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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My instructor didn't even ask, she just took this video of me so I could see how bad my legs are. But I appreciated it. I mean, I knew they were bad, but I didn't realize they were that bad. I start this video in "two point" and then go to posting in the corner. Once I start posting, when I want to use my inner leg to push Pony out into a better turn, my toe just gets lower and lower. You'd think I was trying to stand on tiptoe. And my legs swinging! This always happens when I'm posting and trying to use my inside leg. I can't do it with my heels down. I just physically can not. When I sit the trot, I can use my leg without swinging, and my foot isn't as bad. When I post but don't need to use leg pressure, my legs don't swing.

I need to point out that I was trying, really really trying, to keep my heel down in that turn, but I am not able to keep my heels down and use leg pressure at the same time. I've been riding for almost three years, and if anything I think this is getting worse. I'm feeling pretty depressed about it. This was a "group" lesson that ended up being private because no one else showed up, and I didn't even get to canter. She just wanted to work on my terrible leg position.

Does anyone have some suggestions on what I can do? Like I said, I was actually trying to be mindful of it in that corner, but it didn't help. Starting in two-point doesn't help. My instructor thought it might be a lack of flexibility, but I am not physically unable to put my heels down, I just can't put them down and use leg pressure at the same time.

 

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You grip with your knee...aka pinching so although you feel like you have solid leg and contact in essence you have a grandfather clock pendulum swinging from the knee joint down.
You can direct your leg when you concentrate on it but when just riding...you get what you got.

How much knee roll and thigh block does your saddle have?
If you ride bareback is your entire leg solidly feeling Pony's side?

My gut impression is your saddle is a large contributor to your pinching/grip with your knee...
{I too had that same exact thing and a change to a different saddle helped immensely but to this day when tense and a uh-oh moment my grip with knee overtakes my brains hug with the entire leg I know to do and off I will go...plop!!}

So what is your trainer making comment and suggestion of to remedy the situation?
馃惔....
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I wouldn't call that terrible, not at all. The video is pretty grainy and hard to see what you are doing with your hands. It kind of looks like . . .. .well . . nothing. So, at the time after you've stepped over that pole, and your are trying to leg him out to your left, you are apparently not using the reins at all to assist in creating the bend you are talking about. I think that your leg movement is not as bad as you see it. I know that Pony is very round, and that alone makes it very hard to have a solid leg.

I can only say that by using some rein you can help yourself by setting the horse up with a minor flexion to the inside. Also, think of using the bony 'nob' of your ankle bone , and instead of pressing it on, bump it rythmically against the pony's side to get him to step over.
Again, NOT terrible riding at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
My gut impression is your saddle is a large contributor to your pinching/grip with your knee...
I was afraid someone might say that. I can't get another saddle. Remember how much trouble I had getting anything to fit him? I'm not sure about the knee roll and thigh block, I can look when I get out there again. What are your thoughts about that?

When I ride in the saddle but with no stirrups, my legs apparently look really good. I can't post with no stirrups for too long, though. Bareback, my legs have a lot more contact with him and I feel more like they are wrapping around his body.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I can only say that by using some rein you can help yourself by setting the horse up with a minor flexion to the inside.
OK, yes, when I use, I forget the term, but when I bring my inside hand in and back, like I'm crossing the rein over his neck, it really helps with his bending and flexion. But the impression that I've gotten from my instructors is that I should only do that if my legs aren't getting the right result. In other words, I should really be bending him around my legs, not the reins. Is that not right?

Also, yes, I meant to apologize for the quality of the video. It was a gray day and the lighting wasn't too good. But I feel like you can still get an idea of what my leg is doing there.
 

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It takes time to get the feel. If your horse though is getting your cues correct and doing as you ask unless you are competing I would let it go. Work on relaxing and bending them around the horse. Are your stirrups perhaps too short? That would be my other thought. It may be if one hole drop is too long but where you are too short add a hole in the middle.

Too big saddle will do that as well. A seat saver could take up some room or thin line has a thin pad that goes in the seat to help you "stick". Doesn't take up much room but can make a difference.
 

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Knee and thigh blocks place your leg in a predisposed position if the block is sewn in place and if you not know how to position if Velcro's...then not going to assist you either.
I have a feeling it is knee rolls and actually what you think is support is detrimental to your leg finding a grounding position of proper alignment, naturally found that you then when stirrup-less you drop your leg away from the forced block and magic happens..
@unclearthur can offer more insight as he is a saddler, a maker of and rebuilder and might be able to offer help/suggestions to change or figure a way for better leg, support and stability with the saddle you have and must work with..

Do though remember no leg is rock steady and never move cause that is wrong too.
A leg must move, it must absorb and it must direct for cuing the horse as we move astride in unison with them.
Your ankle is a giant shock absorber and it better move.
Riding level foot is not terrible and more dressage riders ride on their toe as it frees the back of the leg to cue the horses side with spur or without...
Controlling of that lower leg muscle to cue as needed, when needed and remain quiet is a art to itself that I, not a dressage rider, love to actually watch dressage and the cues effortless and graceful be done on the better riders.
So indeed yes, your saddle is part of the issue but not all and no I am unsure of if alterations to your saddle could be made advantageous to you or not.
馃惔...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have a feeling it is knee rolls and actually what you think is support is detrimental to your leg finding a grounding position of proper alignment
I'll definitely have a look and see if there's anything I can take out or move around. I know when I started on this round of looking for a saddle for him, I was hoping to get something with little to no knee rolls, blocking, etc. I personally preferred the feel of a dressage saddle, where my leg didn't feel so "held in" and it could relax and be longer, too. But this was the only saddle that came near to fitting him.

@QtrBel I've played with the stirrup length a lot, and I think I actually went down a hole recently. But then I might have gone back up. I forget. I also tend to lose stirrups when they are longer. But I still prefer the feeling of my legs being long. Maybe I'll put them down again.

Also are you suggesting that the saddle is too big? That seems like it would be an easy fix...

Both of my instructors think that toes down is putting me in an insecure position, and that when I canter ends up making me really off-balance, and that's why I fall off when something unexpected happens. I will repeat that when I canter with no stirrups, everyone tells me how wonderful my leg is -- long and still and heels down.

I wonder if I shouldn't just give up on stirrups for a while, and sit the trot and canter. But I don't think that would actually help my problem, would it? Just cover it up? Personally I like to ride with no stirrups, and I find it pretty comfortable, but I'm not sure if it's more important to solve this problem.
 

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Your toes should not be down. Dropping weight into the heel should raise them. We aren't talking any drastic or even obvious. Just enough angle that if it were drizzling the drops would roll to your heel.

Half a hole could be all you need. And yes, the thin line can make a big difference. Check the saddle for blocks as HLG suggested.

You may also look for something like the korsteel flex stirrup. When you slide your foot in it gives you that angle.
 

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My instructor today and the one I rode with years ago when competing would tell you stirrups are a crutch.
To many depend on them to give them the support instead of finding the support from within in your core muscles, your leg drape and use of that leg to sit quiet and yet be a driving seat when needed, a seat posting that can slow a speed, collect a stride or lengthen in a split second of response...
I ride better when my legs are not bothered by stirrups too...
How to remedy you though is :unsure: :unsure:

Your body is telling you it is balanced stirrupless by what you feel and are doing...successfully.
Sometimes sitting on that thing called a saddle is a nasty interruption...not help.:cautious:
馃惔...
 

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I was afraid someone might say that. I can't get another saddle. Remember how much trouble I had getting anything to fit him? I'm not sure about the knee roll and thigh block, I can look when I get out there again. What are your thoughts about that?

When I ride in the saddle but with no stirrups, my legs apparently look really good. I can't post with no stirrups for too long, though. Bareback, my legs have a lot more contact with him and I feel more like they are wrapping around his body.
Two options if you can't get a saddle:

1. get a seat saver. I know a lady that has two on her saddle to help her butt fit more snug. There are different materials - wool, gel etc depending on the feel you want.
2. get stirrups with a wider tread if you're struggling a little with balance when rising. It doesn't fix things outright but it makes them easier to fix, in my experience

Friend had biiiig issue doing that. What I also found with her was that she wouldn't actually sit in the saddle, she would fall into it. Like yes, we want to use gravity to our advantage but if we completely let go of ourselves like we just sat in a chair after a long day then it takes extra oomf to get back up. I told her to pretend that just as her butt touches the "chair" she suddenly remembers she left the iron on, face down on the board, and gets back up with a gasp. You begin to relax but catch yourself. Best way I put it was we're doing "squats" in the saddle not sitting down and getting up out an armchair. I hope this makes sense? This is what helped in the beginning. If you feel like you can't go long becasue when you sit you lose them/lift your legs... you can try to fix that the hard way like I did. Which is keep losing them until I began focusing on "sitting" than lifting my leg which is easier on a forward horse that doesn't need nagging. I think to achieve that you might need to go a little longer?

About stirrups. If I'm doing canter work and transitions I need shorter stirrups to begin with, to not lose them, if that is a concern for you. If I'm working just in walk/trot or focusing them I will go down about two holes. Yeah I lost stirrups even going from trot>walk at first but I wasn't that scared of losing them going into walk so it was ok. Eventually, about half hour into my ride, I can begin doing canter transitions at that length but I need a serious warmup and to have regular lessons. I have my "canter length" and my "trot length" and I insisted on adjusting them depending what we were working on, with the goal obviously to get a long leg.

It also shocks me when I ride ponies. I go from uppp..... downnnnn....uppppp.....downnnnnn riding big waves to updownupdownupdown1212121212brrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! I have to force myself to go faster than I think I need to. When I'm struggling to keep up with the horse (behind their movement I think it's said officially, someone can correct) then I often end up with toes down as I try to rush to catch up. I've learned its better to sit a couple strides instead and reset.

Lots of standing up in trot helped stabilise my leg, too, in addition to sitting without stirrups. I don't mean 2 point. I mean STANDING as well as you can. My instructor forced me to let go of the reins and have both arms out sideways maintaining balance in walk/trot as long as she could push me. Yeah we did epic Spaghetti Working Trot Titanic Manoeuvre.

Last thing... fat or wide horses mess up my lower leg because I have to really push down to feel my stirrups and I point my toes down. Does he feel wide for you or have tight hips? I wonder if treeless would be good if you think being lower/closer helps? Saddle obviously doesn't help sometimes. My saddle puts me more chair which is a struggle but eventually I compensated well enough. Hope it helps.
 

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What I'm seeing is that your feet are too far "home" in your stirrups, so when you post or go into the two-point, the balance in your foot is off, and instead of the force of you rising going down through the backs of your calves into your heels, it's going down into your toes. Try keeping the irons WAY more forward on your feet -- even slightly ahead of where they should be, just to feel a big contrast, until you establish the proper balancing point in your foot. And I agree with Kalraii that practicing standing up with your weight down through the backs of your legs will help you. You can't stay standing with your toes down. You'll just fall into the saddle.

If the stirrups keep ending up that far back on your foot regardless, get some grippier treads for the irons. And also consider that gripping up with your knees may be allowing the stirrups to bounce back on your feet.

I also agree that your stirrups look too short here, and that's not helping.
 

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You're definitely not 'bad', don't be so hard on yourself.

I don't think the saddle and stirrup bar position are helping you though.

Slowing the video down shows what might be gaps between the saddle and your knee and thigh at times, and your toe pointing out slightly, so you may be varying between gripping with your knee and then lower leg. Neither will help your stability, or make it easy give aids or use your lower leg without losing your stirrups.

Ideally, your lower leg should be further back in the shoulder, hip, heel line, or the elbow, knee, ball of foot in two-point. The further away you are from these lines the harder it will be to stay balanced. Again, I think that gripping and the saddle are pulling you into a bad position.

The stirrups should be on the ball of your foot (although I usually have my toes in the stirrup, it's a bad habit), think 'toes up' rather than heels down to prevent tension in the back of your leg (it's a different muscle)and weight down through your heels. Everyone's body is different and your heel position might be higher than others and I wouldn't push further than is comfortable.

Toes to the front/pointing the same direction as your knee, it'll depend on your body shape and the roundness of his barrel though. Your upper legs should be relaxed and resting, flat, against the saddle. Inside of your lower leg gently against, or close to, the side of Pony.

When you're posting, you're gripping with your knees, and it looks like you get tighter and tighter and further up his neck. Gripping will tip you forward, it'll shorten your legs and draw up your heels, causing you to lose your stirrups. It's not helped by you swinging you legs back to urge him forward as well. Ideally you want to relax your legs, drape them around the horse and give your aids with the inside of your leg.

I was taught that to have 'quiet aids' they should be given with the inside of the lower leg in an inward and round motion rather than a backwards one with the heel. The toe needs to be pointing forward (ish) for this, or heels out. Raising the back of the heel is for spurs. You should get a build-up of dirt on your chaps where you're in regular contact with Pony.

Being happier without stirrups sounds like the saddlle and stirrups aren't pulling you and your leg forward so you can distribute your weight correctly on your knees and inner thighs which helps your stabilty etc.

Over all you're doing great. There's an awful lot to think about when riding and we all struggle with something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So... DO you guys think the saddle is too big for me? I thought it was a good fit, but what do I know...
 

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The video is not very clear and easy to read but what I "thought" I could see was that your stirrup is a little too far back on your foot, I ride with the stirrup on the ball of my foot and I find this helps keep the heels down, and I try (not always easy) to let my whole leg just relax and go with the flow and rhythm, really try to feel the rhythm and not force it.
Didn't look too bad to me tho'
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Also if you ever could read Sally Swift's Centered Riding it might help
Thanks. I think I have that around here somewhere. I'll look for it.

I will say, my instructors are always nagging me about me foot position. I have always felt like I'd get foot cramps if I moved the stirrup up more, but it sounds like I really need to consciously try to do that. It's easier that trying to fix the stirrup bar of my saddle LOL.

@Kalraii when you did that standing work, were you on a lunge line? Or more of a lead rope and they were walking along with you? Or were you loose?
 

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Sorry but it's nigh impossible to offer anything constructive from the video.

Can you sit up straight with a low heel and vertical heel-hip-shoulder line in halt? In walk? If yes,the tipping forward in trot (which is, I think, why you're having leg position problems) is either saddle-related ie. it moves too much at trot, or it's too pommel-low and your instructor should really be able to tell you this, though a lot of times they can't. If not, it must be your upper body position, which your instructor ought to be able to look at and adjust. It has to start off with your seat in the middle of the saddle (the low point) with legs hanging free and your stirrups, hence your leg position, adjusted accordingly.
That's how I'd try to approach it, anyway.

BTW, a good (if old-fashioned) way to train your heels down is to practice by standing on the lowest tread of a staircase with the edge on the ball of your foot and heels unsupported, and stretch up and down, as if bouncing on the ball of your foot so you can feel the pressure on your Achilles. Couple of minutes of flexing up and down every day, over a long period of time. I used to do this and had a reasonably good leg position, but now I'm old and stiff, so I don't ;)
 
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