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Building lower leg strength

1343 Views 23 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Part-Boarder
I’m making progress in my lessons and identified that many of my long-standing problems can be solved by building flexibility or strength between lessons.

Another issue that would help me improve my riding is having enough power for the horse to feel when I have my leg on. This would be for extending the posting trot, engaging the hind, getting more energy into the sitting trot - ie the leg press that would accompany each step when I want the horse to be more active in the hind or step bigger (note: any errors in describing this are mine not my riding coach’s).

I think it’s a leg strength issue as my coach says my leg is in the correct spot she just can’t see the squeeze and I get a bit worse at it though the course of the lesson as my legs get tired.

So just wondering what exercises I can do to help build that lower leg strength. It’s a bit of an unusual thing to be pushing inwards like that other than for riding so I could see why those muscles would be weak.

I got a weighted ball and am thinking of doing leg lefts of some kind. I also started trying to press my leg against my other leg or maybe I could do that against a door way.

Also wondering if it should be pressing with my heel rather than my leg? I’ll probably clarify that with my coach but welcome any refinements in my thinking as well.

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Think of your cues as communication rather than pushing mechanical buttons.

The pressure needed to press a mechanical button is dependent on the resistance the button provides. For example: Is a weak spring holding the button in the neutral position or is a strong spring employed. It is somewhat understandable than people may think a similar situation occurs with horses depending on what the horse is accustomed to feeling.

Thinking of cues as a means of communication calls for a different way of thinking. Every rider's cues are somewhat different even if applied in approximately the same place. Mitigating factors may include the length of the rider's legs, the circumference of various leg parts, muscle strength, etc. These differences may be thought of as different accents or dialects even if the same approximate word is being employed.

An old television commercial said: "If you want someone's attention, whisper." The meaning was that one didn't need to shout (use a great deal of force) to get a point across.

The less intensity is employed, the easier it is to make distinctions or subtle differences. Timing of cues can also make a big difference. For example, a horse's foot can only move when it is off the ground. Therefore, applying the cue as the foot is coming off the ground generally proves more beneficial than when the foot is firmly planted on the ground. Of course it takes time for cues to transform from a thought to muscular action, so timing may be thought to vary.

Again, thinking of communication, the respondent may not understand the "word" being use, so another similar word may need to be employed. "Listening" to how the horse responds should tell you if you need to try a different "word".

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950 Posts
@Part-Boarder I just watched this video on Youtube from one of my favourite channels, they just posted it today, and I thought you would like it. It is specifically about hip strength and mobility, but really it is applicable to strength/mobility of any body part and it really relates to what you are doing with work off the horse to improve your strength and mobility. You seem to be like me (I also think off-horse workouts are important) and know that just riding more is not going to give you the improvements you are looking for, and I think what they talk about in this video really backs that up.

To me, I don't see your original question as "how do I build leg strength so I can apply a stronger aid" but more "how do I build leg strength so I have enough strength at an extended range to apply my aid effectively?" and that is probably a quiet aid that you are aiming for but at the moment you lack the strength in an extended range. Or you have some strength in the extended range but not enough to last a lesson, which is when you begin to feel ineffective when you are tired. And I think it actually takes more strength in specific muscles to apply an aid quietly and effectively than it does to flail our legs around and give a bigger kick (which we use a different part of the leg to instigate). So I totally get why you are asking this and it is something I work on myself.

I really love Upright Health (who the video is from) they have a lot of stuff about hip and leg strengthening and focus on increasing your strength in extended range. Their videos have really helped me a lot (both with riding and with just generally having healthy hips so I can sleep well at night.
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