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JackieM 01-15-2013 05:47 PM

Keeping feet in stirrups?!?
I have a question about my feet and the lope. I am just learning the lope. I am a relatively new rider, started lessons in September and have been riding 5-6 days a week practicing technique from lessons since December when I started leasing my lesson horse. She is a very good, very broke horse, a little stubborn/lazy, but really a good horse for a greenie such as myself.
So I am learning the lope and have been given the OK to practice myself off of the longe line outside of lessons. I can que her, she transitions well, and she has a pretty nice lope. I am still learning how to sit it, but it is becoming easier each time I try. My problem is that I can not keep my feet in the stirrups. Any time I que with my legs/heels, I tend to lift my leg and/or bring up my heel, as much as I try not to. I can quickly and easily adjust when in the walk or jog, maybe I do not even pick up my legs for that...but in the lope, I roll my heel, but lift my heels, so the second she picks up the lope and I want to release the pressure my foot slides out of the stirrup (this happens almost ALWAYS).
The problem is that I am so focused on getting my foot back in place as she's loping that I ignore my hands and end up tightening up on the reigns, causing her to go into the jog, then I reque, then it happens all over again. I am giving her such mixed signals and she is getting pretty upset with me, and me at myself.
Do any of you have any little tricks to help me keep my feet in my stirrups...this does not happen on the walk or jog.
When I was having issues steering her, she was backing up on me, going to the middle, turning in circles, someone had said that I have to open a door for her, and that I have to close one door to open another...this worked phenomenally! The visual worked for me and I use it every day...I usually give her mixed signals because I am so new that if I just sit and think "what door do I have open" and fix that, we move on beautifully. So When I say "any ideas" I mean more that I can visualize what to do with my feet/body than keep my heels down and toes up with the stirrup on the ball of my foot...I know this, but my feet do not care! I'm tempted to tie bricks to my heels and superglue the ball of my foot to the stirrup! Thank you so much for your help as always!

corgi 01-15-2013 05:55 PM

I bet that is frustrating! I wish I had an answer for you. Is there any chance she can be cued to lope any other way? My horse will lope/canter with just a "kissing" cue. I make a kissing sound and she goes right into a canter.

Deschutes 01-15-2013 06:38 PM

When I try to work on putting my heels down, I visualize little weights in my heels, like a scale. The stirrup is the basethat the scale uses and also as the fulcrum. My heel should be "loaded" and like a scale, sink downward.

When I first did lessons, the opening the door visual helped me a lot, too! Still does. When cuing, do you apply and leg pressure to go left or right? I never learned (or if I did, I never understood) the use of leg until a year ago when it just clicked.

Leg is a combination of seat, thigh, calf and heel. An exercise I used to practice turning, or to visualize/feel it more was to just sit in the saddle. I would turn my body like I was looking behind me or so. I could feel the pressure of my outside leg being put to the saddle. I applied that to weaving poles. I would exaggerate my body turning at a walk, so get a feel, and then I applied leg pressure. *

Another leg pressure exercise was to go on and off the rail using only leg pressure. I would start at a walk, and use my leg, no reigning, to move off the rail a couple feet, and then back on. Rinse and repeat. :) you might get sore after a while doing that.

*i don't know if you are going to do anything regarding sharp turns or gymkhana, but my weave work helped me a lot
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Saddlebag 01-15-2013 06:50 PM

You shouldn't have to use your heel. You need to be relaxed from the hip down (and up). When you ask for a canter turn your toe out a little and barely move you lower leg back, an inch or two. You are asking with your calf muscle, not your heel. As soon as she canters turn your toe back and move your leg forward to release the pressure in that spot. Try thinking toes up. I don't know why it seems to help, rather than thinking heels down.

LeahKathleen 01-15-2013 06:53 PM

It sounds like instead of focusing on keeping your feet in the stirrups after she starts loping, you should be focusing on cueing her without moving your legs quite so much. You really shouldn't be picking your legs up off of your horse to cue her into the next gait.

Have you and your trainer done any stirrup-less work at the walk to trot? I really think the trouble is less with your feet and more with your seat and your legs, and those kind of exercises can really help with that.

Deschutes 01-15-2013 06:55 PM

I add heel in there as a thing where if a horse does not respond to my seat, thigh or calf, that I add my heel.

Just how I was taught.
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JackieM 01-15-2013 07:39 PM

So when she says roll your heel into her, she doesn't literally mean that? It's just rotating my leg? She keeps telling me to really keep on her...does she just mean stay with the motion? Maybe I'm just taking it all too literally? I do use my legs to steer, but I use them very lightly because she will take me right into the lope if I use too much leg. I can not even say how well she transitions or cues because I'm concentrating on so many other things that I may actually over cue her without thinking. We have not done stirrup-less work, but I may try that in our daily workouts. I know my trainer does this with her because when she gets up on her to show me some things, she does it stirrup-less. I will also try the "toes up" frame of mind. Thank you all so much for your help. I know we will get it and you all have such great advice all of the time that I know this will help! Keep your suggestions coming...It is much appreciated...and yes I am using too much leg to cue the canter...I can feel it the past two day like I did at first with the trot before we got that down.

Deschutes 01-15-2013 07:44 PM

I found when I'm cantering, I find it really easy to feel when a horse is about to fall out of gait. When I get that feeling, I squeeze with my legs and push them through.

I haven't heard the phrase of rolling heels as far as I remember, though, someone else could probably be of better use.

LeahKathleen 01-15-2013 07:51 PM

I would be curious to hear what your instructor tells you when you are transitioning into the canter.

Does she notice you picking up your legs and losing your stirrups? If one my my students was losing their stirrups every time they moved into a canter, I would immediately want to work on leg position and seat. I tell my students to "keep on it" when their horse is being lazy and not wanting to move into the next gait, but what that typically means is keep asking until your horse moves.

You said that she will quickly move into a lope if you use "too much leg" while you're steering with your legs. You also said in your first post that she is a bit lazy and stubborn, and that your instructor has to tell you to "keep on her." Those things seem a bit contradictory to me. To me it sounds like she is sensitive enough to move off leg pressure, but when you are asking her to move into the lope, you aren't asking her correctly (picking your legs up) and she doesn't understand what you're asking her to do, and that makes her seem lazy/stubborn.

I would also be concerned that your instructor isn't giving you any pointers on correcting your aids. :\

JackieM 01-15-2013 08:29 PM

My instructor is pretty young...only 19, she is going off to collage this week, so we will be with the barn owner as our instructor. She does not notice my feet coming out as I have to stop her to get my legs back in. I am not off balance, so when I do loose my legs I do not flop all over, but I am afraid of what my bouncing legs will do. My instructor says she's lazy, I'm too new to horses to make that call, as in I do not have much frame of reference. She listens to me and is more willing to transition her gaits when the instructors are not around. She was used as a lesson and show horse for young children (which is why I like her, she does wonders for my 6 year old daughter), and because she is used to listening to the instructors during children lessons she seems to get confused in my lessons whether she should listen to me or my instructor. I ride her out of lessons, so she is used to listening to me often.
Leah, I agree with your is very accurate...she seems to be a less is more horse, but the instructors feel as if she is taking advantage of me and walking all over me, so they want me to keep on her, I just have to realize there is a difference between continuing to "ask" and using too much leg. I will let you all know how it goes tomorrow!

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