Which part of the leg should I be using? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 01:39 PM Thread Starter
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Which part of the leg should I be using?

Two and a half years of riding, and I'm still asking questions like this.

When I am asking my horse to leg yield, which part of my leg am I supposed to be using? I'm just starting to realize how bad my leg and foot position is, and I think it may be leading to me using the wrong part of my leg. Should I be using my thigh or my calf?

Also, when my instructor says I should be using my leg to support him in turns, how exactly am I supposed to be using my leg? I've been trying to push inward with my whole leg, but this makes me brace and then I get stiff and I start to lose a stirrup.
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post #2 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 01:59 PM
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I'm not good at explaining and I think the leg yielding depends on you and your horse. I have gotten really stiff trying to put leg on one side and then trying to make sure I have no leg on the other. I realized recently that all I need to do (with my horse) is kind of flap? Wiggle? I don't know how to word it but I'm doing lower towards my ankle. I'm not maintaining steady pressure - I'm kind of tap-taping maybe? I can't figure out how to describe it but it's kind of in my heel/calf. I have noticed that the horse and the rider have to come up with their own little communication there. I use that for 2 of mine though and it works.


For the circle I use more than just leg. I use my inside leg to keep him bent but then I use my outside rein to keep him from falling out and I will use outside leg if I need to for keeping him in line if that makes sense. I'm not a good explainer but what I can tell you is that if you over think it, your body will get stiff and you will lean to one side or the other and you will over compensate. Try doing it with your eyes closed. It helps.
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post #3 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farmpony84 View Post
I have noticed that the horse and the rider have to come up with their own little communication there. I use that for 2 of mine though and it works.

For the circle I use more than just leg. I use my inside leg to keep him bent but then I use my outside rein to keep him from falling out and I will use outside leg if I need to for keeping him in line if that makes sense. I'm not a good explainer but what I can tell you is that if you over think it, your body will get stiff and you will lean to one side or the other and you will over compensate. Try doing it with your eyes closed. It helps.
Eyes closed, hmm, maybe at a walk. I think you're really right about horse and rider coming up with the kind of communication that works for them.

You're probably also right about over thinking and becoming stiff. I can do impressive (to me at least) physical things with my body if all I'm thinking about is the goal (jump from one jutting out rock to another jutting out rock without tipping over, for instance) but when I start trying to think about things like what exactly I should be doing with various parts of my body in order to do some particular physical, I get completely discombobulated and tend to fall over.

I'm just starting to worry that I'm developing muscles in the wrong place. I also noticed that when I have my feet in the more "correct" heels down position I tend to use my calves more, whereas with my normal position (feet parallel to ground) I tend to use my thighs more.

It would help if Pony weren't still somewhat green. He still needs some support when cantering to the left, and I don't feel like I am currently able to provide that for him. I guess we'll just keep taking things slowly and eventually we'll get there. It's a good thing neither one of us have any grand goals.

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Last edited by ACinATX; 09-10-2020 at 02:19 PM.
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post #4 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 02:25 PM
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I think it sort of depends on the individual horse. Some you have no choice about what part you use, because you just have to use the part that reaches them!!

Personally I have a bad habit of riding off the back of my leg and cueing with my heels. This is not ideal. I try instead to think of using the little bump of my inside ankle bone as the place I press with. Keeps my foot and leg in better alignment.
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post #5 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post


It would help if Pony weren't still somewhat green. He still needs some support when cantering to the left, and I don't feel like I am currently able to provide that for him. I guess we'll just keep taking things slowly and eventually we'll get there. It's a good thing neither one of us have any grand goals.
I was having issues with a sloppy canter myself. My horse was almost feeling like he was crooked or going to flop over. He was really unbalanced so my trainer told me I wasn't allowed to canter at home for a while. I was only to focus on the trot. Perfect the trot and the canter will come he said... Sounds silly but I went home and did my homework and when I went to my next lesson - the canter was beautiful. It was crazy how much just working on the trot helped the canter.

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post #6 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by farmpony84 View Post
I was having issues with a sloppy canter myself. My horse was almost feeling like he was crooked or going to flop over. He was really unbalanced so my trainer told me I wasn't allowed to canter at home for a while. I was only to focus on the trot. Perfect the trot and the canter will come he said... Sounds silly but I went home and did my homework and when I went to my next lesson - the canter was beautiful. It was crazy how much just working on the trot helped the canter.
One of my instructors calls it "motorcycling", where they just tip in a whole bunch when they are turning. I actually had the same thought about the trot and, particularly, about really thinking about bending his whole body when we turn (particularly at the trot). Part of the problem with his left lead is that he still wants to counterbend on that side a little (not as much as he used to), so it's hard to set him up nicely for the correct lead. With the weather cooling off a bit I'm going to start riding him a little outside of lessons, and I think we'll do a lot of work on serpentines. Yay, serpentines. He is getting better with the canter, and I think part of it is that he's using his body a lot better at the trot lately.
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post #7 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 02:59 PM
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I spent almost a month doing circles. Only circles...
Attached Images
File Type: jpg circle.jpg (197.4 KB, 5 views)
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post #8 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
Two and a half years of riding, and I'm still asking questions like this.

When I am asking my horse to leg yield, which part of my leg am I supposed to be using? I'm just starting to realize how bad my leg and foot position is, and I think it may be leading to me using the wrong part of my leg. Should I be using my thigh or my calf?

Also, when my instructor says I should be using my leg to support him in turns, how exactly am I supposed to be using my leg? I've been trying to push inward with my whole leg, but this makes me brace and then I get stiff and I start to lose a stirrup.

I press with my whole calf and slightly drop my heel on that side which adds a bit of hip to it also. How you have your toe turned makes a difference the way I do it, and I'd describe toe straight as light and toe out at a 45 as the strong version of the same cue. Of course I also ride with spurs so that 45 degree version is where spur contact tends to happen.

Then there is where you put your leg. In the normal riding position leg pressure is basically lateral. If you move your leg a couple inches forward or normal that pressure moves the front end. If you move your leg back a couple inches from normal it moves the hind end.

For big lateral movements you "open the door" by taking the opposite side leg off the horse which sort of gives them a place to go.

I think what your instructor may be talking about is that you can "shape" your horse in a turn with your leg. For example if you are moving on a circle and need to widen it you can use some inside leg, if you need to narrow it some you can use some outside leg. This is actually the only reliable way to ride a perfect circle because you can make fine adjustments with your legs (with lots of practice) to shape or guide the horse with pressure on/off inside or outside to stay perfectly on the line.

That's kind of the way I've always done it so if it isn't correct for or what they teach in proper Dressage, we'll it's worth what it cost you :)
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post #9 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 04:45 PM
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a green horse, and a green rider (not that you are green) can only really focus on one thing at a time. That is why in the French school of dressage they say "Hand without leg, leg without hand". And I interpret this to mean, when you ask with your leg for something, your hand should be passive, and when you ask with your hand, your leg should be still.


The thing is that you do each thing until you get some part of your desired response, and then you may change to the other for your next cue. It's a bit of back and forth, and as the horse becomes more capable of 'hearing ' and responding to one cue at a time, the time between your applying leg and then hand becomes narrower and narrower, until they are almost simultaneous, but never exactly so.


So, what this means to me is that when you have a horse that is leaning hard against an inside rein, counter bent to the outside, you apply rein only for a bit until you get a response to that, a wee bit of softening, THEN you apply leg to ask the horse to step up and into that softness.
So, say, for example, you are circling to the left, counter clockwise. Pony has his nose tipped to the right, and is leaning (motorcycling) toward the center of the circle, 'falling into the circle'.
You are 'legging' him to try and get him to bring his shoulders upright and put a correct bend in his body. You are also putting pressure on the inside rein to ask him to not stick his nose outward. you feel him hard on your inside leg, and leaning on the inside rein. You feel him HARD in his mind and body.


I would suggest abandoning the leg, and getting him to release his outward thought and his lean on the rein, and it might involve coming all the way to a halt, until he finallly lets go of brace on that left rein. When he did, I'd give instantly and let him rest for a sec, then ask for forward, and without even going on a circle, pick up the inside rein,or just flex it lightly with your fingers, and see if he'll flex, give to the rein and let you create softness there. If he does, THEN you put on the inside leg, softly, and 'flutter' it, as @farmpony84 described and you may feel him respond to your leg, AFTER he has responded to the rein.



one, two, one , two . . . ask for softness and flex to the inside, soft leg says 'step over a wee bit', then allow horse to go forward with you in nuetral. Again, again and after a bit, make each half of this equation be closer and closer together, but if things get bad, go back to "soften to the inside' .. . . . reward with big nuetral, but DO NOT reward or quit the rein 'ask', until you do get something.


People always talk about timing as being important with horses, and it is; you must reward very quickly for a good try. But, to often people don't 'stay in there' with their ask long enough to get a response that they can reward. They give in before the hrose does. And thus train in that bad behavior.
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post #10 of 30 Old 09-10-2020, 05:23 PM
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I ride western so it may be different for English but, basically I use my thighs and calves for forward motion cues and for lateral cues I use my calves, ankles and heels. Calves and ankles first and if action is not quick enough then I engage heels with or with out spurs. Always using the least amount of pressure it takes to get the response I want. I like the lightest cues possible. Also, as a horse gets more seasoned I use legs first and reins second.
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