Why can't I get my heals sown at the canter??!! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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Why can't I get my heals sown at the canter??!!

I've been cantering for a while and I still can't get my heals down! Ijust fell off today because of that. HELP
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post #2 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 09:41 PM
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You fell off because your heels weren't down or because you weren't balanced and don't have enough core/leg strength? Yes, you need to learn to keep your heels down, but I can canter without stirrups...stirrups aren't what keep you on a horse

Just think about pointing your toes to the sky. Think of your ankles as springs. As you strengthen your seat, you may find that your heels stay down with less concentrated effort.
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post #3 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 09:49 PM
Green Broke
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Hi, puphorse. Do you have your heels down at the walk and trot? If so, I suspect that you are doing any combination of the following: tensing up, getting ahead (or behind) the movement of the horse, putting your bottom leg out of position.

Heels down helps keep your leg stretched and provides a nice spring action to help you adjust to the horse's movement. When you tense up (in anticipation of trouble, etc.) your muscles start to lose that elasticity and the heel has a tendency to come up. Getting ahead of or behind the horse's motion can also be affected by tension as a result of your back/core stiffing up. Leg position tends to be affected when you are using your heel over your calf to cue the horse. Lots of miles and maintaining focus on how your body is reacting (and correcting it) will bring everything into its proper place.

One more thing: People, I think, will sometimes have a psychological barrier with regard to the canter. Based on my own experience, way back when, as I was learning to canter properly I noticed I tended to protect myself when going into the canter as I viewed the canter as fast and potentially dangerous - and really a good canter is the most comfortable and fun gait to ride if you keep your head on straight.

Good luck and keep putting on the miles and you'll have it down in no time at all.
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post #4 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 10:05 PM Thread Starter
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yes I do have my heels down at the walk and trot. I think I have trouble because it fast, tensing up, and because i'm just hanging on for my life. I just don't know how to fix it. I know you can do the lunge line but I'm in a group and I don't think my trainer has enough time to have everyone on the lunge line
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post #5 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 10:17 PM
Green Broke
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Maybe have a chat with your instructor and see if you can go with a night latch (it's a strap that is attached to the front of the saddle (can work whether it's an English or western saddle) that you can grab hold of with one hand - good to have as long it doesn't become a crutch and used all the time) that you can use it for awhile until you start to feel more comfortable - once you start getting a good feel for the motion and how your body is reacting you will be able to stop using it.
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post #6 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 10:30 PM
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Do you tend to lean forward when you canter?

It's a bad problem of mine - I lean forward, my heels come up, and my legs slip back. If I don't correct it straight away, I come off over the shoulder.

If you do, you'll find that by sitting up straight your heels will stay down more easily. I like to feel a good stretch down the back of my calves when I canter, as it means that I am pushing my weight through my heels rather than toes and, therefore, my heels are down.

I would consider asking your instructor if you could have an individual lesson on a lunge line. You'll find it easier to focus on your heels without having to worry about guiding the horse.
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 10:58 PM
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Ditto what Tracer said. And by sitting up straight, you will actually feel like you're leaning back, but you're not. You'll find it much easier to relax your leg and absorb the movement.

Also, ask your instructor if you can do some lunge line canter work without stirrups - you will definitely tense up and lose balance early on when doing this, but you'll quickly realise that you don't need stirrups to stay on. Because you won't be bracing against the iron you'll be able to get a feel of the movement a lot easier.

The other thing I do to make my leg hang nice and long (which will help your heel stay down in the stirrups because you won't grip with your knee) is as soon as I am mounted I lift my foot up toward my hip (like this). This stretches my quadriceps (muscle on front of thigh), and also adjusts my seat so I'm not sitting so much on my butt but more on my pelvic bones. I then think "shoulders back" and make myself "stand tall", like I'm about to give a rousing speech to my evil minions.

I also ride with the stirrups one hole longer than my body tells me I want. By doing sufficient work in rising trot with longer stirrups, and then some sitting trot, my legs are nice and long by the time I go to canter, and my seat also more secure as I'm not bracing against the stirrups. If your horse has a jarring trot, however, this is harder to do as it takes a fair bit of physical effort to post from the thighs.

The problem is coming from you tensing up (fear), hunching (which curves your spine, puts you in a chair seat and brings your knees and heels up) and then feeling insecure, which makes you tense up more and it becomes a vicious cycle. It's also quite probable that in all of this you're looking down rather than out, and as they say you end up where you've been looking - look forward and you'll go forward, look down and you'll end up in the dirt! Make your body to do the opposite of what it instinctively wants to do. Practice this all the time - when you're not riding, just walking along the street, stand up straight, put more weight in your heels, shoulders back and chest proud, looking out. Practice when you are riding, at the walk and trot and even at halt. Build up muscle memory. Picture yourself riding like the best riders in the world, or even your instructor or someone you look up to in your barn. Mimic the way they sit (assuming it's correct), the way they hold themselves etc. Practice, practice, practice. And good luck!
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post #8 of 9 Old 11-16-2013, 11:21 PM
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I too have heel problems and am irritated as heck when I see all my photos and they're not down. Look at my avatar photo, for example. ;)

I'm working on it with every ride, conscious of the fact that I'm doing it.

That said, I agree with others - it's not the difference between staying on and falling off. If you're falling off you need to work on your balance more - try trotting in 2 point or standing in your stirrups at the trot to build your balance. You should be able to lose a stirrup (or both) at the canter and not fall off - it's all in your seat and balance.

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post #9 of 9 Old 11-17-2013, 02:22 AM
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Heels coming up is not a localised issue - it comes from tension in other parts of your body. GENERALLY from a chair seat type position, or through gripping with the knee/thigh. This gripping forces you onto your pubic bone, lifting your seat slightly off the saddle and bringing your centre of balance forward - surprise surprise, this usually results in falling off or coming very close!

My suggestion is to do some work on the lunge without stirrups. This will allow you to figure out your seat without weighting stirrups. You will realise how much you're relying on your stirrups to keep you in the saddle when they get taken away. Ideally, there should be no change in rider balance whether or not they have stirrups.
Focus on sitting back on your seat bones, and lifting your knees and thighs off the saddle. I still occasionally ride in this position, and it looks crazy, but it is great to remember where your seat bones are. It is very easy to fall into bad habits when you get comfortable.

Finally, rather than thinking heels down, think toes up. This changes the muscles that you use - heels down makes you feel like jamming your heels, which makes the thigh and knee clench. Toes up make you feel that your heels are jammed down, and actually brings the upper leg a little looser against the saddle.

Give it a go :)
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