us train ourselves to ride better by schooling without stirrups.
What you don't know is the finesse of using your lower leg to cue your horse. Ideally, you should squeeze your calves to cue forward, then maintain soft contact. You move your inside leg forward and your outside leg back to cue for the inside canter lead. You squeeze calves, deepen seat and sit back at the same time closing on the reins to halt or half halt. "Kicking" a horse in non-productive and can destroy your balance. I always school with prince of sales spurs for light horses.
Sounds like you've been riding for a long time, but it wouldn't hurt to look for a barn that teaches English and get some schooling on cues. Ken McNabb is in Wyoming. You might think about spending 3 weeks with him. He's an excellent horseman.

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post #3 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 04:50 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Missouri
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I don't hold on with my legs the entire ride, but I do keep my legs stretched around my horse to keep them steady and just incase I need to use them to cue.

I take english lessons.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-08-2013, 07:09 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Cariboo, British Columbia
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You don't hold with your legs, you get deeper in your seat. Different parts of your leg, thigh, calf, ankle are used against the horse's side for different responses. You can grip with your legs if you feel like you are losing your balance, but if you do that constantly, you will get some nasty welts on the inside of your knees until you toughen that area up. Good sign of incorrect riding.
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post #5 of 6 Old 05-08-2013, 07:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: New Mexico
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Some of riding with your leg depends on how your horse was trained. A trainer I worked for who specialized in western pleasure horses taught almost all of her cues as leg or spur cues. The bridle was used almost exclusively for head set(getting vertical flexion) and collection. Lateral movements, turns, backing, lowering head, ect. were all done with spur or leg cues. I'm sure not everyone trains that way, but for her riding with leg was a very complicated proposition that took her students years to master.

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post #6 of 6 Old 05-09-2013, 07:48 PM
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Subtropics
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Personally, I was brought up by a Brazilian GP trainer who specialized in show jumping and his own brand of equitation, so I was trained slowly and steadily one area at a time. Seat first, then leg, bridle last. Rhythm, control, anticipation, and feel were the main focus. Not so much looking fancy or getting the horse to do anything special, just a big concentration on my feel and awareness of the horse's body and mine. So, I ride with my seat first and then my leg, last my hands. The horse I was most often paired with is now my own horse, and she's sensitive to the aids, so if I ever did hang on her in any way she'd let me know! I like to keep a classical seat, in the beginning years I didn't really pay attention to the technical terms and just did whatever my trainer set me up for and told me to do, so when I think back I can remember doing a jumper seat sometimes and a classic seat others. It was all about making sure I knew what "right" felt like. Nowadays, it's been a long while since I had a trainer at his level, so everything I do is by myself with a little help of the camera and some friends that generally know about riding. The horse is the best trainer when you know how to listen ;) So, I like to ride with my lower calf muscles extended so that my leg is long and my heels are level, and keep my heels off the horse. The lowest part of my calf doesn't touch her. The largest part of my calf does. It's more like my muscles are working to stay still and extended, not gripping. I like to ride in shorts sometimes when my horse's hair is longer, and focus on keeping my lower leg just close enough to feel her hair tickle me, and not touch her skin. Toes forward, level. When I want her butt engaged, I put the entire leg on with a little or no heel. When I want a gait picked up or a higher speed, I add heel or pluck her sides with my heels. For lateral, I put weight into one stirrup or put my heel on her side.

THIS is a great video for the classical seat and how to fix problems, it really helped me when I got a chair seat and pinched knee when my horse's arthritis first showed up:
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