Leg Position, Stirrup Length and Trail Riding - Page 8 - The Horse Forum
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post #71 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by CopperLove View Post
Now, the feet forward part was what I didnít understand. The way she was describing it to me, and where she would physically place my foot to show me how to hold my legs felt physically wrong. (Note that I am a complete novice and nothing feels ďrightĒ yet anyway.) I am learning in a western style saddle; the stirrups face sideways instead of forward and I felt like I was fighting the fenders to keep my feet forward, especially as far forward as the owner was instructing me to. I was confused because the bulk of what I have read online talks about keeping alignment with your shoulder, hip and heel and I felt like what I was being asked to do was extending my feet way forward of this aligned position. (Although to be fair, it may also really just have FELT that way. I know that when you are teaching your body something new it can often feel much more awkward than it looks and Iím not able to get a side view of my own body, so my feet may not really have been as far forward as they felt.)
As far as leg position it's hard to say where they are coming from with what they are asking for your leg position. Most western trail riding leg positions should look like the image below.

Image of A western rider in correct position has a relaxed but upright position. ( it sounds like the people teaching you though are trying to have you ride in the Chair position image below


Quote:
I am still trying to understand how long my stirrups should be. At a relaxed position, the stirrups felt right, but once I was attempting to keep my leg in the position the owner asked me to and pushing my legs forward, it almost felt like I was trying to lift myself off the saddle.
Quote:
Could it also be that the saddle seat itself is too small for me? (When trying to keep my legs forward it also felt a little like I was sliding my butt up the back of the saddle.)
One thing with the way the owners are trying to have you ride is this position forces you back in the saddle seat which moves your but up the back of the cantle.



Quote:
The path was nice but fairly steep and going up was the easy part. Coming back down I could really feel what they were trying to say about keeping my feet forward to keep my balance and made me really feel like the stirrups were too short because I was having problems pushing my feet forward to keep from rocking forward in the saddle. I know itís not good to hold onto the saddle horn, but I had my left hand braced against the horn almost all the way down not so much ďclingingĒ but actively pushing my upper body back to keep gravity from pulling me forward and leaning over the saddle.
First off I think your ability to keep gravity from pulling you out of the saddle when riding downhill will improve the more you ride and are able to balance better and you learn to not have to brace so much to keep balance... I live and ride in the mountains so deal with riding in steep conditions all the time. The real key with riding in those conditions is yes some times you may need your feet farther forward to help maintain a good balance going down hills but overall you want to keep a level seat compared to the angle the horse is moving.

Quote:
Anyway, this brought to my attention that perhaps the riding positions for different activities may be slightly different. And how do I figure out what length on the stirrups is best for the length of my legs? Does this sensation of a position feeling physically impossible sound familiar to anyone else from their early days of learning?
For finding proper Stirrup Length this is very Helpful.
How To Determine Correct Stirrup Length
While there are some guidelines, stirrup length ends up being mainly a matter of personal preference. Some folks like to ride with shorter stirrups, some folks with longer ones.

The activity you're involved in can also impact stirrup length. Heading out for an all-day trail ride and you'll probably want the comfort of stirrups on the longer side. Saddling up to train a young horse and you'll probably want the security and feel of shorter stirrups.

There are several good techniques for estimating a starting point for your stirrup length. One method is done from the ground and two are done from the saddle. Many riders will find these techniques will give them the right length. Others will need to adjust the length further to fit their own personal preferences.

From the Ground
A good place to start is to have your stirrups the same length as your arm. With your hand touching where the stirrup leather attaches to the saddle tree (underneath the seat jockey), adjust the length so that the bottom of your stirrup reaches your armpit.
This technique allows you to mount the horse knowing that your stirrups are at the least "in the ballpark," which is a good safety practice.



From the Saddle
Hang your legs down out of the stirrups. Adjust your stirrup so that the bottom of the stirrup is level or slightly below your anklebone.
Stand in the saddle. Adjust your stirrup so that you have a clearance of approximately the width of your fist between your seat and the seat of the saddle.
If you're a beginner rider, you should err on the side of shorter stirrups. You'll have more control while you work on further developing your riding skills.




Quote:
I am also considering starting to do leg and core exercises just to strengthen muscles in my leg and abdomen that clearly need some work. Has anyone ever tried this and does it help with riding? Either way I suppose it couldnít hurt for me to try to be a little more physically fit.
Leg and core exercises can always be helpful with being able to balance in the saddle.

overall though you are still very new and learning. As you learn and gain balance your seat will change and you will learn and develop your own riding style. And as you go out on the trail you will adjust your balance and riding style depending on terrain and your horse. For now, just focus on comfort and learning the proper basics in ridding and adjust from there.

As far as your questions concerns with proper saddle seat size/fit this is some helpful reading.
Western Saddle Seat Size: What Size Am I?

Also here is the link to the reading above on Stirrup length How To Determine Correct Stirrup Length
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post #72 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 03:22 PM
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But I know what I like in a boot.

Sorry for rambling off topic, but imagine really pointy, black Western boots with multi-coloured thread embroidery and high narrow heels. And imagine people nailing pony shoes to the backs of their heels so they can go "click-clack" on the pavement when they are walking. That was a craze amongst certain teenage boys, of which my brother was one, in Germany in the late 70s/early 80s. The other part of the uniform included long, greasy, unwashed hair...
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post #73 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 05:20 PM
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@SueC I couldn't find the unlike button for your post. Long, greasy hair. Noisy walking. Sounds horrible. Lol.
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post #74 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 05:29 PM
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Right up there in repulse factor with the fad of having the waist of your pants buckled BELOW your buttocks, so the crotch is down by your knees, and shuffling along with one hand holding the pants at just the right position to show your striped boxer briefs showing about the 'pants'. GAH!!!
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post #75 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 06:29 PM
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And that was my first introduction to Western boots, as a young child. It set up...associations. However, I feel better now because on HF I've come across so many normal people wearing Western boots for perfectly sensible reasons...

@tinyliny , I hated that too, it was so gross. I associate that particular stupidity with grunge, for some reason, which is a genre I don't enjoy either.

PS: My husband the music encyclopaedia just woke up and told me that the grunge uniform was ripped jeans and dirty T-shirts, and that those pant-wearing fads were more by "hip hop/rap afficionados, particularly the really stupid ones".... so I must have got that by association, by what was playing on the radio when I saw the most of that...
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Last edited by SueC; 04-13-2019 at 06:37 PM.
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post #76 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 09:43 PM
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grunge started in my city: Seattle. proud parents!
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post #77 of 85 Old 04-13-2019, 10:49 PM
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I won't hold it against you personally!

Nice things came out of Seattle too. And also beautiful art gets made there, by people like you.
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post #78 of 85 Old 04-15-2019, 08:58 AM Thread Starter
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Again, had this typed out Friday and then left work an forgot about itÖ when I spend weekends at my parentís place they donít have internet and I donít get great connection on my phone out here either.

@bsms Iíll have to remember that the next time I am trying to tell myself to relax. My mare has thankfully not been very spooky so far. Iíve never had her out on a trail though so I know that could change, we havenít experienced a lot together yet. But she has a tendency to go something like, ďI know you told me to stop, but why should I stop?Ē Which makes me extremely nervous. I think a big part of that could be my anxiety in the saddle. My tension and leaning forward donít give a very clear cue to stop even though I ease back on the reins.

The handful of times I have ridden her before the barn move, I think she did remarkably well for a horse that had only been ridden once in a year and a half, and had a new, unbalanced rider in the saddle. I think once I can relax a little and sit correctly sheíll be able to read my cues better. Basically, I know I am biased and quite enamored with her, but I think she has the potential to be great, I just need to get up to her level.

Watching a horse and rider cut cattle is amazing to meÖ Itís a bit like watching dressage to me. A completely different discipline, but to an untrained eye like mine I canít even tell what cues the rider is giving the horse, and you can really see how different postures work for different situations and sports.

@trailhorserider One of my roommates from college who was an animal science major and lives closer to my parents now came to spend this past weekend with us. She took two semesters of riding classes at the university but I think they mostly if not always rode indoors in the arena (Iím guessing they were always indoor or at least in a pen outside, because I could image it would be a bad idea to turn multiple students of varying skill levels loose in the great outdoors on horses.)

She has told me multiple times how much more comfortable an English saddle is, etc. etc. and even made a comment about how it was nice to ride without something slamming into your crotch. I didnít say anything because I would still classify her as a beginner, but she does have considerably more experience than I do. But I thoughtÖ if thatís how you feel about a western saddle I donít think it was the correct saddle for you, or you werenít riding correctly.

I believe the old instructor at the university highly favored an English style riding. Which is fine, I know that people trail ride in both kinds of tack and I have looked at English saddles that do look really lovely. In the end itís all about personal preference. But she is also a tiny humanÖ she is the slender kind of person who is so tiny she wasnít able to donate blood in high school because she didnít weigh enough, and had just barely passed the allowable weight when we were in college. I suspect that whatever western saddle she tried was simply too wide for her, and she probably didnít have the opportunity to try many western saddles since it wasnít what her instructor favored. My mother was a petite human when she was younger too and always rode in a western saddle or bareback, so I donít think it was just the saddle.

Also as a side note:
We are also going to have to go back to the ďno stepping on meĒ work. This weekendís halter class adventure ended up being an absolute dangerous train wreck :( We didnít realize how buddy sour she was to my auntís gelding. Sheíd have absolutely killed me to get back to her horse pal without even thinking about it. The theme of this weekís visit to the ranch is going to be getting me a quote for what the actual cost would be to bring her out for a month or two and get a tune-up on her training that I am clearly in no position to give by myself, and train me how to specifically work with her.

"She could be a witch, and he would never build a pyre upon which to burn her thoughts, desires and dreams."
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post #79 of 85 Old 04-26-2019, 09:17 AM Thread Starter
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Just a quick update for everyone who gave me such great advice:

Even though we skipped a lesson last week because of some work related travel and the holiday weekend, this week's lesson felt a lot better. Even though I've only been getting to ride once a week, I feel like having time to read and think about things does help with each time I get to be in the saddle. While it's still so far from perfect, they commented that for only having a lesson once a week my posture has improved a lot and that it no longer looks like I'm "leaning over the handlebars." Ha! I thought that was a good description of what was happening before.

The stirrup length and advice on balance and leg position has helped me tremendously, and while I still think I would prefer a larger saddle seat I do feel a lot more comfortable in the saddle I've been practicing in. I managed to trot in the round pen without feeling too much like I was flopping around like a fish, and they took me on a family ride down the little country road they live on and back. It was the longest I've been in the saddle yet and by the end I could feel the strain in my knees and ankles that we've discussed some people choose stirrup turners to help. I was stiff when I got off, but today the only part of me that's sore is my thighs, nothing else feels strained or bruised and that feels like an accomplishment. My legs are still weak but as my balance slowly improves I'm not straining one side so much more than the other.

Also, from the photos I've been shown and from watching her a bit more I do think the wife rides with a "chair seat". I don't necessarily think that's what they are specifically trying to get me to do. After a few more lessons and a small amount of improvement in my posture I can feel that the "lean back, feet forward, heels down" thing is really just reminding me to overcompensate for my tendency to tense up and lean forward. When I relax a little they stop repeating this and it doesn't feel like an acrobatics act trying to push my feet forward anymore.
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post #80 of 85 Old 04-26-2019, 01:12 PM
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One thing that can help you sit down and back is to think 'sit on your pockets' I use that a lot teaching kids in 4H and it helps get their rears in the saddle. It's easy to 'perch' but a western saddle is meant to be ridden with most of your weight in your seat, and not much in your stirrups unless you're posting the trot. A lot of English riders ride with too-short stirrups and too much weight in the feet to be comfortable in a western saddle. Riding at a walk without stirrups can help you feel where your body naturally settles into the saddle, then adjust your stirrups accordingly so the bottom of the stirrup comes just to the base of your angle bone when your feet are out. You should be able to slide your hand between your crotch and the saddle seat when standing in the stirrups, but generally you don't want much more room than that.


Some western saddles will put you in a chair seat, and some won't. People who spend a lot of time riding colts and rank horses with a tendency to buck will often develop a natural 'chair seat' as a defensive move. A quality saddle that fits you should put you in a balanced seat. It's important to match your saddle, your body, and your horse so that you're comfortable and secure. A lot of times, going up a seat size or two can make a big difference, as can choosing the correct type of saddle. A petite rider will usually be more comfortable in a saddle with a narrower twist, such as a barrel saddle. Cutting saddles have a flat seat that give you more room to move. Roping saddles tend to tilt you slightly forward making it easier to stand in the stirrups to rope. A trail saddle tends to have a flat, padded seat. Some saddles are very wide, others are not. There is a wide variety, so if one isn't comfortable, try something else.
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Last edited by SilverMaple; 04-26-2019 at 01:19 PM.
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