someone help i dont know what to do with my knees - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 08:35 AM Thread Starter
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someone help i dont know what to do with my knees

okay so my coach tells me to open my knee but when I do that my feet/toes stick out like a duck and I try to bend them in but it either closes my knee or hurts my ankles but my coach doesn't mind about my feet sticking out. I have also had another coach that made me point my toes in which wasn't very comfortable as your ankle can only bend so far to the side. So I did some research and apparently, you aren't supposed to open your knee but have it on the saddle yet not grip with it and this, in turn, will also stop your toes from pointing out. I need help I don't know what is the right thing to do and what is wrong. I'm a beginner rider (english) I have been riding for six months now as I started riding later than most at 14, so as my username suggests I am pretty clueless. All feedback welcome :)
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post #2 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 08:48 AM
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I'll let others make their guesses at what that means.

But don't feel bad for not knowing. I've been riding for more than 40 years. I've shown hunters, work on ranches, and play polo. And, I have no idea what that means! I'm curious.
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post #3 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 08:57 AM
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Listen to your coach! S/he's giving you good advice. There are different ways to use your knees, and when you're starting to ride it's extremely tempting to grip with them -- which does very bad things to your position and the horse's movement. You're better off learning to be able to keep your knee off at first, because gripping will be a hard habit to break.

Don't worry about your feet for now. And don't try to force your toes in. You will eventually be able to move your knees without totally turning your toes out.

When I started riding again three years ago, I had total duck feet. It got better with time. You just need to keep riding and you'll get stronger and more flexible and it will fix itself.

This is all me in this image, over the course of two and a half years. My position has gotten even better since. Note that the toes-out stopped being an issue after about a year and a half (second picture)!
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post #4 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 08:59 AM
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Depends on what style you are riding. The only "wrong" is if you are gripping with the knee.

When jumping, having your toes out and the knee off allows you to sink into the heel more and locks your leg down tighter. This helps with security over fences.

With a more dressage leg in mind, you want the foot hanging parallel to their side. The knee rests against the saddle but doesn't grip. To achieve this has less to do with the knee and ankle, and more to do with the hips. The hips need to be flexible and open enough to allow the leg to rotate.

To open the hips, you can do leg swings in the saddle, keeping the seat still and moving the whole leg from the hip back and forth. This will probably hurt. You can also pull the bull of your thigh muscle out behind you leg, laying the flat part of the muscle against the saddle(probably explained that terribly).

Using lesson horses and their tack makes this hard, but the horses back and twist of the saddle can greatly hamper efforts. Of the twist or horse is too wide, its impossible for the hips to rotate in as they should, as they must rotate outwards to accommodate the width.
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post #5 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 10:08 AM
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Explaining the leg position from the origin of the hip makes more sense to me. As does avoiding gripping with the knees.
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post #6 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 12:47 PM
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I started at 50 instead of 14, so please don't feel like you are starting late! Jim Wofford wrote:

"Returning to position adjustments, while still at the halt, rise in your stirrups as if you were posting the trot. Allow your heels to sink down and your toes to turn out slightly, though do not attempt to keep your feet at some pre-determined angle to your horse's body. Frank Chapot, a member of the U.S. Show Jumping Hall of Fame, says it best when he tells us to ride with our feet at the same angle as that with which we walk. Again, you want to ride where your joints align correctly..."

That remains the best advice I know of for where your feet should end up. My left foot always sticks out more than my right, be it jogging, riding, or standing in the shower. Oh well. I've never seen any sign my horse cares, although it might be an issue if I wore spurs and/or rode competitively. FWIW, I like my leg relaxed but not mush. I don't want to brace. Don't want to grip with the knee. But I don't want it just hanging loose. I'm riding western, but Jim Wofford is more into English riding...and what he says works for me too.
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post #7 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 03:16 PM
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yeah, I always wonder where 14 year old people get the idea that they are 'starting late'. They must be in a world where the norm is to start at 7 or 8.

At that age you hardly have control of your body, let alone your mind. Fourteen is a great age to start! (having myself more or less started at 40).


I've never heard of literally being instructed to ride with your knee off the saddle like @SteadyOn is talking about. How interesting. It's a form of incorrect position that prepares you to take on a correct position.



You learn something every day!
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post #8 of 17 Old 12-12-2018, 03:35 PM
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Don't worry so much about your feet.

Sit in the saddle and lift your thigh from underneath and behind, with your hand on that side, and pull up and back. What you are doing is pulling that thick muscle away from the saddle surface, freeing up your knee to lie flatter against the saddle. It's a lot easier to demonstrate than describe. You'll suddenly feel "pigeon-toed" if you are doing it right. This will help with the toes sticking out, which is not the real problem -- the real issue is that your upper leg is not in a good contact position. The toes are an indicator of that.
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post #9 of 17 Old 12-15-2018, 04:44 PM
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Could she be trying to get you to over exaggerate the idea, like if your pinching with your knees by taking them off a ton at first, you will then find your leg goes into correct position after. If that makes sense at all. Like just last night in my lesson, I was moving my arm enough so my coach telling me to exaggerate it actually got me moving my arm just enough.
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post #10 of 17 Old 12-15-2018, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cluelesshorseriderhelp View Post
okay so my coach tells me to open my knee but when I do that my feet/toes stick out like a duck and I try to bend them in but it either closes my knee or hurts my ankles but my coach doesn't mind about my feet sticking out. I have also had another coach that made me point my toes in which wasn't very comfortable as your ankle can only bend so far to the side. So I did some research and apparently, you aren't supposed to open your knee but have it on the saddle yet not grip with it and this, in turn, will also stop your toes from pointing out. I need help I don't know what is the right thing to do and what is wrong. I'm a beginner rider (english) I have been riding for six months now as I started riding later than most at 14, so as my username suggests I am pretty clueless. All feedback welcome :)

I ride in a Western saddle so it may be a bit different. If it's a question of 'wait, how is this supposed to go?' - The diagrams in Sally Swift's "Centered Riding" made a lot of visual sense to me - thinking of your body as an interconnected series of blocks, of which your legs are part. The blocks have to all be balanced together. I try lately to think of my body as a tree, my legs as roots, my horse as the ground. My roots grow long and deep, settling my trunk into the ground but allowing me to flex.


If it's a question of flexibility ... that will come in time. After lesson, my trainer usually has me stretch a bit in the saddle. (personally, I also do other things where flexibility is required, so I stretch outside of riding too.) I am guessing at 14 you can't exactly join a gym. :) Does anyone you know have one of those big pilates balls? I found it helped me a lot to sit astride one as if it was a horse, and toss around a ball or do upper body exercises.


My trainer had me play a game where she put leaves between my knees and the saddle, and the goal was to (sans stirrups, as I recall) get through the lesson without dropping the leaves, but keeping the rest of the leg in proper position.


Working without stirrups also helped my leg position a great deal. Sometimes I find I get a bit stiff with my foot in the stirrup and I take it out and flex the ankle and knee on longer rides.
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