Are my heels down too far? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 09-30-2015, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Are my heels down too far?

Sorry the picture is from a phone and I retook the photo with my tablet.
I was told my heels are down to far...
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post #2 of 34 Old 09-30-2015, 06:48 PM
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Doesn't look like it, not a good picture but your legs are too far forward and heels are in the horse's side, maybe you were in the middle of a cue for something?

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post #3 of 34 Old 09-30-2015, 09:11 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by waresbear View Post
Doesn't look like it, not a good picture but your legs are too far forward and heels are in the horse's side, maybe you were in the middle of a cue for something?
I'm sorry I forgot to say I was in the middle of cueing her to side pass.
That's why my heel was into the horse's side.
Probably why my leg was too far up as well.

However, I had someone taking me my heels were too far down.

Tomorrow, I can get more pictures. My boyfriend took the photo. :)
Thanks

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post #4 of 34 Old 09-30-2015, 10:35 PM
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How do YOU feel about it?

I'm not trying to be facetious or going zen on you. Does the position do something for you that you like?

My heels would never go that low, because I'm a 57 year old guy and lifelong jogger and my calf muscles won't stretch that far. I got in a quick 10-15 minute ride this evening before darkness and chores forced a stop. Bandit and I did mostly 2 point in my western saddle because he still sometimes braces at a trot and we didn't ride long enough to loosen him up.

My heels were not as low as yours, but they were low enough to firm up the calf muscle. Bandit stops very well - better than I'd like, frankly - and my heels were low enough and my lower leg firm enough to keep me from being launched forward in my aptly names "slick seat" saddle with a "slick fork" front.

OTOH, I wasn't FORCING them down, so there was no bracing. All in all, it felt good tonight. I had the right position to help me do what I wanted without anything bad happening. But no one could look at a picture and know that. That is something I have to determine.

So how did it feel? Were you forcing anything? Any bracing? Or were you relaxed with a stretched but relaxed calf muscle? Did the amount of heels down make you happy?

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post #5 of 34 Old 10-01-2015, 12:12 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
How do YOU feel about it?

I'm not trying to be facetious or going zen on you. Does the position do something for you that you like?

My heels would never go that low, because I'm a 57 year old guy and lifelong jogger and my calf muscles won't stretch that far. I got in a quick 10-15 minute ride this evening before darkness and chores forced a stop. Bandit and I did mostly 2 point in my western saddle because he still sometimes braces at a trot and we didn't ride long enough to loosen him up.

My heels were not as low as yours, but they were low enough to firm up the calf muscle. Bandit stops very well - better than I'd like, frankly - and my heels were low enough and my lower leg firm enough to keep me from being launched forward in my aptly names "slick seat" saddle with a "slick fork" front.

OTOH, I wasn't FORCING them down, so there was no bracing. All in all, it felt good tonight. I had the right position to help me do what I wanted without anything bad happening. But no one could look at a picture and know that. That is something I have to determine.

So how did it feel? Were you forcing anything? Any bracing? Or were you relaxed with a stretched but relaxed calf muscle? Did the amount of heels down make you happy?
Yes, I felt happy with my position with my feet for that picture because of I was giving a cue to my horse.
I know you're suppose to ride with your heels down, but I never heard your heels are too far down...which someone told me today.

I'm 99% sure my heels aren't that low when I'm riding without cueing my horse for side pass. Also I'm almost 20 and I have more stretch. Also I felt balance as well.

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post #6 of 34 Old 10-01-2015, 02:28 AM
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I wouldn't necessarily say that your heels are too low, but it does look like you are pushing against your stirrups, which has forced your feet forward and your butt up against the cantle. You have enough stretch through you calves that I bet your heels will stay down, without you even thinking about it. I would suggest that instead of worrying about your heels, try to focus on just letting you legs hang down relaxed from your hips, with your toes pointing forward (when you aren't using a spur) and think about having weight on the outside of your foot, rather than the inside. Try to think more about lifting your toes up, rather than pushing your heels down.
And scoot your seat forward as far as you can, so that your thighs are toughing your swells (it will be hard to maintain until you get the muscle memory for it, so just keep grabbing your saddle horn and scooting yourself up until it gets easier). That will put you in a much more balanced and relaxed seat, than the tight and bracing one I see in the photo. I know it might feel secure to have a bunch of weight pushing in your stirrups and your butt pushed back against the cantle (I rode like that for many, many years... and fell off regularly for many, many years), but the tighter you are, the easier it is to get popped out of the saddle. The looser and more relaxed you are, the more your body will just flow with the horse.


Here's the only decent picture of my heels that I could find without having to get out my external HD. It's not a great representation of what I was saying about your seat, since I was just trying the saddle and the seat was too small for me (plus I got a little soft after a month off traveling) and I think the stirrups were probably a hole or two too short. I was struggling to keep my seat far enough forward to stay off the cantle. But it's a good illustration of what I was saying about heels -- you can see that even though I have my heel down quite a bit, there's really not a ton of weight on my stirrups. Enough, but not too much that I'm bracing against my stirrups. I don't generally ride with my heels down this much, when my stirrups are a better length.




This is more typical of how I ride, my heels really aren't very far down. (stirrups are still a tad too short though probably...)



I think it's not as important how much your heels are down, rather that you let your legs hang relaxed beneath you, allowing gravity to pull your weight through your heels, with your ankles loose and relaxed. When I'm riding well, I can't sit a pretty bouncy trot or lope, without my seat ever leaving the saddle, by allowing my ankles and heels to absorb the shock and bounce. If you looked closely, you'd probably see my heels bouncing up and down with each stride. You can certainly hear it in the jingle of my spurs (it's not my spurs actually sliding around, they are tight on my boot). Figuring out how to loosen up and relax through my legs and ankles has vastly improved my ability to sit a bouncy horse.

Not that I'm an equitation guru or anything, but it is something that I have been intensively working on for the past year, with my equitation-hound of a boss/trainer. My equitation was TERRIBLE when I first came to work here. It's slowly improving though :)



Sorry to veer off topic, but I can't refrain from asking about what is on your horse's head in the picture. Is that a mechanical hackamore? My personal dislike for them aside, it appears to be sitting far too low on the horse's face. Excuse me if I'm mistaken, it's hard to see clearly in the photo :)
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post #7 of 34 Old 10-01-2015, 02:46 AM
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Take a look at this video of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_Y

One could easily argue that this is some of the best equitation in the world. Certainly, no one can deny how 'with' her horse she is and how solid, deep and balanced her seat is. It is NOT easy to sit very collected or extended gaits. When the horse really finds that round frame, much of the energy is moving up and down, rather than flat.
See how well she sits every gait? Now watch her feet. Her heels are not particularly very far down, but you can see how every stride, her heels and ankles absorb the shock. That's what I'm talking about.

I would kill to be able to sit a horse like she can!!
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Last edited by enh817; 10-01-2015 at 02:56 AM.
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post #8 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 12:59 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enh817 View Post
I wouldn't necessarily say that your heels are too low, but it does look like you are pushing against your stirrups, which has forced your feet forward and your butt up against the cantle. You have enough stretch through you calves that I bet your heels will stay down, without you even thinking about it. I would suggest that instead of worrying about your heels, try to focus on just letting you legs hang down relaxed from your hips, with your toes pointing forward (when you aren't using a spur) and think about having weight on the outside of your foot, rather than the inside. Try to think more about lifting your toes up, rather than pushing your heels down.
And scoot your seat forward as far as you can, so that your thighs are toughing your swells (it will be hard to maintain until you get the muscle memory for it, so just keep grabbing your saddle horn and scooting yourself up until it gets easier). That will put you in a much more balanced and relaxed seat, than the tight and bracing one I see in the photo. I know it might feel secure to have a bunch of weight pushing in your stirrups and your butt pushed back against the cantle (I rode like that for many, many years... and fell off regularly for many, many years), but the tighter you are, the easier it is to get popped out of the saddle. The looser and more relaxed you are, the more your body will just flow with the horse.


Here's the only decent picture of my heels that I could find without having to get out my external HD. It's not a great representation of what I was saying about your seat, since I was just trying the saddle and the seat was too small for me (plus I got a little soft after a month off traveling) and I think the stirrups were probably a hole or two too short. I was struggling to keep my seat far enough forward to stay off the cantle. But it's a good illustration of what I was saying about heels -- you can see that even though I have my heel down quite a bit, there's really not a ton of weight on my stirrups. Enough, but not too much that I'm bracing against my stirrups. I don't generally ride with my heels down this much, when my stirrups are a better length.




This is more typical of how I ride, my heels really aren't very far down. (stirrups are still a tad too short though probably...)



I think it's not as important how much your heels are down, rather that you let your legs hang relaxed beneath you, allowing gravity to pull your weight through your heels, with your ankles loose and relaxed. When I'm riding well, I can't sit a pretty bouncy trot or lope, without my seat ever leaving the saddle, by allowing my ankles and heels to absorb the shock and bounce. If you looked closely, you'd probably see my heels bouncing up and down with each stride. You can certainly hear it in the jingle of my spurs (it's not my spurs actually sliding around, they are tight on my boot). Figuring out how to loosen up and relax through my legs and ankles has vastly improved my ability to sit a bouncy horse.

Not that I'm an equitation guru or anything, but it is something that I have been intensively working on for the past year, with my equitation-hound of a boss/trainer. My equitation was TERRIBLE when I first came to work here. It's slowly improving though :)



Sorry to veer off topic, but I can't refrain from asking about what is on your horse's head in the picture. Is that a mechanical hackamore? My personal dislike for them aside, it appears to be sitting far too low on the horse's face. Excuse me if I'm mistaken, it's hard to see clearly in the photo :)
I saw how she sat with every gait. GREAT seat.
Do you think the stirrup is too short that's why my legs are forwards or i'm bracing?
I don't sit with every gait I'll admit. I post my trot (yes, even in my western saddle when I don't show, it's more comfortable for me). But I do stay balanced.

I don't see how you're balanced at all! Not with your stirrups too short. Oh no, my little legs wouldn't handle it.

No it's not a hackamore, it's a shanks from the bit.
Sidepulls hackamore are my personal choice. Again I know it's not a good picture.

Today when I was loping, I noticed my heels were like shocks today. I always remind myself heels down (not to the point where I'm uncomfortable though) During the lope, I used my feet properly. I used the horn to pull up as well, instead of sitting back with a chair seat. I felt very balanced, especially with my loping to a stop.
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post #9 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 02:13 AM
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I don't think your stirrups are too short. It's hard to say though just from that picture. It could just be the way the saddle is built or it could be that you are bracing against your stirrups. More pictures or, even better, a video would make it more clear.
I think you would benefit from some work without stirrups, preferably bareback, if you're comfortable with it, practicing just letting gravity pull down through your whole leg and keeping relaxed through your hips. Feel the difference in your muscle tension when you actively try to put your heels down versus when you just relax through your whole leg, ankles and feet included, and just let gravity pull your legs down around the horse's side. Try riding around at different gaits while trying to keep your heels down and then try riding the same gaits with your legs hanging like the girl in this photo. Even try riding around with your toes pointed down Take note of the differences you feel. Which feels more balanced and secure for you?


Another thing to notice, with your feet out of the stirrup or bareback, how far can you put your heels down? Have someone take a picture of your leg like that, so you can see it. That's really as low as your heels every need to be. If your heels are much further down than that with stirrups, that's a pretty good indication that you are bracing in order to achieve that, since you can't do it without the stirrup. There is nothing advantageous to having your heels down drastically, versus just slightly. The important thing, is just allowing everything to be relaxed so as to absorb shock. Just as you saw in the video of Charlotte Dujardin, her heels really aren't down much at all, and it certainly isn't a detriment to her riding :)


I ride cowhorses, and we typically ride shorter stirrups than other disciplines, because you do need your stirrups to help stay balanced for the very quick maneuvers that happen on a cow. If you're reaching for your stirrups, it's a lot easier to lose one when things get faster. But, yes, my stirrups are too short in both those pictures I posted and in the one, the saddle is too small for me as well, which further contributes to making it hard for me to have a proper seat.
Here's a picture from the same ride that the first picture I posted is from. Even though the stirrups are short, I am still able to stay balanced and centered while spinning pretty quickly. It probably wasn't as easy (or as pretty) as it would've been with stirrups a little longer, but I don't remember having any problems. If you can keep your muscles relaxed, you can work around improperly fitting saddles, too short stirrups, rough riding horses, wild bronc rides, etc.

I didn't work a cow that day, so I can't say how I would've fared through that, but I do some sliding stops without issue.
But the short stirrups are the reason my heel is so exaggeratedly down in the pictures from that ride. And my ankles were pretty sore before too long.


Just keep working on it! Equitation is a constant battle we all have to deal with. It sounds like you are having success playing around with some different techniques. So long as you're making an effort to improve, it will get better/easier!!
I wish I had a before picture easily handy, so I could show you how terrible my equitation was a year ago, before I started really working on it. At the time, I knew it wasn't good, but I didn't know why. I needed someone to point out to me, exactly what needed to change. I'm far from perfect, but I'm a bajillion times better than I was! And, amazingly, I haven't fallen off nearly as much as I used to, when I was riding with terrible eq!!
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Last edited by enh817; 10-02-2015 at 02:18 AM.
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post #10 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 10:18 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by enh817 View Post
I don't think your stirrups are too short. It's hard to say though just from that picture. It could just be the way the saddle is built or it could be that you are bracing against your stirrups. More pictures or, even better, a video would make it more clear.
I think you would benefit from some work without stirrups, preferably bareback, if you're comfortable with it, practicing just letting gravity pull down through your whole leg and keeping relaxed through your hips. Feel the difference in your muscle tension when you actively try to put your heels down versus when you just relax through your whole leg, ankles and feet included, and just let gravity pull your legs down around the horse's side. Try riding around at different gaits while trying to keep your heels down and then try riding the same gaits with your legs hanging like the girl in this photo. Even try riding around with your toes pointed down Take note of the differences you feel. Which feels more balanced and secure for you?


Another thing to notice, with your feet out of the stirrup or bareback, how far can you put your heels down? Have someone take a picture of your leg like that, so you can see it. That's really as low as your heels every need to be. If your heels are much further down than that with stirrups, that's a pretty good indication that you are bracing in order to achieve that, since you can't do it without the stirrup. There is nothing advantageous to having your heels down drastically, versus just slightly. The important thing, is just allowing everything to be relaxed so as to absorb shock. Just as you saw in the video of Charlotte Dujardin, her heels really aren't down much at all, and it certainly isn't a detriment to her riding :)


I ride cowhorses, and we typically ride shorter stirrups than other disciplines, because you do need your stirrups to help stay balanced for the very quick maneuvers that happen on a cow. If you're reaching for your stirrups, it's a lot easier to lose one when things get faster. But, yes, my stirrups are too short in both those pictures I posted and in the one, the saddle is too small for me as well, which further contributes to making it hard for me to have a proper seat.
Here's a picture from the same ride that the first picture I posted is from. Even though the stirrups are short, I am still able to stay balanced and centered while spinning pretty quickly. It probably wasn't as easy (or as pretty) as it would've been with stirrups a little longer, but I don't remember having any problems. If you can keep your muscles relaxed, you can work around improperly fitting saddles, too short stirrups, rough riding horses, wild bronc rides, etc.

I didn't work a cow that day, so I can't say how I would've fared through that, but I do some sliding stops without issue.
But the short stirrups are the reason my heel is so exaggeratedly down in the pictures from that ride. And my ankles were pretty sore before too long.


Just keep working on it! Equitation is a constant battle we all have to deal with. It sounds like you are having success playing around with some different techniques. So long as you're making an effort to improve, it will get better/easier!!
I wish I had a before picture easily handy, so I could show you how terrible my equitation was a year ago, before I started really working on it. At the time, I knew it wasn't good, but I didn't know why. I needed someone to point out to me, exactly what needed to change. I'm far from perfect, but I'm a bajillion times better than I was! And, amazingly, I haven't fallen off nearly as much as I used to, when I was riding with terrible eq!!
I'll try to get a video if not, than more pictures today after work when I go for my evening ride.

Yes, I was surprised how balanced I was yesterday from loping to a sudden stop. My hips were relaxed and I didn't feel like falling to the ground was an option.
Thanks for the tips. I'll keep that in mind this evening. I'm always looking to get better and a friendly critique is nice!
I use to ride bareback a lot actually. My heels weren't down during those rides, my core and thighs did all the work.
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