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Basically what the title says.

This isn’t about my horse, by the way. I’m over the moon with the progress he’s been making. Nope, it’s all me :p

I’ve been riding since I was 4, and I still don’t have a solid, or at least decent leg position. I still can’t keep my toes in, I still can’t hold a sitting trot consistently, I don’t even have a good seat yet. It’s so frustrating because I know exactly what I’m doing wrong, but as soon as I start anything, even if it’s just a trot, everything falls apart.

I feel like my instructors ignore my position, too. At pony club, I told the jump instructor that I had a bad position over jumps (not those exact words…lol) and while we did work on our position on the flat, which was great, that basically went out the window over jumps. I know it’s my responsibility to maintain what the coach teaches us, but I was so focused on getting over the jumps that I didn’t think about it, and now I can’t even look at the photos and videos without cringing. Like god, what are you DOING!!! Ffs, even my little brother has a better position than me.

I know I’m being really bratty, I just felt like ranting. I’ll work it out eventually.
 

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Have you tried different riding instructors? The ability to learn is tied to understanding and understanding is greatly influenced by communication.

Instructors who are well capable of helping some students may not be as able to help others for a number of reasons. They may not fully understand the difficulties these particular students are having because they have never encountered these difficulties themselves. On the other hand, they may be able to understand the difficulties but unable to communicate solutions in a way that the particular student can understand. Additionally, the student may be able to understand the solution but require help in finding a way to implement it.

Some instructors may be able to present the "big picture" but unable to present individual details to help the student understand. Alternately, a student may be able to grasp various details, but need assistance in putting things together into a whole.
 

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Consider that you may be trying too hard and causing some of your own issue. That said there are some physical/neurological postures and conditions that hamper riding ability. Riding works wonders to to put you(g) in a better place out of the saddle as a therapy but can be hard to overcome in the saddle especially when your interest is showing.


Over the years I have seen many ride (not theraputic but in classes) that have everything from palsies and different syndromes (some mild, some not) to traumatic brain injury which can leave the child with motor deficits causing spasticity, poor balance, weakness, poor coordination... Not saying this is you but there are many reasons for not improving at an expected rate.



Currently I observe riding classes with several kids that riding has been a challenge. There is one that has severe anxiety issues, one with Jacobsen Syndrome, one with Shaken Baby Syndrome, one that is ODD (oppositonal defiance disorder), one that has seizures, a child that has a helmet and brace 24/7 because a condition even slight injury could be fatal and more than a couple of autistic children. The more they ride, the better they get but they each have specific needs and traditional teaching methods don't work. I have physical difficulties that I have to compensate for. Many as we age have limitations that mean we don't just hop on and ride we may have to prepare by doing certain stretches or exercises to keep strength optimum.



Maybe time for a new instructor, maybe time to look at new(to you) techniques, maybe time to look at what are possible physical causes.
 

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It may not be you, per se' but you as physically.
Not everyone is built with a straight forward facing foot dynamic.
Most humans actually toe out....for the balance of walking or you walk like a model on a runway, over-stepping and near criss-crossing your feet to keep balanced.
Aside from that, your hips may not be seated perfectly or you could have a slight arch or twist to your femur.
Any or all by themself or in combination can and will affect your leg position, foot position and balance astride.
Unless you have had xrays of your hips, legs and feet... :|

This can also have nothing to do with you and everything to do with the saddles you ride in and the position those saddles then place your body in...
However, a good instructor should be able to give you encouragement and tidbits of wisdom in how to achieve that steady communicative lower leg working with your body type...
Or see possibly the saddle as not helping...
Don't blame you cause it may very well not be anything you can do or are doing wrong...but is something maybe trying other saddles, slightly different might help to alleviate.
:runninghorse2:...
 
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I second looking for a new instructor. Even just take a couple lessons somewhere to get a new experience.

Some trainers don't teach the way a rider needs to learn past the basics. A trainer might not have the right horse for you. Some trainers are just bad.

If you've had multiple failures and are frustrated, you could be putting up a mental block towards the trainer.

You may also want to consider some sports therapy to isolate your thought pattern while riding and reframe your thinking. Change it from "I completely screwed up that jump again. I can't do anything right" to "I rode that straighter than last time. I need to focus on one thing at a time, so next week I'll try to keep my heels down in addition to being straight".
 

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Forgive me for this assumption but based off your posts alone I do feel you're definitely going too fast and have set yourself up for this expectation because you have ridden for so long. Anyone can play piano for a decade but its the person that actively practices good habits consistently that progresses. Don't worry about how long you've been having fun riding. When did your REAL learning truly begin? ;) I should be able to speak 5 languages by now but life just doesn't turn out that way. I'm not gonna beat myself up over it and neither should you.

I 100% know what it's like. You focus on one aspect and the others fall apart. I kept losing my stirrups in canter or bringing my leg too forward in trot. When I'm alone and because I am not very balanced/agile I divide my time between horsey exercises at a walk and later on applied the same things at trot. Horsey exercises I'm taking from videos and schooling books along with the guide of an instructor. About balance and bend etc. However every ride I allocate myself 5-10mins to actively practice something I'm bad at. Leg position in canter for example. Thing is when I canter and focus on my legs my steering goes to pot. She takes advantage, cuts corners and slows as we pass the gate the first few times. But I'm not fazed as she's generally very compliant. As long as she is going forward and vaguely around the arena all I'm gonna focus on is my leg position and trying to use them independently in her massive rolling canter. Another day I might focus on my seat without stirrups. I cheat and transition from walk - sitting trot - canter pretty fast to avoid having to sit her trot haha. Another day I'll focus on trying to feel a canter lead without looking and now I can tell. I still can't feel a diagonal though -.-

I know. It really is a lot but enjoy the process. Give yourself smaller goals and you might find you're much happier checking those boxes off. I forget the term now but it sorta describes when you are learning but it doesn't feel like it until it comes together and you have a breakthrough. I have 3 instructors I use btw. I'm not competing but I do rotate between them and pick out the bits that really work for my horse and I. I love having extra opinions and critique.
 

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I recently started practicing with a bareback pad (less slippery than a saddle without stirrups). Hadn't done that for 50 years so it was quite an eye opener. NO balance without stirrups, to begin with.

My instructor has me do the Sally Swift ("Centered Riding") breathing and centering exercises at the trot. Been really helping. Naturally my knees are out, my toes are out, my feet are too far forward, and my right side is shorter and contracted from an appendectomy that healed very badly when I was a child. So I have plenty to work with too. Just focusing on keeping my calves in light contact with my horse's sides has made a big difference to my general balance. That, and breathing "into my boots".

Give it a try! And good luck.
 

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Don't be discouraged. Just keep actively working on little things rather than overall/big things (like a better seat or sitting the trot), try frame it in terms of little more achievable things that are easier to focus on. Don't compare yourself to others as it is never healthy or helpful. Focus on the joy of riding for a while and give yourself a bit of mind space to relax. Yes, maybe try a different instructor if you feel it is something that you are missing in instruction. I understand if this is hard if it is pony club and it has a set instructor, but could you have a few private lessons elsewhere as a supplement?

You are young, right? Your body goes through lots of changes from a child to an adult and it is really hard to keep what feels like consistent forward progress through all that. I know this because my daughter does ballet and watching her and her classmates in class, some years they are great, and then they will go through a growth spurt or a shape change and all of sudden they are awkward and clumsy and seem to have no idea of where their body is in space or how to position it. Eventually they start to catch on again, and then they go have another growth spurt.

I am an adult returner to riding and have many anatomy (long femurs) and age (restricted hip mobility) issues to try work with only once a week on a lesson horse with a saddle I cannot change. Honestly in many of my lessons I not only don't progress, I go backwards. So do not feel disheartened as you are way ahead of the likes of myself!

Do you do off-horse exercise for strengthening? I don't want to recommend exercise since I get the impression you are still school age and I don't like suggesting to young people to do strengthening exercises when their bodies are still growing. But I have found my issues with a lot of things (seat, two point, posting) come from a lack of strength in the inner thigh muscles and glutes, which I think is quite common for females. I try to do some exercises each week for that and they have helped (I can now actually get out of the saddle posting without stirrups).
 

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If you are struggling with your position - ride with one or both arms out to the side and no reins, if your horse is safe for that. My instructor would make me jump with one arm out to the side.

Every once in a while try dropping your stirrups and posting without stirrups.

This is a 2 part issue - balance and strength.

I've long since given up on keeping my toes in. I've very toed out with crooked legs. My knees can be in but my toes will still point out. It's my conformation but the judges never had any problems with my position in equitation classes.

Bareback riding will help fix your position as well. I suspect you are improving but just don't recognize it, because it occurs so gradually. You may be being overly self critical. Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Have you tried different riding instructors? The ability to learn is tied to understanding and understanding is greatly influenced by communication.
I probably should have said that it was Pony Club. I mean I've been disappointed in my position for a while, but I feel like at Pony Club my position was just terrible. I do like my instructor, I think her methods work really well for my horse, but I will try some different ones. I'm going to start doing some clinics, does that count?

Consider that you may be trying too hard and causing some of your own issue.
Maybe time for a new instructor, maybe time to look at new(to you) techniques, maybe time to look at what are possible physical causes.
I do that sometimes. It makes me all stiff and then Ninja can't move properly. I'm not really sure what I should do about that though...I suppose more riding just for fun? I like trail riding and it's supposed to be really good for the horse too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It may not be you, per se' but you as physically.
Not everyone is built with a straight forward facing foot dynamic.
Most humans actually toe out....for the balance of walking or you walk like a model on a runway, over-stepping and near criss-crossing your feet to keep balanced.
Aside from that, your hips may not be seated perfectly or you could have a slight arch or twist to your femur.
Any or all by themself or in combination can and will affect your leg position, foot position and balance astride.
Unless you have had xrays of your hips, legs and feet... :|

This can also have nothing to do with you and everything to do with the saddles you ride in and the position those saddles then place your body in...
However, a good instructor should be able to give you encouragement and tidbits of wisdom in how to achieve that steady communicative lower leg working with your body type...
Or see possibly the saddle as not helping...
Don't blame you cause it may very well not be anything you can do or are doing wrong...but is something maybe trying other saddles, slightly different might help to alleviate.
:runninghorse2:...
Ironically I actually walk without my toes in :frown_color: I wanted to get the saddle fitter out because Ninja's had the same saddle since he was 4, and I wanted to make sure the fit hadn't changed. When they come I could see if any of the other saddles we have fit.

If you've had multiple failures and are frustrated, you could be putting up a mental block towards the trainer.

You may also want to consider some sports therapy to isolate your thought pattern while riding and reframe your thinking. Change it from "I completely screwed up that jump again. I can't do anything right" to "I rode that straighter than last time. I need to focus on one thing at a time, so next week I'll try to keep my heels down in addition to being straight".
The failures weren't with my current instructor (the same issues were there of course, but I still had a good ride and achieved stuff) so I don't think I'm doing it with her at least. I hadn't heard of sprots therapy, I'll try it out. Thanks :D

Forgive me for this assumption but based off your posts alone I do feel you're definitely going too fast and have set yourself up for this expectation because you have ridden for so long. Anyone can play piano for a decade but its the person that actively practices good habits consistently that progresses. Don't worry about how long you've been having fun riding. When did your REAL learning truly begin? ;)

I 100% know what it's like. You focus on one aspect and the others fall apart. I kept losing my stirrups in canter or bringing my leg too forward in trot. When I'm alone and because I am not very balanced/agile I divide my time between horsey exercises at a walk and later on applied the same things at trot. Horsey exercises I'm taking from videos and schooling books along with the guide of an instructor. About balance and bend etc. However every ride I allocate myself 5-10mins to actively practice something I'm bad at. Leg position in canter for example. Thing is when I canter and focus on my legs my steering goes to pot. She takes advantage, cuts corners and slows as we pass the gate the first few times. But I'm not fazed as she's generally very compliant. As long as she is going forward and vaguely around the arena all I'm gonna focus on is my leg position and trying to use them independently in her massive rolling canter. Another day I might focus on my seat without stirrups. I cheat and transition from walk - sitting trot - canter pretty fast to avoid having to sit her trot haha. Another day I'll focus on trying to feel a canter lead without looking and now I can tell. I still can't feel a diagonal though -.-

I know. It really is a lot but enjoy the process. Give yourself smaller goals and you might find you're much happier checking those boxes off. I forget the term now but it sorta describes when you are learning but it doesn't feel like it until it comes together and you have a breakthrough. I have 3 instructors I use btw. I'm not competing but I do rotate between them and pick out the bits that really work for my horse and I. I love having extra opinions and critique.
I suppose that depends on what you call real learning lol. I've been having lessons as long as I remember, but I've probably only been practicing since I got Ninja (I was one of those lazy, ungrateful kids)

And I think that having smaller goals will be very helpful, even for just having something to do while riding...too many times I'll get into the arena, trot around and finish lmao.

Thank you :)
 

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If you're not improving on the area you want to improve, then you have to try something else. Doing the same thing and getting the same results is spinning your tires in the mud, gets you nowhere. Time to do something different with somebody else to see what happens.
 
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I probably should have said that it was Pony Club. I mean I've been disappointed in my position for a while, but I feel like at Pony Club my position was just terrible. I do like my instructor, I think her methods work really well for my horse, but I will try some different ones. I'm going to start doing some clinics, does that count?

Clinics can be helpful in bringing new perspectives to riders. The effectiveness of clinics may depend on what a student is looking for. Many clinics may be likened to lectures with illustrations. Some, however, limit the number of students and give personal feedback.
 

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Ironically I actually walk without my toes in :frown_color:
I wanted to get the saddle fitter out because Ninja's had the same saddle since he was 4, and I wanted to make sure the fit hadn't changed.
The part I bolded jumped out at me....
Most humans are not "made", designed to walk with feet perfectly straight.
My orthopedist said that....we were discussing the human walking gait and he said only in countries where $$ is expendable do you find people have taken years of classes to walk a certain way, look a certain way or actually have surgery to change the direction the foot lands.
People are either toe-out or toe-in, with degree of that being small, medium or large in amounts.
People watch I was told and see what you see...then apply.

When the best riders in the world have toes "sticking out", some at huge amounts, I would not be concerned your feet "toe-out".
You can not compare the "look" of the human footfall to the look of the leg astride when it is expected to go round the barrel of near a 1000 pound animal.
The leg softly following the horses frame and that is what is needed.
Look at pictures of those riders...really look.

And lastly, you beat on yourself for something you perceive to be a glaring problem, but when your instructor works with you this "perceived" issue is not what she concentrates your lessons to, this from all your instructors you've ridden with makes me think it may be more you think an issue than is a issue.
Have you just come straight out and asked the instructor if there is a problem with your toes not being straight ahead??


Now, your saddle........what above in blue applies to here.
Same saddle since the horse was 4....and the horse is how old now?
You have been riding in said saddle for how long?
And you have had difficulty in riding for how long?
And before this when you were a "recreational rider" we did not have such a problem...
See where I'm going...
Saddle fitter aside, if you have other saddles to try in appropriate sizes for your body, try them.
Ride in them and see if other issues you think you have have softened, have diminished or gotten more pronounced...that will give you some idea of where to be looking for issue...
Not only has the horse changed as he matured, so does the rider...
:runninghorse2:...
jmo...
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I don't have much to say about the first part, cos you're %100 right lol. I haven't asked any instructors though, I should probably do that.

Now, your saddle........what above in blue applies to here.
Same saddle since the horse was 4....and the horse is how old now?
You have been riding in said saddle for how long?
And you have had difficulty in riding for how long?
And before this when you were a "recreational rider" we did not have such a problem...
See where I'm going...
Saddle fitter aside, if you have other saddles to try in appropriate sizes for your body, try them.
Ride in them and see if other issues you think you have have softened, have diminished or gotten more pronounced...that will give you some idea of where to be looking for issue...
Not only has the horse changed as he matured, so does the rider...
:runninghorse2:...
jmo...
He's 5 now, turning 6 in October. I've been riding in the saddle for like, a year? Maybe a bit longer? And the difficulties have been recent.

Thank you for your advice! I'll try what you've said.
 

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I agree that toe position might just be your “conformation”. I would stop focusing on it if I were you.

My right toe sticks out despite my best efforts (which included an MRI and a specialist appointment). Them my mum remembered that I used to drag that foot when I was learning to walk. Not much to be done about it.

I had my cousin come out for her first lesson ever - leg position amazing 🙄
 

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FWIW, the US Cavalry manual recommended: "Toes make angle of twenty to forty-five degree with longitudinal axis of horse. Stirrups slightly in rear of ball of foot..." George Morris used to write the toes should be 10-45 degrees out, depending on the rider's build and the horse's. Incidentally, the Cavalry was more interested in staying on and controlling the horse is rough terrain than in any one sport, although jumping was encouraged and taught.

English, Australian or western saddle, my left foot sticks out about 20 degrees more than my right. That includes when I stand in the shower, go for a run, etc. Always been that way. I'm past 60 now so I doubt it is going to change.

Your "problem" may be you are focusing on balance instead of position, which is a good thing.

Also, FWIW, VS Littauer - who coached Bernie Traurig at one time - wrote:

Throughout this book you will often read that the forward seat unites the rider with the horse moving ahead in a forward balance. If you read Chapter III, you will know that the above phrase is much more intricate than it sounds for the horse's balance is fluid, and correspondingly fluid must perforce be the rider's seat. The illustrations depicting the mechanics of the forward seat should be accepted with the understanding that they all represent really a moment - an ideal moment but not a movement.

In actuality neither the horse nor the rider are static; a slow-motion picture camera shows the split seconds during which both rider and horse are caught in such a position as would not seem true to the naked eye. All the above is said here to caution you not to be a wooden soldier and freeze in position as a rider in your favorite picture. After all, a good seat is primarily important as one of the means of riding well.

At first when learning how to ride you must think about your position all the time, and in this period of your learning your picture matters a great deal. But later, when the contour of your position is correct when your spring, grip, balance, etc. are working effectively then there are only two criteria of your position; a) are you in fluid balance and rhythm with your horse or not? b) does your seat enable you to control your horse efficiently?

Common Sense Horsemanship
PS: As my avatar shows, I'm now 90% a western rider...and yes, my left leg and toe is wonky resulting in my toe sticking out more on my left side. Attempting to change it hurts my knees and ankle.
 

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too many times I'll get into the arena, trot around and finish lmao.

Thank you :)
This was me at the start haha. I actually had to physically (and still do) write up a lesson plan. I'd weight it down on the mounting block for reference. I envy people that get to the point they can school as second nature >.< One day we'll get there!
 
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