Get that heel down!
Hi Im new here :D...
...and I have a bit of a problem. As long as I can remember, I have been a toe walker (walk on my tip toes) and I think it has caused me to have a short Achilles tendon, thus making me somewhat incapable of keeping my heels down. I also think that as a result of having big calves (due to walking on my toes), I cant get my heels to apply enough pressure to the horse also, they just wont turn in enough and when I do try to apply pressure, they rise up, but that might be a different cause. And to add insult to injury, my feet dont go in the stirrups straight, but rather point out, and I can never get them to point straight. My feet are just a jumbled mess when riding.
I have been doing stretches to try and lengthen it, and have stopped walking on my toes, but what other things can I do to help myself? It gets really frustrating because if I cant get my heels down, im inbalanced and controlling the horse and getting him to collect is very difficult and it throws my whole riding lesson out of whack. I am definitely doing something wrong, but what it is I dont know.
Have you seen a doctor about the problem? I was born with club foot and had surgery when I was 1, 16 and 17 to lengthen my achillies tendons (I am 18 now). I know how hard it can be to get those heels down when you just cant seem to be able to do it. Then your toes turn out when you do because (I think this is how my pediatrist described it) that relieves some of the tension on the tendon... This can also cause you to walk duck-footed with your toes turned out, which is how I walked instead of being on my toes.
Anyways, what I reccomend firstly is to see a doctor if you haven't already. A good doctor will give you stretches that will help you work on your flexability and strength.
Secondly what worked for me is if your balance is good enough ride bareback or just ride in the saddle without stirrups. It seemed to help me...
I have to go to the doctor next month anyway, so I will tell them then, but for now, I will keep stretching. I will also ask my instructor about riding bareback maybe for a lesson, or when I start leasing next month.
In case I do have to get surgery, do you know how long the recovery took?
Riding bareback would be a good option. It will allow you to get a good seat without having to worry about your feet in the sturrups. I would deffinitly try that if I were you. Good luck when you talk to the doctor, I was going to suggest that but someone else already did :) Hope everything works out for you with your tendons and everything.
For the recovery it was 1 month non-weightbaring (crutches) 1 month in a walking boot. Then 1 more month before I could ride again. Full recovery was actually closer to 6 months though. I reccomdend talking to a specialist if you can. My regular doctor kind of brushed it off but the pediatrist helped a lot.
Have you ever tried standing in your stirrups? This is how I work on getting a good, solid lower leg. I find it easier than 2 pointing sometimes. Just do it at the walk. Make sure you get help from someone to watch you otherwise it might encourage you to pinch at your knee (I do this, ugh, so frustrating!). I have to think turn my toe out, put my calf on and take my knee off. Also, make sure you stand straight up. No bending at the hip or scrunching your shoulders. Once you've mastered this step up on your toe (in the stirrup) like a ballerina and quickly let your heels drop. Think "dropping more" with each time you drop down.
Juke Box - heels down or heels up. Don't get too fussed about it. Some of us don't get our heels down.
Now of course that means we are not going with the flow - we are not going to win dressage competitions and all sorts of instructors are going to call out "Heels Down" but you won't manage. Just forget it and get on with enjoying your horse.
But do me a favour, just read up in the books why ideally heels should go down.
Then look up on the internet the name "Littauer" - he would have taught you all about 'forward riding' and he would not have worried whether your heels were
up or down. All he was worried about was whether your weight was over the horse's centre of gravity. Trouble is , Littauer is dead so he is not fashionable.
There is more than one style of riding a horse - what's more there is more than one type of horse.
Enjoy your riding.
I ride for the joy of it not to win anything so to me it isn't an issue how my feet are, or if my ear lines up with my shoulder to my hip blah blah blah (no disrespect ment for competitive riders). You need to be comfortable, centered, in control and relaxed.
This is one of the beautiful things about riding - ANYONE can do it.
p.s. I think my feet turn out a bit and I think that's totally normal so your calf is in contact with your horse.
I know I should enjoy it, and I usually always do, but my balance gets so bad that even the horse pulling on the bit (due to my crazy leg action messing up my hands) is enough to nearly pull me out of the saddle, tomorrow when I ride, I am going to check everything, stirrup length, saddle correctly positioned, you get it :] When I look in the arena mirrors, I look correct waist up for the most part and I stand up in the stirrups whenever im off balanced and at the walk, it helps for a few seconds though :p
Thanks for all the advice and I will try to enjoy riding and stop trying to be the perfectionist that I dream of.
I would do what Silvera had suggested about riding bareback. It would really help with balance and core muscles, this way you won't really need to rely on your stirrups. As you ride more and more you will of course get better and your body will compensate.
p.s. do you ride western or english?
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