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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
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I have recently moved barns from a hunter jumper to an eventing barn. I have never had problems at my old place with keeping heels down and in. My instructor never mentioned it and it always comes naturally to me. But I noticed that videos of people riding have their heels down way less than mine, and my new instructor mentioned that having them too far down can ruin your calf. I aways have had a nice seat and my heel not too far forward, like it is supposed to, but I noticed now that it is so far down! I never think about my lower leg equitation because its always so natural to me from riding 2 1/2 years like that. I did a lesson with no stirrups and my trainer asked me to relax in the trot. I always have a nice deep seat so I had a long leg, but my heels kept going down when I wanted to relax, from muscle memory. It was so hard to keep my toes down and relax and my calf and heels kept going in the original position. Also I always rely on my seat more than leg when “holding on” and in the canter and trot I tend to lose my stirrups because I don’t rely heavily enough on them to post and two point. Its a curse!! (the pic is a bit blurry because it was a screenshot from a video of me cantering but you get it, it is very far down.)
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Your heels are beyond too far down. Your stirrups are completely counter to the correct position.

Realize that your body parts don't act independently. In that position the entire leg is affected and instead of a relaxed leg, poised to apply an aid you have tightened muscles along the length to retain that exaggeration. It also affects your seat.

Your stirrups are not there for you to brace against. Your feet falling out with the angle shown says your ankle is tight in an effort to keep your stirrup. The irons should hang in their natural position and not be forced to the point the bottom is facing forward.

Perhaps it is just word choice but "holding on" does not say nice seat. It says you haven't learned to melt into the horse. You should be moving with the horse and not fighting the motion which is what I am seeing. What you think of as deep is not truly deep. I'd say pinched.

Time to slow down and start again with the basics. With the experience you have you should be able to regroup fairly quickly. I'd focus more on being one with the motion and forget the notion of "nice seat", heels down and toes in.

Heels down in my opinion comes from beginners moving to fast into gaits they aren't ready for and so the opposite happens. The heels come up, the toes go down and in to anchor. Instead of creating a nice relaxed form again one is pinching and tight even if they achieve heels down, toes in. Toes in or out isn't the issue as each person's leg will have a bend that determines where they are in a relaxed state. In attempting to correct the over exaggerated effort to stay on many wind up with an over exaggerated form to compensate.
 

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Some instructors tell their students to "push" their heels down or "point" their toes up to keep the student from holding onto the horse with their heels or, in the case of smaller riders, to keep their feet from sliding through the stirrup.

I tell my students to simply release tension in the muscles of their crotch and legs. Then, gravity can do its job. The rider's seat settles deeply into the saddle. The rider's legs wrap naturally around the horse's body creating firm contact without need for the rider to "hold on" with the legs. Gravity holds the rider's feet to the stirrups in the same way it holds our feet to the ground when we are standing -- we don't need to "push" our feet against the ground. Finally, since there is nothing beneath the rider's heels, gravity alone should be able to pull the rider's heels lower -- assuming flexibility in the rider's calves and tendons -- without the rider having to do anything.

Allowing gravity to do the work should also bring the rider's feet naturally beneath their body if the saddle fits horse and rider properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Your heels are beyond too far down. Your stirrups are completely counter to the correct position.

Realize that your body parts don't act independently. In that position the entire leg is affected and instead of a relaxed leg, poised to apply an aid you have tightened muscles along the length to retain that exaggeration. It also affects your seat.

Your stirrups are not there for you to brace against. Your feet falling out with the angle shown says your ankle is tight in an effort to keep your stirrup. The irons should hang in their natural position and not be forced to the point the bottom is facing forward.

Perhaps it is just word choice but "holding on" does not say nice seat. It says you haven't learned to melt into the horse. You should be moving with the horse and not fighting the motion which is what I am seeing. What you think of as deep is not truly deep. I'd say pinched.

Time to slow down and start again with the basics. With the experience you have you should be able to regroup fairly quickly. I'd focus more on being one with the motion and forget the notion of "nice seat", heels down and toes in.

Heels down in my opinion comes from beginners moving to fast into gaits they aren't ready for and so the opposite happens. The heels come up, the toes go down and in to anchor. Instead of creating a nice relaxed form again one is pinching and tight even if they achieve heels down, toes in. Toes in or out isn't the issue as each person's leg will have a bend that determines where they are in a relaxed state. In attempting to correct the over exaggerated effort to stay on many wind up with an over exaggerated form to compensate.
Thanks! Im sure that my feet trying to grip the stirrups is the problem. If I do stirrupless and try to relax with the horse, my muscle memory always goes back to heels down from when I was previously in that position with stirrups. My trainer is working with me on keeping center in the saddle and relaxing my toes into the stirrup to keep them. I have never thought of me being “pinched” in the saddle, because I generally keep a steady pressure between me and the horse in my thighs and calves when riding and cantering. Could you elaborate on that? Also , when I keep my heels up like my trainer tells me, my knee comes forward and up and feels so unnatural. And yes, when I said “holding on” with my seat I meant sinking into it and letting my leg go. It might not look or be that way, but thats all I have been told and all I know.
 

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Heels down has two good effects for jumping: It stretches and thus firms up the calf muscle, and when combined with a flexing ankle allows the ankle to function as a hinge, absorbing shock. Or so I've read. I'm not sure it is helpful for general purpose riding. And when jumping, the ankle needs to flex so that, at the top of the jump, the heel is NOT down:


If heels down doesn't result in your ankle flexing and moving as you ride, then it is a bad thing. I write that as someone who tends to have his heels down on a trail ride...just how I learned riding. But I've long since concluded it is overrated outside of jumping.

How the Forward Seat used to be taught:


I don't jump with my horse so take all of my comment with a big, steaming cup of FWIW.....
 

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You could have stretched your Achellies’ tendon too far if you’ve been riding like this for a long time. It might take a while for it to contract to it’s natural length.

This happens to women who wear high heels a lot and to professional ballet dancers - but in the opposite direction. So much so that pro ballerinas are not allowed to ride (or run). Riding also opens our hips and pro ballerinas need their hip angle closed.
 

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Heels down has two good effects for jumping: It stretches and thus firms up the calf muscle, and when combined with a flexing ankle allows the ankle to function as a hinge, absorbing shock. Or so I've read. I'm not sure it is helpful for general purpose riding. And when jumping, the ankle needs to flex so that, at the top of the jump, the heel is NOT down:
The heel definitely shouldn't come up at all over the jump. The lower leg should be extremely stable and change very little throughout the process of the jump.

Now, what should or shouldn't happen, and what some riders do, can be pretty different.

However, look at Denny Emerson, a top level eventer and influential coach who was doing some big, CRAZY cross country courses with, by his own admission, a terrible leg position for years. He got it done, but he completely changed and fixed his position and is a huge advocate now of riders getting it right in the first place. Have a look at his position over a jump, here. He's now pushing 80 and has a far better jumping position than 99% of riders out there half his age.

 

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Pinched to me would be what you are thinking as steady pressure is actually more like a spring on a clothes pin.
 

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There is having you heels down, then there is jamming them down. The purpose of heels down is to provide shock absorption and stability. When your heel is down to the max, there is no room to absorb. If you look at that picture you posted, the stirrup pads are nearly vertical and your entire leg is ahead of you. Part of your bracing is due to the leg position and I think your saddle is contributing to that.

And when jumping, the ankle needs to flex so that, at the top of the jump, the heel is NOT down:
Incorrect. The heel should remain down in some capacity while over the fence. The photo you posted shows a rider who has lost their balance over the jump and has let the leg swing back as a result. Beezy Madden is a wonderful example of proper equitation over the biggest of fences.
 

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OP, I think this video would be helpful for you.


In the image you posted, your heels are down, yes, but in pushing them down, you're pushing them so far forward that they're almost over your horse's shoulder. The heels need to be down in a way that is underneath you, so that your ankle can absorb shock, and give your weight somewhere to go -- down -- as you absorb the horse's movement, or move your body weight in and out of the saddle over a course.

A good exercise for you would be to practice riding standing vertically in your stirrups. Not in two-point, but actually standing up straight with only a very slight bend in your knee. Your weight WILL drop into your stirrups and heels like this, yes, but it will have to drop in a place that's balanced. Too much weight in your heel and not enough in your stirrups, and your legs will shoot forward and you will fall into the saddle on your butt. Too much weight in the stirrup and not enough in your heel, and you will topple forward. Once you have that placement worked out, you can keep your lower leg there and use your seat as necessary.
 

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Incorrect. The heel should remain down in some capacity while over the fence. The photo you posted shows a rider who has lost their balance over the jump and has let the leg swing back as a result. Beezy Madden is a wonderful example of proper equitation over the biggest of fences.

In the picture you posted, his heel is NOT down going over the jump. Nor should it be. If the heel is always down, then the ankle is NOT flexing and therefor is NOT being used to absorb shock. Shock can only be absorbed thru a joint that is flexing, not one that is immobile. If you watch videos of top jumpers, you will see their heels come up - at least to level, often slightly higher - and then back down.

The horse's motion lifts one higher and then, as the horse starts to descend, so will the rider - and the rider's heel unless they are gripping with their knees instead of using the stirrups.

Adding this YouTube video in slow motion - focus on the rider's heels:



 

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In the picture you posted, his heel is NOT down going over the jump. Nor should it be. If the heel is always down, then the ankle is NOT flexing and therefor is NOT being used to absorb shock. Shock can only be absorbed thru a joint that is flexing, not one that is immobile. If you watch videos of top jumpers, you will see their heels come up - at least to level, often slightly higher - and then back down.

The horse's motion lifts one higher and then, as the horse starts to descend, so will the rider - and the rider's heel unless they are gripping with their knees instead of using the stirrups.

Adding this YouTube video in slow motion - focus on the rider's heels:
Sorry, but no.

Yes, those are accomplished jumpers who are doing what works to get over the fences, but no one should be saying that kind of position over the fence is ideal. Some jumps get hairy, so you do what you need to get over them. Some develop poor habits because they are otherwise talented/have talented horses and usually have the strength to get away with it. There are varying degrees that a heel can be down, ranging from near flat to jammed. Over the fences, there will be less weight, but the heel should never come above flat.

 

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The lower leg is your anchor and needs to be stabile and supportive of your upper bodies movement and motion so you stay as one with the horse in all riding astride.
Whether your heel is down or not...your lower leg needs to be under your body so a alignment is kept to balance the body as it moves in quiet harmony with the horse.
When I look at the pictures presented of the rider examples I see a leg aligned under the hip, under the shoulder and head regardless of how large the fences are, there is a alignment.
I see a leg in readiness for shock absorbing to commence on landing but with a level or slightly lowered heel, not one that is forced that low...
Sorry Crazy, your leg is not supporting you as you think in your shared picture but hindering you riding in unison with your mount quietly...
Your position is forced, where others who may have a dropped ankle it is because they have a flexibility that is natural as their weight flows through the body and out the heel of the boot. The difference being the rest of the leg stays in balanced align, not pushing out in front of the body...hence you must grip so tightly to stay in place astride.
Your leg actually makes mine ache just looking at the picture...it is so over exaggerated in "flex" it defeats the purpose of what it should of accomplished, a safe balanced base of communication made.
I agree that saddle is not helping your form either and a issue in itself needs addressing.
The pinch is real, the soft communication is not as you are rock stiff in appearance even though you not realize it...
Now what do you do to correct that leg to soft and communicative not a vice grip...don't know.
🐴... jmo...
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Mod note (Jaydee)
The photograph in this post is being flagged by my forum view as being ‘unsuitable for under 18’s to view.
If you are also seeing this please ignore - it’s just a girl on a horse!
End of Mod note.


I have recently moved barns from a hunter jumper to an eventing barn. I have never had problems at my old place with keeping heels down and in. My instructor never mentioned it and it always comes naturally to me. But I noticed that videos of people riding have their heels down way less than mine, and my new instructor mentioned that having them too far down can ruin your calf. I aways have had a nice seat and my heel not too far forward, like it is supposed to, but I noticed now that it is so far down! I never think about my lower leg equitation because its always so natural to me from riding 2 1/2 years like that. I did a lesson with no stirrups and my trainer asked me to relax in the trot. I always have a nice deep seat so I had a long leg, but my heels kept going down when I wanted to relax, from muscle memory. It was so hard to keep my toes down and relax and my calf and heels kept going in the original position. Also I always rely on my seat more than leg when “holding on” and in the canter and trot I tend to lose my stirrups because I don’t rely heavily enough on them to post and two point. Its a curse!! (the pic is a bit blurry because it was a screenshot from a video of me cantering but you get it, it is very far down.) View attachment 1106020

So because I got a lot of answers I will later post a small video of me trotting, so people get a better understanding of movement while I am riding. I understand now that what I have been taught is very unlike what I have (maybe actually) been doing. Such as the deep seat was actually just me tensing. I will continue to do what my instructor tells me to do, but try a few of the things people have been saying and see what gives me the best result. I am a bit confused due to the overwhelming differing opinions on what I should do/ what I have been doing/ what I need to do, so I will keep riding and figuring out what works best for me. I have been riding so “wrong” in terms of leg positioning for a long time, 2+ years, and I figure it will be hard for me to go back to the basics. My trotting leg positioning is a bit better than canter and my heels are farther up and leg back, but that doesn’t necessarily mean My leg is relaxed an where it needs to be. Could someone tell me what I need to do to relax and get out of the habit of thinking my leg is natural? Because I rely on my instructors who know more than me to guide me and thats why I am thinking things are right when they are not. (I am actively working with a new trainer to help this issue). I really am looking to fix my position because I know how important it is to eventing, and I want to catch my flaws before they are too late. But right now I am just stuck on what to do, I can’t relax, I can’t get the feeling of the horse, and I am confused!
 

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Lengthen your stirrups a notch or two and see if that helps.

Ride stirrupless or bareback if possible and just work on breathing. You don't even have to move just work on relaxing even if you toes hang down to get you out of the over extended heel habit.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
1106077

Walk
1106078

Trot
1106079

Trot (turning, leg on)

So the walk in trot on the big circle has a better, more relaxed look then when I am using inside leg to turn in a small circle. So I think that means I am more relaxed. But whenI turn, as seen on the last photo, my legs tense up and go way down and forward. I never notice it when I am riding because It just comes naturally to me with trying to use leg. Thats when I tense up. This is what I got from reading a lot about it. Hopes this gives a better understanding and context.
 

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FWIW from a non-jumper: Learning to ride on a mare who often spooked violently in spins, up to two full circles, "taught" me to brace with my leg. I spent this summer trail riding a horse I trust completely using stirrups so long I cold barely reach them and it has ALMOST cured me of bracing. I now find I can ride with my stirrups at multiple lengths and not brace....except for once in a great while. Then I drop my stirrups down again, ride for 20 minutes and get back into the mental "Don't need to brace" groove. Good luck because I've definitely braced hard as a habit and ANY bad habit takes time and work and more time to fix! And yes, my riding has truly improved by working on it.

PS: Something else that helps is getting my wife to video rides once in a while and then watching the video in slow motion. It is amazing how many things I think I do that, in slow motion, I do not! And the camera, unlike my body, doesn't lie.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
FWIW from a non-jumper: Learning to ride on a mare who often spooked violently in spins, up to two full circles, "taught" me to brace with my leg. I spent this summer trail riding a horse I trust completely using stirrups so long I cold barely reach them and it has ALMOST cured me of bracing. I now find I can ride with my stirrups at multiple lengths and not brace....except for once in a great while. Then I drop my stirrups down again, ride for 20 minutes and get back into the mental "Don't need to brace" groove. Good luck because I've definitely braced hard as a habit and ANY bad habit takes time and work and more time to fix! And yes, my riding has truly improved by working on it.

PS: Something else that helps is getting my wife to video rides once in a while and then watching the video in slow motion. It is amazing how many things I think I do that, in slow motion, I do not! And the camera, unlike my body, doesn't lie.
Perhaps this might be the issue. When I started riding, I was basically started for about a year on a pony that was a bit spicy. At the end of when I rode her she was perfect in terms of temperament, because I started to get advanced and I was the only one who rode her. She got sold and I was working for about a year with harder, green horses that spooked many times and I always had to be ready. My old instructor could not ride horses due to arthritis so she couldn’t help, and there was practically no one at my barn riding frequently that was more advanced than me that could help. The horses bucked me off many times and once broke my helmet so I learned to be more “prepared” by clenching my legs. Keep in mind my riding foundation was not solid, so I adapted to that. I moved on about 6 months ago and am riding a horse that I trust. My instructor is a bit lost on what to do because she obviously isn’t me. I don’t fully know what to tell her because I don’t fully know what is wrong.
 

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Mod note (Jaydee)
The photograph in this post is being flagged by my forum view as being ‘unsuitable for under 18’s to view.
If you are also seeing this please ignore - it’s just a girl on a horse!
End of Mod note.


I have recently moved barns from a hunter jumper to an eventing barn. I have never had problems at my old place with keeping heels down and in. My instructor never mentioned it and it always comes naturally to me. But I noticed that videos of people riding have their heels down way less than mine, and my new instructor mentioned that having them too far down can ruin your calf. I aways have had a nice seat and my heel not too far forward, like it is supposed to, but I noticed now that it is so far down! I never think about my lower leg equitation because its always so natural to me from riding 2 1/2 years like that. I did a lesson with no stirrups and my trainer asked me to relax in the trot. I always have a nice deep seat so I had a long leg, but my heels kept going down when I wanted to relax, from muscle memory. It was so hard to keep my toes down and relax and my calf and heels kept going in the original position. Also I always rely on my seat more than leg when “holding on” and in the canter and trot I tend to lose my stirrups because I don’t rely heavily enough on them to post and two point. Its a curse!! (the pic is a bit blurry because it was a screenshot from a video of me cantering but you get it, it is very far down.) View attachment 1106020
no such thing as heels too far down. However what your trainer may be referring to is that because you’re pushing your heels down so much it’s pushing your leg forward. All of your weight is in your seat and not your heels. There should be a straight line from the back of your butt to the back of your heel. Not surprised you loose your stirrups. You don’t actually have a ton of weight in them. I be your get left behind in the jumo as well. Which don’t feel bad!!! It’s because your center of balance is resting into your seat and not your heel. Try scooting up to the front of your saddle. Maybe test the stirrup length too. I would assume they aren’t the right length. They should rest at the bottom of the ball on the side of your foot. The best exercise for you would be two pointing around the ring at the canter and trot. This will force you to put your weight into your heels which will encourage you not to have your leg pushed so far forward.
Having a great seat like you do will serve you well, now just gotta connect the dots. From this picture you seem to have a great hip angle. Lots of great things here. Just need to help your weight to get into your heel and not so far ahead. You look pretty athletic. Being able to have that good of seat and good hip angle with not having much weight in your heels isn’t easy! Lots and lots of two pointing with focusing on having your leg back a bit more and you’ll be there in no time!
Good luck!!!
 
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