Are my heels down too far? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 11:13 AM
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texas cowgurl, you alone know if you are bracing or not. It is impossible to tell from a photo.

There is nothing magic about heels down. When it happens, your heels can function to absorb some shock - but only if there is weight in the heels, which means pressure on the stirrup, which means part of your support is coming from the stirrups. It is important if you are jumping, perhaps, but not for western riding.

Apart from that, toes up stretches the calf muscle, so your lower leg has a firm yet flat surface to grip the horse if needed.

It also makes it easier to brace against a sudden stop with support from the lower leg.

"One could easily argue that this is some of the best equitation in the world."

It is dressage. It is excellent dressage, but dressage is not the end all of riding. Dressage emphasizes collected gaits. Western riding, on the whole, does not. A position that is mechanically sound for riding a collected gait is not mechanically sound for riding fast, or trail riding, or jumping, or polo, or many other things.

Her feet were not absorbing shock. They were giving cues, constantly. Outstanding dressage, but not western riding.

There is no ideal amount of heels down. George Morris, writing about a forward seat, says the toes should point out 10-45 degrees, depending on the rider and horse. He's right. No one can say XX deg is the right amount because too much depends on the rider. Heck, my left foot always sticks out further than my right. That is true when I go jogging, as well. It's just the way my body works.

Same with heels. Heels level works fine for many people, including Charlotte Dujardin and my youngest daughter. I ride a western saddle in a forward seat, in part because my western saddle has no swell and is a "slick seat".

On short, thick little (13 hands) Cowboy:



On Mia, using an Australian style saddle:



The best advice I've seen about "position" comes from VS Littauer. He wrote there are only two important tests of your riding position:

1 - Are you in fluid balance with your horse?

A horse doing a collected gait has its balance to the rear. One galloping has it to the front. Going around a tight turn, to the rear. A horse's balance shifts and our balance should normally match the horse's balance (or be slightly behind for stability). You can either move your balance over the horse's, or teach the horse to move his balance under you. But your horse will perform best if your center of gravity is close to his.

2 - Can you give the cues you need to give to your horse?

In the dressage video, she was constantly giving cues with her heel. That is part of why that position works for dressage. She could not cue the horse the way she needs to if her feet were forward.

But I use a very simple set of cues, since my horses and I are all simple. I almost never use my heel for a cue. I almost never feel the need. I use my lower leg, but almost never my heel. I'd flunk a simple dressage test, but it works fine for trail riding.

If my horse is getting nervous about something ahead, I slide my legs forward. This tells my horse "Don't try to turn. I want to go forward and you can do it." That is a cue for them. It is not one needed in dressage, but it is one I need with my horses pretty often.

If you are in fluid balance with your horse, and you can give the cues you like and need to give, then your position is fine.

On the whole, texas cowgurl, I "like" your position better than enh817's - but then, I don't ride the horses she rides with the goals she has. Larry Trocha, a guy who teaches cutting and reining, would "like" her position better than mine. I like Larry Trocha and I tried following his advice for about 3-4 months, but gave it up because it didn't match the riding I do. My main riding horse is a 15 hand, 800 lb Arabian/Mustang mix. He just moves differently than a Quarter Horse bred for explosive power. I like Bandit, but he's not built the way a good cutting horse would be:



Think about Littauer's advice. Unless you are training for a specific sport or expecting to be judged, only you and your horse can say if your position is right for what you both do.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #12 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms View Post
texas cowgurl, you alone know if you are bracing or not. It is impossible to tell from a photo.
As much as I tend to agree with you, bsms, I have to disagree on this point.

I can't get the photo to work, but I have a pic of a lady at my barn who you can FEEL how braced and stiff she is just from looking at the pic. Seriously, I showed it to a friend who has been riding all her life (50+ years) and she looked like this and said "She needs to relax and stop bracing!"
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http://i42.tinypic.com/140y8lj.png
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post #13 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 08:14 PM
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IMO, if you always think "My heels need to be down!" You will get bracey and jam your heel down, throwing your whole seat off.

Just relax, think about sinking your whole body into your heel without bracing against the stirrup.

Also keep in mind that some peoples heels will be end up naturally lower than others.

This is usually where my heel sits.

Notice how I'm not bracing against anything at all?

Thats kind of what you want.

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post #14 of 34 Old 10-02-2015, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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Okay I tried y'all's advice. I know you, it takes time...but here are some pictures.
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File Type: jpg WIN_20151002_203541.jpg (43.0 KB, 74 views)
File Type: jpg WIN_20151002_203622.jpg (39.3 KB, 134 views)
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post #15 of 34 Old 10-03-2015, 01:54 AM
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I think you have done a wonderful job getting your legs more underneath you, and I think you look a lot more relaxed, especially in the last photo. Your heels look good too! Just remember to keep your ankles loose and your eyes up. You don't need to look at your horse, you can feel him. Look where you want to go ;)

From the head on shot, I want to say that it looks like your right stirrup might be a bit longer that the left stirrup? Perhaps try putting it up a hole and seeing how that feels. You can always put it back if you don't like it.

Keep at it!! I love your horse's face marking

Last edited by enh817; 10-03-2015 at 02:00 AM.
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post #16 of 34 Old 10-03-2015, 02:19 AM
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I also wanted to point out how much better you're sitting in your saddle! You aren't pushed back against the cantle in any of those pictures, you're sitting up in the middle of your saddle. Sometimes that can be really hard, depending on how a saddle is build. The ones that have a seat (and stirrups) that just help you sit up there against the swells, without making you work to stay there... those are the great saddles
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post #17 of 34 Old 10-03-2015, 09:10 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enh817 View Post
I think you have done a wonderful job getting your legs more underneath you, and I think you look a lot more relaxed, especially in the last photo. Your heels look good too! Just remember to keep your ankles loose and your eyes up. You don't need to look at your horse, you can feel him. Look where you want to go ;)

From the head on shot, I want to say that it looks like your right stirrup might be a bit longer that the left stirrup? Perhaps try putting it up a hole and seeing how that feels. You can always put it back if you don't like it.

Keep at it!! I love your horse's face marking
Thank you! This made my morning that I'm doing better.
I used your advice to pull up from the saddle horn. As looking down at my horse I do that a lot, I know eyes up...gotta work on that too.

Yes, I love her oddly shaped blaze. I used to call it a puzzle piece because in the middle of the blaze is the random O, it looks like you could put a puzzle piece in there to finish it. lol.

As for my heels I thought of toes up instead and I caught myself curling my toes upwards and was like....I don't think this is what ENH817 meant....

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post #18 of 34 Old 10-03-2015, 11:50 AM
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Lovely change in your legs already!

One thing that changed too is your back. In the first pic it's nice and flat, and the more recent you have a lot of curve going on.

It just takes a little tilt of your pelvis (I think of tucking my pockets under slightly) or aligning your shoulders over your torso to flatten your back again.

Experiment a little with what accomplishes that, keep your legs under you beautifully but also have a nice straight back (not stiff) so that you aren't putting any excess pressure on your lower back

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #19 of 34 Old 10-03-2015, 02:10 PM
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looking at this picture:




it looks as if the saddle balance makes it sort of easy to be in a chair seat. and when you post, your leg naturally goes forward, encouraging a push into the stirrup that's too much, and brings the lower leg off the hrose. this becuase the stirrup bar is set quite far forward. the fender hangs down from the front part of the saddle, instead of closer to the middle.

this last photo shows you getting your leg back under you, but I suspect that the saddle itself makes it hard to do this. did it feel hard?

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post #20 of 34 Old 10-03-2015, 04:33 PM
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The stirrup is set in a normal position, behind the swell. It takes some pressure from the leg - and a resting leg can do it - to move the stirrup forward of the swell.

Nor is that position a "chair seat", since the thighs are mostly vertical. In the picture below, I'm not thrilled with how Bandit is moving - we're working on it - but my position is not a chair seat, nor is it caused by the saddle:



Any time the stirrup is under the swell, it is not caused by the stirrup placement, because the stirrups of all western saddles are hung behind the swell. It is just the leg moving the stirrup forward.

But that does not imply a chair seat. It does imply you are behind the motion, but that is often a good thing in western riding. Why? Because while a horse has to work a little harder when you are behind the motion, it is also more secure when the horse suddenly stops, or trips, or changes direction - things a dressage rider should not have to worry about.

A horizontal thigh is perched on top of a horse. A mostly vertical thigh is wrapped around the horse. A thigh like the OP's:



is most assuredly not perched on top of the horse, but wrapped around it - unlike a chair. Edward Gal is not in a chair seat:



Heel under hip is not always desirable. Larry Trocha's advice on riding is that I ought to raise my stirrups and get my feet further in front of me. He says that makes it easier to stick with a cutting or reining horse. I like it deeper...just feels better to me. Maybe because my horses are so slender, or a defensive response to all the times Mia tried to twist out from under me. The pictures of enh817 riding look spot on with how Larry Trocha says to ride a cow horse.

Heel under hip works well with a well trained horse in a collected gait. When the horse is not collected - as with Edward Gal in the picture above - then it ought to be OK to have the heel move to a more secure position.

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