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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So good news! Not losing my stirrups anymore!

Unfortunately, I'm still gripping with my knees/upper leg, especially in canter. Not as much in trot anymore, and not at walk but still. Exercises to help with this? I'm considering to ask if I can do no-stirrup cantering, but I'd have to do that in a lesson cos I haven't done it on Ninja before. I also wanted to try riding my mum's horse more, cos he's got a MASSIVE rocking canter, which really improved my seat before, plus he's a schoolmaster so he's not gonna pull anything with me. I could try no stirrups on him definitely.

But yeah, what would you all recommend? Are those ok ideas?
 

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Elle, 1997 Oldenburg mare
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Another thing that would help: look up some hip opener stretches, and start doing them diligently. I'm finding, in my own riding, that tight knees and tight hips are definitely related.

Better core strength, especially your lower abs, will also help with the knee thing. The more strong and stable your upper body is, the more open and relaxed your lower body can be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Another thing that would help: look up some hip opener stretches, and start doing them diligently. I'm finding, in my own riding, that tight knees and tight hips are definitely related.

Better core strength, especially your lower abs, will also help with the knee thing. The more strong and stable your upper body is, the more open and relaxed your lower body can be.

Thank you! I keep meaning to exercise and do stretches and stuff but...I'm really lazy i guess :ZZZ:
 

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When I started to keep my stirrups it was when I focused on keeping my legs relaxed. NOTE: steering goes haywire. I could urge her forward but not really use my legs (duh) and just did my best to turn my body so we didn't end up through a fence haha. If you have room on the straight though just try it. For me it started off as if i was gonna stand in the stirrups then I held that feeling while relaxing my bum down followed by my legs. It took many tries and attempts before I could get it done in that order quickly. GL!
 

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Just musing on riding stuff in general... after coming back to it as a beyond-rusty 30-something after quitting when I was 17. An intermediate rider suddenly stuck in a complete-beginner body!

Everything is hard. You'll feel like you're never going to get it all sorted out, and to some extent you never will. It's almost impossible to fix more than one thing at a time, and when you move on to fix the next thing, sometimes the thing you fixed two things ago goes wrong again. Sometimes something clicks out of the blue -- you have no idea what's different, but suddenly one night you have a perfect canter seat -- and then it takes you two years to ever get that feeling again. Or sometimes something clicks and stays clicked. Pretty sweet when that happens.

But if you keep at it and keep fixing this and that, eventually things that once felt impossible become a thing you can do, but want to do better. Some things even get so easy that you'll wonder how they ever felt hard in the first place.

But you'll never be perfect. What fun would that be?? ;) There's always something to work on!!
 

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Hi duskexx! Way to go with stirrups! Gripping with leg isn't the worst thing you could be doing. As you train, you'll start to understand how gripping with your knees or lower leg to steady yourself can influence your horse in ways you didn't intend, such as causing imbalance by giving false cues and aids. You're on a whole new level once you start to realize that. So you're gripping with your knees? Like with all undesirable riding habits, be your own self-detective and figure out what's going on. Why are you gripping? Is it because you feel your upper body getting swept back? Is the horse's motion knocking you out of balance? Or are you just doing it to feel secure, even though you're otherwise balanced and moving with your horse? Be aware of what's happening, and then ask "Okay, what's considered 'correct' that I can do to fix all of my problems?"

Someone mentioned stretches and exercises? Here ya go! This site is tailor made for rider conditioning of all sorts: https://dressageridertraining.com/category/blog/

Well, here's what I consider the correct thing to do:

This one gave me a chuckle and it's very good instruction. "Imagine that your bum is attached to the horse with strong elastic cords!"

Hint: there's an option for 'playback speed' on all youtube videos - slow down your favorite canter video to really see what's going on with the rider.

On the psychological end, it's really easy to say "Well I grip with my knees, so I'm going to focus on my knees and make sure I don't do it." But you try so hard not to do it, that you actually do it or develop other vices from focusing on your knees. That's really common - trying to ditch a bad habit by focusing on the area of your body where the bad habit occurs. That can actually can make you do the bad habit more. If we look at that in a different perspective, it's not that you grip with your knees, it's that you lose focus on the correct thing to do. Don't lose focus on the correct muscles to engage: your lower stomach (core and abdominal muscles) and inner thigh. Feel the supportive 'squeeze' in your core, then you're free to sit up straight, move your leg back, and use your heels to 'sink down' on the first canter beat (see Natasha's video above.) It'll take time, and that's okay! It's awesome that you're young, just keep at it. It'll help your long-term riding and spine health. https://dressageridertraining.com/blog/how-to-set-up-neutral-spine-for-dressage-riders/

Let's discuss training aids for the rider. Using grippy full-seat breeches, particularly any with silicone grips, can be very useful while you're training and don't yet have your riding muscles developed. If you can sit correctly with a little extra 'stick', it can help you be able to worry less about your vice and focus more on your riding. Using those breeches doesn't take muscle-crunching out of the picture, though. Because if your legs and seat 'stick' in the correct position, you can't move them! If you can't move them, it'll make it harder to grip with your knee, and you'll actually feel yourself needing to use the correct muscles to keep yourself sitting up. (I found that out in a very comical fashion involving test-riding a new saddle with new stirrup leathers on the shortest setting and still too long for me.) Be sure to give your saddle some TLC after training with silicon full-seat breeches, though, as the silicon might rub.

Your ideas are fine - lunging with or without stirrups is always good practice to free yourself, condition your body, and practice balance. You can lunge with hands held quietly in the 'rein' position, or even out to the side while you sit up straight. But if that makes you want to grip with your legs even more, you can give yourself confidence and security (mentally and physically) with a grab strap. They make 'grab straps' for English saddles (they thread through the D-rings in front of the saddle skirt). You can also use a breastplate or martingale with a strap that goes over the neck, or even just something around the neck that lends you a sense of security. It will be a long road, but enjoy it! Don't give up. If it comes down to it and you're struggling and just not having any fun one day, then by golly just forget about it all and enjoy your ride. You might just find out that when you let go of the vice you're trying so hard not to do, that you actually don't do it.
 
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