ANGRY RANT!!! (and questions, please help!)
The barn I was riding at before taught me for a year. Then some of the horses got Strangles and they closed the lessons. So I moved to a new barn and what do you know? The place where I was riding at before told me the wrong way to ride, and they got me into some really bad habits. They told me to mount the wrong way, told be that my toes should be pointing inwards and not forwards, and they knew that I wasn't putting enough weight into my right foot but they just said it was normal! They told me to 2-point way up the horse's neck even on little jumps. And a lot more. Everything became a habit and now they are hard to break. When I found out how horible this barn was, I just wanted to stand up in my stirrups and scream! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You get my point?
Okay so now... questions. I find it really hard to keep my heels down. It's not that it hurts or anything, it's that my feet just don't bend that way. I can't even crounch with my feet flat on the ground! So what can I do about this? It's not the stirrups, because even when they are jumping length it is hard to push my heels down.
I also have another problem. I tend to put most of my weight in my left foot and not my right. I am constantly trying to balance myself, but every time I am not paying close attention, my weight drifts back to my left foot and I become very crooked. Do you have any advice?
Sorry, I know this was a long post, but oh well
Some of the horses at my riding school got strangles (thankfully during summer holiday when there were no lessons) but it's over now and it never got serious. We still aren't allowed to ride in the indoor arena though and we have to wash our clothes after being there and we aren't allowed to touch a certain shetland pony who had it last.
Sucks that they taught you wrong :(
I changed barns last year and I have learned more in the 1 year I've been at my current riding school than 4 years in my old riding school.
Change is good :)
I also have problems getting my heels down, well my right heel actually. It starts hurting and I've had it collapse a few times. No fun! :( With longer stirrups I can though.
Maybe I'm also putting all my weight on it? Or then it's because I've sprained it (long time ago. I never went to the doctor).
Sorry that I don't have any tips. :(
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience :-( It's hard to compare if we're learning correctly or not if we've only had one trainer. I was with the same person for 10 years and after going to other trainers, I find that she taught me well. But when I was young I didn't know any better and what if she had been teaching me wrong the whole 10 years?! I can imagine how hard it is to break bad habits, but I'm sure you'll be able to get it with a good new trainer.
For your heels, I would practice stretch out your hamstrings to help your heels learn to go down. I like standing on stairs with the ball of my foot and letting my heels drop down and hold it (do this in your riding boots too; sometimes it's hard to get your heels down if your boots are stiff). Don't do it so that it hurts, but you should feel it stretching in the back of your leg. For what it's worth, I can't crouch with my heels down at all (not even close) but I am very good at stretching down through the heel while stretching and riding.
For balancing I don't have a lot of advice, but I would try to focus on sitting with a balanced seat rather than focusing on your legs. If you sit balanced, I think the weight in your legs would even out as well. Just try to sit very evenly at a walk at first, to get a hang of how it feels. After concentrating on your seat for a while, pay attention to your legs and see if they feel even as well.
I would do lots of work in two-point and without stirrups to help with your heels. As far as fixing the leaning thing. The quickest fix I have heard of is to remove the stirrup that you lean into more, in your case this would be the left one. Ride around with just the right stirrup for a few times and it's supposed to work wonders. I haven't tried it because I don't have that problem but have heard positive things from people who have.
IrishRider, the no stirrup idea is fantastic. Never heard of dropping only one, but it sounds like a great idea.
Two point is also always great for getting heels down.
What you are talking about - learning the wrong way from the beginning- is why most with the experience of learning to ride English will say : "get a qualified knowledgeable instructor right from the word go". Losing the habits acquired (and the muscles) which you have so far developed will take a concious effort on your part. But first you must understand how to sit (and post) correctly.
Make sure you keep your feet turned forwards parallel with the horse - by doing this you turn your thighs inwards at the same time.
If your ham strings or calf strings have become too tight your heels will come up or will feel too stiff to push down whilst in the stirrups. Try doing a stepping exercise on a set of stairs. Just stand on the bottom step on the balls of your feet and using half the length of the both feet and bounce up and down - gently. You'll feel the stretch
PLEASE HANG ON TO THE STAIR POST UNTIL YOU GET THE IDEA.
Then do the exercise every day.
Look around locally - see if there is anyone offering Pilates classes - they do a range of exercises which will supple up the calf strings and the ham strings (and the pelvic floor). Balancing exercises are also part of Pilates.
All new English style horse riders can benefit from Pilates - if you can find a good instructor.
By the sound of it, you need an experienced English rider to manually adjust your seat position - which includes the legs and the hands and the upper body. Once you've got the idea of how to sit, then you need to build up the instinctive reactions and the muscles by going round and round in circles on a trained docile schoolmaster horse in a quiet environment. A schoolmaster horse (if you can locate one of these maestros) teaches you as much as the instructor. Then when you know how to sit and hold the reins yourself, it will be time for you to teach your own horse how to hold its head and neck.
I have tried to help. I tried to put the correct leg position to print but it is a difficult exercise to describe. Buy a teaching manual which has photos and diagrams.
Best of luckl
Stand in your stirrups and let all your weight sink down through your ankles and heels. Do this several times each time your ride. Get a mental image of your heels growing longer and longer as they try to reach the ground, it really relaxes the calf muscles (just do this with the horse standing still).
At home, sit on the floor, legs and feet stretched out in front of you. Take a bath towel and twist it up, then lean forward and place the towel on the balls of your feet. Sit up straight and gently pull the towel toward you, flexing your foot at the ankle and pulling your toes toward you.
Those exercises will help with flexibility in your feet/ankles.
I'd be angry too, if my instructor taught me wrong :evil:. I guess you just need to focus, and practice and things will turn out good eventually. Just keep thinking, heels down, heels down. Oh and why not get your instructor to put you on the lunge? No reins, just you going in a circle. That way you won't have to focus on steering and you can focus on your heels and position.
Thanks, everyone, for the quick replies. I really like the one-stirrup idea, I'll try it next time I get to ride at the barn.
That really sucks. The first place I took lessons at was a total waste of money. They had us walk around in circles the whole time and they never taught us to use leg aids. It was always off the rein.
Riding without stirrups will help your balance and it'll help steady your legs when you do use stirrups. As for getting your heels down, try standing on the edge of the stairs with only the balls of your feet on the stair. Then lift one leg up and relax the ankle that is supporting your weight, so you let your whole body weight stretch your heel down. Then do the same with the other leg. You should feel your hamstrings stretching and it hurts like hell at first, but it really helps. Pilates will strengthen your core, too.
Also, go to this link and watch all the videos. They're really helpful:
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