Leg Position, Stirrup Length and Trail Riding - Page 7 - The Horse Forum
 262Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #61 of 85 Old 04-12-2019, 12:03 AM
Showing
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 11,892
• Horses: 4
I learned to ride by reading VS Littauer and trying to do what he said while riding Mia. Think of this for position:



Littauer called the forward seat "stirrup-centric" versus "seat-centric". It is and that is good at times. But over the years I've concluded it isn't appropriate for some things, like riding a spooky mare or even an independent mustang through the desert. But...having learned a "stirrup-centric" approach, I find it easy to brace against them - which is NOT what St Littauer taught! And having learned on a mare who spooked and bolted more times than I could begin to count...well, think of it as my own version of Equine PTSD.

So, what has helped?

A few days ago, I was riding Bandit into the desert while my wife walked Trooper from the ground. It was our first real trip back into the desert after a winter lay-off. I found myself tense and bracing. I also find telling myself, "Don't brace. Don't be tense!" is useless. What works is to tell myself to slouch. Larry Trocha argues a person can stay balanced on a cutting horse better if you slouch a little. It is impossible to brace against the stirrups and slouch. Whenever I achieved "slouchness", Bandit assumed I was "relaxed". Then he relaxed a little, and after 20 minutes I was slouching quite well and Bandit was relaxing nicely.

On the whole, I still like Piero Santini's comment in Riding Reflections (1933):

The verb 'to sit' should be eliminated from our vocabulary where riding is concerned, for the idea it conveys is intrinsically misleading. Were it not for its indecorous connotation the word 'perch' would more aptly suggest the position that the rider should assume in what is commonly described as the 'forward' seat.

I still like to perch, particularly at a fast trot and even at a canter (half-seat). But when I am nervous, or when I feel like I cannot relax on a horse, I try to achieve "slouchness"! It is the only thing I've tried that helps me get the tension out.

I've always liked this video. I've never tried cutting, but I spent so much time on a spinning Arabian mare that I appreciate this...and Bandit has moved like this in response to a threatening trash can:

Celeste and CopperLove like this.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
bsms is offline  
post #62 of 85 Old 04-12-2019, 01:12 AM
Trained
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Arizona
Posts: 6,285
• Horses: 0
bsms, your post about "slouching" made me do some thinking. For years I would ride by bracing against my stirrups. And I can still find myself doing that if I am nervous. However what seemed to have happened naturally (it only took about 20 years I guess!) is that when I relax I find myself balancing on my pelvis and have only enough weight in my stirrups to keep my feet in them. As a matter of fact, sometimes my feet work themselves out of the stirrups if I'm not paying attention. But I actually think I have found a really good balanced riding position that I seem to do naturally now. I don't think it looks like a slouch, but it sort of feels like a slouch, sort of like I've melted into the saddle and I'm balancing on my pelvis. My legs just sort of drape nicely. So I wonder if that is close to the slouching analogy.

This is more for the original poster: It helps to have a saddle that is comfortable for the rider. Not all saddles are created equal and that probably goes especially for western saddles. They come in so many different shapes. So if someone says they aren't comfortable in a western saddle I immediately think maybe it is the saddle......either the seat isn't right or the stirrup leathers are too stiff and not turned. I personally really love a ranch saddle, like a wade or slick seat type of saddle. Ropers are okay. And I detest equitation seats. But that's just me, someone surely must be comfortable in those equitation saddles. Anyway, before a person assumes it's their riding or body that makes it uncomfortable to ride western, I would suggest trying a totally different saddle just to be sure it's not the saddle causing the problem.
bsms and CopperLove like this.

There's a lot of stupid out there!
trailhorserider is offline  
post #63 of 85 Old 04-12-2019, 07:23 AM
Started
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines
Posts: 2,103
• Horses: 1
Quote:
Originally Posted by trailhorserider View Post
bsms, your post about "slouching" made me do some thinking. For years I would ride by bracing against my stirrups. And I can still find myself doing that if I am nervous. However what seemed to have happened naturally (it only took about 20 years I guess!) is that when I relax I find myself balancing on my pelvis and have only enough weight in my stirrups to keep my feet in them. As a matter of fact, sometimes my feet work themselves out of the stirrups if I'm not paying attention. But I actually think I have found a really good balanced riding position that I seem to do naturally now. I don't think it looks like a slouch, but it sort of feels like a slouch, sort of like I've melted into the saddle and I'm balancing on my pelvis. My legs just sort of drape nicely. So I wonder if that is close to the slouching analogy.

This is more for the original poster: It helps to have a saddle that is comfortable for the rider. Not all saddles are created equal and that probably goes especially for western saddles. They come in so many different shapes. So if someone says they aren't comfortable in a western saddle I immediately think maybe it is the saddle......either the seat isn't right or the stirrup leathers are too stiff and not turned. I personally really love a ranch saddle, like a wade or slick seat type of saddle. Ropers are okay. And I detest equitation seats. But that's just me, someone surely must be comfortable in those equitation saddles. Anyway, before a person assumes it's their riding or body that makes it uncomfortable to ride western, I would suggest trying a totally different saddle just to be sure it's not the saddle causing the problem.
The bolded part reminds me of the wonderful descriptions of balanced riding given here from time to time by forum member @TXhorseman .


Sir, would you be so kind as to repeat it here?
CopperLove likes this.
Cordillera Cowboy is offline  
post #64 of 85 Old 04-12-2019, 11:01 AM
Showing
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 11,892
• Horses: 4

I'm posting this picture again because I've seen dressage riders oversell position E, while Littauer and others oversold position F. Position G is a good defensive seat although she is too tense. Some slouch would help.

For walking a horse in the arena or twisting between cactus, E works well - but there is a good reason why jockeys don't use it! When I'm tense, I really try to slouch. Not because it is "good", but because trying to slouch helps me to get tension out of me so I can ride more like E - which is sometimes a good way to ride.

I can't speak to English riding, but for western, the best description of E that I've ever seen is @trailhorserider 's - "I find myself balancing on my pelvis and have only enough weight in my stirrups to keep my feet in them...sort of like I've melted into the saddle and I'm balancing on my pelvis. My legs just sort of drape nicely."

When Larry Trocha was asked why he didn't teach "E" for cutting and reining, he replied it was because he didn't want his students to fall off! I think most experienced riders instinctively transition to something like G when coaxing a horse past something or when working a young horse who doesn't know what to do.

And yet...when I trot, I revert to Piero Santini's "perch", trying to get off the back entirely. A sitting trot increases peak pressures on the horse's back 25% over two-point (standing in the stirrups). Posting, as best I can find, does the same thing half of the time, but the other half of the time has peak pressures identical to sitting. Cantering in the arena or over a rough trail, I sit the canter. But along a better stretch of trail, cantering in a half-seat encourages Bandit to stretch out. Maybe too much. He used to compete in races on the Navajo Nation and will really haul butt with some encouragement.

Quote:
Throughout this book you will often read that the forward seat unites the rider with the horse moving ahead in a forward balance. If you read Chapter III, you will know that the above phrase is much more intricate than it sounds for the horse's balance is fluid, and correspondingly fluid must perforce be the rider's seat. The illustrations depicting the mechanics of the forward seat should be accepted with the understanding that they all represent really a moment an ideal moment but not a movement.

In actuality neither the horse nor the rider are static; a slow-motion picture camera shows the split seconds during which both rider and horse are caught in such a position as would not seem true to the naked eye. All the above is said here to caution you not to be a wooden soldier and freeze in position as a rider in your favorite picture. After all, a good seat is primarily important as one of the means of riding well.

At first when learning how to ride you must think about your position all the time, and in this period of your learning your picture matters a great deal. But later, when the contour of your position is correct, when your spring, grip, balance, etc. are working effectively then there are only two criteria of your position; a) are you in fluid balance and rhythm with your horse or not? b) does your seat enable you to control your horse efficiently?

- VS Littauer, Common Sense Horsemanship
Position is a key that unlocks the door to balance. Balance is the goal, but it must be experienced. The more dynamic the situation, the more our balance needs to be fluid. "Are you in fluid balance and rhythm with your horse or not?" After 10 years, I'm still challenged! Every ride....
Celeste and CopperLove like this.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"

Last edited by bsms; 04-12-2019 at 11:10 AM.
bsms is offline  
post #65 of 85 Old 04-12-2019, 06:40 PM
Started
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: Plano, Texas
Posts: 1,679
• Horses: 0
If you’ve ever carried someone on your shoulders – or even your back – you soon realized that the better they sat the easier they were to carry. This same principal applies to horses; the better we sit, the easier it is for a horse to carry us.

If my center of gravity is centered over my horse’s center of gravity, my horse can move almost as if I am not even on his back. I have witnessed horses moving better under 300 pound men who are well balanced than under girls who weigh less than 100 pounds but are unbalanced.

How can we sit more balanced? About five hundred years before the birth of Christ, a Greek general by the name of Xenophon wrote that a rider should sit as though standing rather than sitting. This describes the traditional head over shoulders over hips over heels position. Is this the only balanced position? I can lean forward and still stay in balance. But I must make changes to the rest of my body. I must bend my knees and project my rear to the rear in order to keep my center of gravity over my feet.

If the design of a saddle allows, it is easiest to sit as though standing. But even in this position, a number of things may influence our horse’s ability to move.

If I sit with stiff muscles, my horse tends to stiffen his muscles. When my horse tenses his muscles, he cannot move as well as when he is not tense.

Instead, I can release the tension in my muscles. If I do so, the muscles in my upper body expand. Then, the bones of my spine can easily stack one above another with their natural shock-absorbing curves. My bones, then, support my weight and my muscles are free to move subtly and easily to keep my upper body in balance.

At the same time, releasing unnecessary tension in my muscles allows gravity to help me ride better. My seat settles deeply into the saddle. My legs wrap around the rounded sides of my horse without me having to tense my muscles to achieve the same effect. Gravity also pulls my legs downward. Gravity holds my feet to the stirrups just as it holds my feet to the ground when I am standing. I don’t have to push my feet down. Since there are no stirrups under my heels, gravity can pull them lower than my toes if my muscles are relaxed. I don’t need to “push” my heels lower which would cause my muscles to tense unnecessarily.

If I sit relaxed (read: without unnecessary tension) and balanced and allow my body to move easily with my horse’s body. My horse can move more freely without unnecessary tension in his body. When my horse is relaxed, he is able to feel subtle movements in my body and respond easily to them. I no longer need to “make” my horse do things.

Training riders and horses to work in harmony.
www.quietriding.com
www.quietriding.org
TXhorseman is offline  
post #66 of 85 Old 04-12-2019, 07:50 PM
Showing
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 11,892
• Horses: 4
I can stand in the bed of a pickup. Easily. Until the pickup moves. Even then, I'm OK as long as the pickup moves predictably. But horses are more like a pickup driven by a drunk. Or a sadist. Or maybe a driver with a pathological fear of the cattle ahead:


To make things worse, a horse's back moves while the horse is moving.


At a trot, the horse's back is staying relatively level, but goes up and down. We create two moments of pressure. When the horse's back goes up under us, lifting us up in the air. And when we come back down. Unfortunately, those coincide. Our body is still moving down when the horse's back needs to rise. We need to use our legs as shock absorbers to spread the pressure out over a longer time, reducing peak pressures.

But to some degree, depending on skill, rising out of the saddle makes it harder to balance. A stool with 3 legs balances itself. One with 2 cannot.

Now add the shape of the horse's back.


The horse's circumference is smallest where the cinch goes. If we don't put the cinch where the horse is smallest, it will move there - and thus we need to tighten the cinch again! The more inflexible we are, the more our legs will drift like the cinch, seeking the smallest circumference - which isn't under our hips!

Thus the mechanics of riding a horse are far more complex than Xenophon considered. Bandit in a turn at a canter. My feet aren't even at the same spot on both of his sides because my outside foot is helping me handle the turn:


Now...all the OP (or any of us) needs to do is constantly find the perfect compromise between all the conflicting factors. Who said riding was easy...
SueC, mmshiro and CopperLove like this.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
bsms is offline  
post #67 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 01:46 AM
Trained
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
Posts: 7,150
• Horses: 3
Quote:
Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
I like to think of stirrups as ABS: It's nice if they are there if you lose lateral balance, but there's also a chance you can lose them on a ride at whatever pace, and you should not feel as though you can't stay on the horse without them.

I ride in an English saddle, mostly on trails, including up and down ravines. Downhill, I don't lean back so much as continue to stay vertical over the horse's center of gravity. As the horse is tilted downwards, yes, relative to the horse's back I'm tilted backwards, but not with respect to gravity. I keep myself from sliding over the horse's neck by pressing the inside of my thighs against the saddle pads, but I keep my pressure on the stirrups light. Stirrups give you zero support to stay in the saddle if the horse starts sliding or speeds up a little towards the bottom of the hill.

As for stirrup length: A bit shorter is easier for posting the trot, a bit longer is easier for cantering. I had an endurance rider tell me that they actually adjust stirrups on the fly (while moving) depending on what they expect to be doing for a while next: One hole longer for a flat canter stretch, one hole shorter for trotting or jumping. You should definitely play around with different options to get a feel for what makes you feel the most confident.

I don't know if you can do that in a Western saddle equipped with a liver puncturing device (a.k.a. horn), but when my horse goes up a hill, I get off his back into two-point, so he can find it easier to step under himself. It's also an excellent strengthening exercise if you do that for several minutes. I do this for all gaits.

If, as you say, you just started lessons, some of the issues you face are not a matter of being shown what to do, but being able to do it by virtue of your core and leg strength. That's something that'll develop more slowly than your understanding of how to do it correctly.

In any case, riding is a biomechanical and physics exercise. Don't listen to what it is supposed to "look like" if it contradicts basic physical principles. In particular, you want to find a body position that requires minimal sustained muscular effort to maintain - that's where you are in balance, and that's where you can relax the most muscle groups to actively stay with the horse as it moves. Your contact with the horse should be as close to your own center of gravity as possible: it's easier to keep a broom steady if you support it at the balance point rather than the end of the handle. So you want to support your body in the saddle with your butt and thighs, not your feet or hands.

Anyway, I'm just shooting from the hip with this...maybe it'll give you something to contemplate.
There's a lot of excellent responses here (and I've not read everything yet), but I thought this one bore repeating - and I've added emphasis to a really really really important thing that not a lot of horse-riding books or instructors will tell you!

Your personal range of good positions on the horse will depend on your horse, your saddle, your style of riding, what you're doing that day, the way you're anatomically put together, your current level of fitness etc etc.

I personally have really long femurs and therefore prefer to ride "long and relaxed" on trails - almost in dressage position. This is also more or less what happens bareback, which is good practice for secure independent riding (maybe do stirrupless first ). Like many tall people, I'm also something of a hunchback, plus I have mild scoliosis, so I do Pilates to help counter this stuff, and give me core strength for better riding and general everyday life.

This is a side view of my leg position on my riding horse Sunsmart, who'd built like a beer barrel:



It's fine for jumps and galloping too, as long as I don't try Olympic jumping. The best position for you is a very personal thing - and you know you've got it when it feels effortless and allows you to move in harmony with your horse, and you do well together, and neither of you is sore afterwards.

And then you can adapt it, and have spontaneous fun - as happened here:



I'll always remember this moment, on my friend's OTTB, in the Albany Harbour. We were doing a photo-shoot of her and her horse, and at the end of it she asked, "Do you want a go?" Her Rikki-Tikki was a wonderful, mad horse, and Sunsmart's riding buddy when we had him agisted, before we moved to our farm, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to frolic in the water with this lovely, huge, personality-plus horse. Only thing is, her stirrup leathers were too short for me even at full extension, so I had to ride him stirrupless, the first time I rode him! Haha, life is fun. I got soaked like a drowned rat from all the splashing of this horse running through the water on the sandbank beneath. Brett asked me to come up to him for a photo, which we did rather rapidly, and this resulted in a few bits getting cut off the photo and a wonky horizon, but it just so perfectly sums up the ride!

Happy riding, @CopperLove !
bsms and CopperLove like this.

SueC is time travelling.
SueC is offline  
post #68 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 01:53 AM
Trained
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
Posts: 7,150
• Horses: 3
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms View Post
I can stand in the bed of a pickup. Easily. Until the pickup moves. Even then, I'm OK as long as the pickup moves predictably. But horses are more like a pickup driven by a drunk. Or a sadist. Or maybe a driver with a pathological fear of the cattle ahead:



Quote:
Now...all the OP (or any of us) needs to do is constantly find the perfect compromise between all the conflicting factors. Who said riding was easy...
Exactly...

My poor diaphragm! I suppose laughing is good for core strength, and therefore beneficial for riding. So, more comedy is my prescription for today. Like this:

bsms and mmshiro like this.

SueC is time travelling.
SueC is offline  
post #69 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 10:32 AM
Started
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: NW Connecticut
Posts: 2,430
• Horses: 1
True story: It is really helpful to have someone look critically at how you ride in order to prevent bad habits from sneaking in.

When I canter, my legs are draped around Hamlets girth in order to maximize the amount of contact I have. I had gotten used to how that feels when I started riding Everest, my new lesson horse. However, he is a much slimmer boy, so the bottom of my calves don't touch his body. That was okay during walk and trot, but when it came to the canter, I subconsciously tried to recreate the sensation I had on Hamlet, but instead of draping my legs around him I started tilting them back - which I didn't notice until the instructor pointed it out. (Keep in mind that, through all this, I my torso did not tilt forward and my seat still followed the canter.) I'm just glad I didn't have to watch a video of this...since I know better.

The lesson after that, I made that mistake part of my mental check list and had no further problem with keeping my feet under my seat. I rationally accepted that there would be "no horse" to touch with my lower calves/feet, and that's what allowed me to keep my lower legs in an appropriate position.

I guess the new horse induced some cognitive dissonance temporarily, but that's exactly why I look for opportunities to ride different horses. Experience comes from doing 1,000 things, not doing 1 thing 1,000 times.
mmshiro is offline  
post #70 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 11:13 AM
Showing
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 11,892
• Horses: 4
I tilt forward at a canter all the time. It is part of a forward seat. Looks like I'm hitting the saddle here, but my legs are taking a lot of the motion and my rump barely touches the sheepskin. In the arena, Bandit doesn't find cantering exciting and I try to be as light as I can on his back. On a trail, I'll be more upright and sit deeper. Get too light on a trail and he may shift into race mode. That scares me because the trails are uneven and rocky and I worry about him falling. I have a mental picture of myself sliding face first thru the cactus, and/or Bandit with a broken leg.


Posting the video for honesty's sake. I'm not a competitor. Not an instructor. Not God's gift to horses. I just try different things and see how my horse responds. I'll add this: Watching people ride in slow motion reveals things a lot of us might not like to see. I think that is because real riding isn't at all like the pictures seen in books. This shows professional riders showing young horses up for sale. I vary between leaning forward and vertical. They vary between vertical and leaning back. You can also see their knees sliding into their knee blocks, something my saddles do not have. As @SueC puts it, "Your personal range of good positions on the horse will depend on your horse, your saddle, your style of riding, what you're doing that day, the way you're anatomically put together, your current level of fitness etc etc."

I ride a few hours a week. I will never ride like a pro. I can't. I'm not athletic enough. I took Motrin after getting out of bed this morning! How I compromise may be very different from what is best for someone else!

Celeste, SueC and CopperLove like this.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
bsms is offline  
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.



User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in









Old Thread Warning
This thread is more than 90 days old. When a thread is this old, it is often better to start a new thread rather than post to it. However, If you feel you have something of value to add to this particular thread, you can do so by checking the box below before submitting your post.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
length of horse vs length of horse trailer cwilko75 Horse Trailers 7 05-03-2014 10:27 PM
Stirrup Placement and different leg length Muriel Horse Riding & Horse Activity 8 08-09-2013 06:26 PM
whip length and girth length? Rachel1786 Dressage 32 03-04-2013 05:10 PM
Stirrup length, losing stirrups and knee pain D: LovesMyDunnBoy Horse Riding & Horse Activity 11 01-16-2012 09:22 AM
Issue with stirrup length and knee pain Rachel1786 English Riding 5 10-11-2011 10:34 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome