Heels Down, Knees in. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 33 Old 09-10-2019, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Heels Down, Knees in.

I suffered through a bungee stirrup lesson today. My instructor says it's a rite of passage. But anyway, this was just a threat. "Remember to put your heels down thursday!"

My instructor recommended that once I recover tomorrow, that I hold one of my dog's toy balls between my knees and go "up, down."

Anyone have any exercises or tips for keeping them down/in?

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post #2 of 33 Old 09-10-2019, 07:48 PM
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What are your goals in riding? Heels down is...ok, but not critical for most riding. Knees in? Sounds like a fault to me. Unless your dog's ball toy is as big around as your horse, it sounds counterproductive. Even then, it sounds counterproductive.
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post #3 of 33 Old 09-10-2019, 09:56 PM
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My instructor is usually yelling at me to get my knees OFF, so I'm afraid I don't have suggestions on that point. ;) Having the knee against the saddle is good, but you just want it "there," supporting but not gripping.

As for heels, stair stretches are good.
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post #4 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 12:33 AM
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Out of curiosity, what is a "bungee stirrup?"
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post #5 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 03:15 AM
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A rider's knee should be flat against the saddle, not gripping, unless it involves an untoward movement of the horse. Then it is there ready to grip along with the inner thigh.
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post #6 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 10:52 AM
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Heels should not be forced down. This creates tension in the leg and is counter productive. The heels should automatically fall into the lowered position when relaxed due to stirrup length, rider position relative to the stirrups, and body position.

IMO, the most destructive thing instructors can do is to continually tell their students to keep your heels down. Heels not down is simply an indication that adjustments need to be made elsewhere.

Adjustments that result in relaxed heels down is an indication of a slight amount of leg weight in the stirrup that can instantly be increased when needed. If the adjustment is in such a way that the toes hang down, then it is more difficult and time consuming to put pressure in the stirrup to rise if needed.
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post #7 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 11:20 AM
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I am not sure what style of riding you are doing. Reading over the comments, you can see how the type of riding you do would influence how you feel about heels being down, or knees on or off the horses side.

Let's get to the point though... you are asking for exercise tips.

I use curbs and stairs to stretch the back of my calves and to push my heels down. I think it makes it easier to sink into your heels when you are on the horse.

I will also occasionally do standing leg lifts, similar to high knees, but I lift my leg slowly and keep my heels down while I do it.

I didn't find squats to be helpful at all.
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post #8 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 11:43 AM
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Once I spent 3 weeks riding at an Andalusian horse farm. During that time, I mentioned that nobody kept their heels down when riding. They looked at me and said, "Why would anybody want their heels down?"

"They" consisted of 3 Spanish riders. 4 German riders, and 2 riders from Bahrain.
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post #9 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 03:49 PM
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Generally, I think gripping with your knees tends to make it even harder to keep the weight down in your heels.
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post #10 of 33 Old 09-11-2019, 04:43 PM
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"Heels down" looks pretty but is not a effective way of riding continually.
The fact your lower leg is a shock absorber for your body movement, to "force a posture" is not in your best interest.
A soft lower leg that drapes, wraps gently around the horses barrel that you can make contact using the entire inner leg is far more encouraged than a gripping knee which then causes a loose and pendulum swinging lower leg = more problems with higher levels of riding loss of communication.
A heel that is level, slightly lower was taught to me to be far more a communicator than a rock hard leg that is unforgiving in vice-grip makes dead sides and reduced communication.
What you really want is a quiet leg...
One that will move a soft, slight amount as your body moves in unison with the horse.
A heel that is consistent, steady and can give cues but also can feel the horse move their ribcage as you direct it, can feel the horses deep breaths that can clue you in to a horse reaching their limits of exhaustion...your legs are a wealth of information if you learn to listen to them.

As for "bungee-stirrup lesson" I am thinking your instructor tied your stirrups to each other with a strap under the horses belly forcing your leg to hold in one position or tied your foot in your stirrup and then to the horses side...
In either case, don't ever allow anyone to tie your feet to the horse...
Accidents happen, disasters are made by someone not thinking through what the action they just inflicted on another just set them up for serious injury.
You being restricted just got you dragged and hurt if you lost your balance and fell...you can't move your leg to kick free!
If they tied your foot into a stirrup...same thing...you're trapped.
Think carefully what you allow someone to do to your safety.

A quiet leg, one with a steady heel and lower leg can take years to develop.
With proper equitation, alignment of the body, correct saddle for the rider, all the things you are working toward come together without putting your safety in jeopardy.
Do question why that was done to you and do question if the instructor thought about the risks to you if you should of fallen for whatever the reason...accidents happen!

As for what can you do to help your lower leg...
Stair bounces...balance on the balls of your feet on a step or curb...gently bounce up and down and you will feel the pull from your buttocks down the back of your legs, through the hamstrings and Achilles tendon "s-t-r-e-t-c-h"....
Do not over-do this or any exercise and do it gently or you can pull and hurt/damage yourself.
When you feel the stretch, stop pushing and just hold that position for a count to 5...build up in repetitions to 5 and hold for count of 5, do 3 sets of them...over a short period of time you will be able to stretch farther and deeper and hold it longer before you "feel" the beginning of a burn...and quit, enough!

You can also walk on your heels as that develops your muscles...
Lunges,...with feet left flat on the floor, bend into and down as far as you can go doing both sides evenly.
You can also use a staircase and place one foot 2 -3 steps higher, foot flat on the floor and move forward as a log {straight} so again you feel the stretch in the back of the leg and buttocks...
If you do to many, to much or force the stretch you will pull muscle, tendon and ligaments and limp for days or longer...a little goes a long way!
A ball between you knees...no, not me.
A beach ball between your calves...now do some bends from the hip and knee, back straight and lower the body in align keeping foot flat...that develops muscle control and strength along with endurance to the muscles.
Some things to try, not all work for everyone and not all are good for every body build to do either...
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