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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hoping for some advice to help my daughter. She was quite discouraged after her lesson at the coach's last night with Harley. He's doing fine, but her position is still not great according to the coach. The one thing she keeps telling her -- and this was the focus of most of last night's lesson -- was that her leg needs to stay still. Harley has a big, round canter, and inevitably, her leg swishes back and forth.

She knows this is a problem, but no matter how hard she tries, she can't keep it still. She was so discouraged last night, I told her I'd do some research to see if we can figure something out so she can work on this at home.

Have you observed this problem or had it yourself? What did you do to fix it? Coach suggested riding stirrup-less, but I feel like that may not be enough. She wanted to put weights on her legs, but that seems like a band-aid solution. Are there exercises she can do? Could it be a saddle fit issue?
 

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Bingo...
Many times it is saddle related...
I've seen it to often to not say that and mean it.
It is something you need to investigate as does her trainer/instructor need to place her in other saddles to see if this issue improves or worsens, not just harp on her to quiet her leg.
The kid already knows she has a problem.. :frown_color:

:runninghorse2:...
jmo...
 

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A problem generally occurs when riders are told to keep their legs – or arms or hands – still. The rider almost inevitably tries to hold them still through muscular effort. This effort causes the muscles to tense and the limbs to become rigid. This on a horse that is moving.

Rather than trying to hold one’s limbs still, the rider should “allow” his or her limbs to move with the movement of the horse.

The tricky part comes in differentiating between moving with the movements of the horse and being tossed around by the movements of the horse.

How a rider sits greatly influences how the rider moves. Saddle design may influence whether a rider can sit properly.

A more upright position normally allows a rider to respond more quickly and easily to varying conditions. Think of how easier it is to make changes to your position when you are standing than when you are sitting in a chair or even reclining. This upright position should be achieved through balancing one’s bones more than through muscular effort. The muscles should remain subtle and responsive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am watching a lot of videos and I think I get the principle. Now to see if we can work on this at home so she isn't so discouraged at the next lesson.

We are looking for a new saddle. Part of the problem is that she outgrew last year's saddle (she's 14). We tried out a saddle last week which didn't quite work. I have my eyes on another one which we may try out this week.

She didn't have as much movement last year when the saddle fit better, but I think she still had SOME movement. Like, more than she should have (I understand it's impossible not to have any movement at all). But this year, it's like her whole position is off at the canter. Part of it is in her head. Harley's been messing up his leads, so she keeps looking down to see if he's on the right lead. Now her coach is really harping on her legs, so she's gripping more. Add to that the fact that her body has changed and Harley's movement has changed because of suspected arthritis (as per another thread - and yes, the vet says he should still be ridden, and he will get Xrays on the 9th to confirm diagnosis and discuss options), and they are just out of sync.

So we will try to find a better saddle, work on sinking the weight into her leg without gripping. I watched a video that said that holding a low 2-point (seat barely above saddle) 5 minutes a day, every day, will help create that perfect leg position so we may try that (she can alternate between Harley and Rusty to give her horse a break every couple of days). But I also strongly suspect she isn't using her core enough at the canter. So maybe planks?

Just trying to help her get past this feeling that she just isn't progressing anymore. :(
 

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Have you observed this problem or had it yourself? What did you do to fix it? Coach suggested riding stirrup-less, but I feel like that may not be enough. She wanted to put weights on her legs, but that seems like a band-aid solution. Are there exercises she can do? Could it be a saddle fit issue?
How is she bareback? Does her leg swing the same way? When I was younger, often my riding deteriorated when I added a saddle because I got a bit lazy, and relied on the saddle. I challenged myself to do a lot of stirrup-less work, mostly at the trot.

I had an exercise ball that I would sit on when I would play on the computer. She can work on balancing on it while watching tv, or doing homework...

A good thing you could do is have her play "sit-a-buck" where you put a dollar bill underneath her calf and have her do different gaits and exercises. This really makes you focus on holding with your entire leg, rather than gripping with your knees or keeping your heels down.

Saddle fit for the rider is especially important, and I've found that my saddle no longer is the perfect saddle that it was when I bought it 5+ years ago. It gets incredibly annoying knowing that I have the ability, but my saddle is contributing to my form not being what I would like it to be.

But most importantly, especially at her age, make sure she has an encouraging coach that does not continuously harp on her. She is at the age where kids get out of horses due to various reasons, and you don't want it to be because of who you are paying to teach her. Her coach should be encouraging, and not be suggesting putting weights on her legs (seriously, what would that help???).
 

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Poor Kid! All this focus on position frequently makes a rider stiff as a board. Plus when one is a child, and trying so hard to do as they are told!

Stress = tension. Tension = jerky rider and horse.


The most frequent times I see the swinging lower leg is when the rider is using the knee to grip. Something has to move...


I always tell new riders (yes, I know she has experience) to sit like a wet noodle. One must be loose, yet just a bit connected to the horse all the way through the leg.


Moving each part of one's body is vital, so while sitting on the horse at a walk, move each part independent of the other. So make circles with the arms, move the legs like scissors, swivel at the waist without moving the seat, etc.


Rock in the seat like on a swing. Relax. Play music while riding and try to match the music to a gait, or a pace within the gait.


Make lots of transitions, half halts and spirals. Keep moving and changing things up.


The more one focuses on direction the horse, the less one focuses on their own position, yet using the correct aids will put her in the correct position.

Form Follows Function.

Let me repeat that;

Form Follows Function

We often try to focus on our position, which just leads to stiffness and tension. Allow the movement of the horse to flow, and the form will follow...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@ClearDonkey she hasn't ridden bareback in a while. Maybe that's something she can work on too. I thought she rode a canter bareback pretty well last winter, but I admit that I wasn't micromanaging (it's best that mom doesn't offer too much critique). And yes, the more her coach focuses on this, the worse it gets.
@AnitaAnne - yes! I feel like the coach is having her do so many things that interfere with the flow of the ride at the moment. I do think the coach is really trying to help get her to the next level, but instead, she's regressing. I told her last night that it's normal to have these moments, and that sometimes we plateau at something just before a breakthrough. And while I usually stay out of it, I could sense that this is building to the point where she may question whether she can ever become the rider she wants to become so it was time for mom to jump in with some suggestions.

Today, she did planks (it's raining so no riding today) and we are building a vaulting barrel for her (she likes to vault for fun, though we haven't been able to find someone who can coach her). I figure any exercise and balance work will help.

Thanks for your suggestions all!
 

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She might outgrow this.

Sounds funny, but girls really do go through major physical (shape) changes, there's a lot of adjustments to make, so I just want to encourage you to be patient. Try to improve matters, of course, but don't look for a quick-fix.

I hope she continues to enjoy her rides and her horse, and works on her problems with perhaps a sense of humor.
 

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[MENTION=241234]I do think the coach is really trying to help get her to the next level, but instead, she's regressing. I told her last night that it's normal to have these moments, and that sometimes we plateau at something just before a breakthrough.
This IS very true!!!

It seems like, in riding, you can't change something without something else getting weird or backsliding.

My recent experience: my seat and hips are doing GREAT lately, and feeling pretty independent... aaaaaand I'm suddenly breaking at the wrist, which is a new thing. Aaaaaaand I'm toeing out a lot, especially on my left side, which is one of the first things I fixed when I started riding again four years ago. :/

It's a little like putting a fitted sheet on a bed, except the sheet is too small. You get one corner tucked perfectly, try the next one, and the opposite one (or two) pops right off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
She might outgrow this.

Sounds funny, but girls really do go through major physical (shape) changes, there's a lot of adjustments to make, so I just want to encourage you to be patient. Try to improve matters, of course, but don't look for a quick-fix.

I hope she continues to enjoy her rides and her horse, and works on her problems with perhaps a sense of humor.
Very good points. I actually told her the other day that it's ok to just enjoy our horses in the backyard. Lessons are great, but she doesn't have to compete if she's tired of it (mind you, I don't think I ever pushed her to compete, but I try to be supportive). On the other hand, I don't want her to feel like she's failing. If there's one thing our family does is push through challenges.

I should also say that she's extremely demanding of herself and used to doing well at things. She's a bit of a perfectionist, so this stings. She wants to get it right. We were so hoping this would be a great show season for her since we finally got a trailer, and she felt so ready. But then her horse began showing signs of stiffness in the back end, and we are having to face the hard reality that he is aging. And now her position seems to be all messed up. We're not showing him until we get x-rays and advice from the vet so it'll be flatwork for a bit anyway... We debated doing another lesson Monday, but she says she'd rather work on this at home for a bit, and only go back for a lesson when she can show her coach that her leg can stay put. If the weather allows, we'll try to squeeze in a ride tomorrow.

Today, I encouraged her to just go out and hand-graze him for a while. She needs to spend time with him that isn't always stressful, when they can just BE. He's such a gem of a horse, and whatever the vets say about his future, they should continue to be buddies. He'll always have a place in our herd.

I'm probably over-thinking this too... she's 14, she'll conquer this and move past it.

Thanks for your kind advice everyone.
 

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One of the ironic things about trying to keep a "still" leg in canter is that your leg can only be still if you allow it to move... correctly.

It's not as big an issue when cantering in two point because the amount of weight dropping into the ankle doesn't change. But riding upright, in a dressage seat in full contact, some of the weight of the rider has to drop into the heel on the 1 beat of the 1-2-3 motion. Allowing that vertical motion of the ankle and heel dropping prevents swinging in the leg and cushions the seat.

Natasha Althoff explains it here. It's a weird motion to learn -- and once you have it, you don't need to exaggerate it -- but it helps with being strong in the right places and loose in the right places.

 

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The very interesting thing , if you watch carefully, is that she is going 'down' with her heel on the 'three', not the 'one' of the three beat count.


Watch. She says "one' when the front leading leg is hitting the ground. This is actually the 'three' of the 'one, two, three'.
If you consider that the first of the three beats is the strike off of the outside , rear leg, the two = the inside rear and the outside fore striking at the same time, and the 'three' = the inside fore (the leading leg) landing . . . it the THREE to which we must sink down with.


This is when the horse is in its most 'downward' position. it will feel to you a bit more like riding down a hill. you canter on a big circle until you can feel that 'down' beat (the inside front). and you really think about sinking down with whole foot, AND with your pelvis, down , down, even think of it as sinking down into the ground.



I don't know why, but this really works.
 

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it very well may be saddle related! however if it isn't, then I have a few tips for you. I've struggled with this issue for a *very* long time, and just know that this is something that takes months (at least) to fix. please please please tell her that there is no reason to be discouraged as long as you are trying your best to improve!

-try sitting trot, and focus on your seat moving with the horse and having weight sink down into your heels. tighten your core, and try to imagine your leg wrapping around the horse's barrel and not moving prom that position. this is most definitely an ab workout!
-don't grip with the knees. this tends to make the rider unbalanced, and often makes the horse slow down, requiring for the rider to constantly ask the horse to be more forward which especially with less experienced riders takes the leg out of position.
-take a small piece of paper and put it between the rider's calf and saddle. have them try not to drop the paper, as if they move their leg out of position then it will fall. my trainer used to do this with a dollar bill and if we didn't drop it then we could keep it!

again, just be patient! riding is an incredibly difficult sport, and leg steadiness is just one of those difficult things. good luck to both you and your daughter!
 

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This is coming from someone - as I think you know - who rode "Aussie" saddles and now western and who doesn't show or compete. But...

The forward seat I learned from reading Littauer was stirrup-centric. The foundation and basis of security was in the lower leg. The challenge for the seat was to stay balanced above the stirrups.

As I drifted west, I had to become more seat-centric. The foundation and basis of security is largely the seat. With that approach, it seems to me the steadiness of the lower leg is a SYMPTOM, not a cause of anything. Any forced fix (weights? :eek_color: ) would hide the symptom without solving the problem. The more the rider matches the balance and movement of the horse in the seat, the less the lower leg will move. When I lunge my horses with a saddle (very rare now), the stirrups are amazingly steady due to gravity. In a seat-centric approach, our lower leg ought to do what gravity helps it do.

What matters isn't the movement of the lower leg itself, but any balance and flow issues with the seat and thigh.

No stirrup might help. An Aussie saddle, with nothing but smooth leather under the thigh and leg, might give good practice. Nothing but smooth flat leather from the stirrup bar down.


But while doing it, ignore the lower leg. Focus on feeling with the horse, in balance and in synch with the horse's flowing motion. In my 16" western saddle, scooting a little forward helps. The cantle will throw me off if I can feel it, and the rocking motion of the canter is smallest at the withers.

Maybe singing at the canter. Almost anything to get her mind off her "form". Fun. Cantering on trails, or when no one is watching. Goofing off on horses is wonderful. When we think less, our body will do what it knows it must do to be safe: focus on balance. Balance and feeling unity with your horse will give the steadiest leg your horse, body and experience will allow.

All from the perspective of a backyard rider who has no idea if his legs are moving or not.
 

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Has the coach ridden Harley at the canter in the saddle your daughter is using? (The saddle might be too small for the coach, but still, he should try). How often has the coach ridden Harley at a canter?


At 14 your daughter is still growing into her body. The coach needs to recognize this and give her exercises (on and off the horse) to improve her riding. And I think having a little talk with him about always making sure all lessons end on a positive note with your daughter feeling successful is very important. At my lesson today I was having some issues at the canter and my trainer told me to just trot a couple of circles. I didn't get the canter perfected but we ended the lesson with a really great trot. I know I have lots of things I need to improve at the canter but I left the lesson feeling happy about what I had accomplished.



There was another thread where you posted some videos of your daughter riding and she looked amazing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
We went out tonight and she put into practice a lot of the tips given here (I let her read all your comments so thanks for being kind!), as well as some videos I suggested for her. One thing I suggested is to ride from her core. The result of that was a much more upright down transition. I had noticed that her leg moved a lot more when she was pulling on the reins to slow down Harley, so I told her to stop pulling with her hands and block from her core. That made her down transitions beautiful. By keeping her upper body more upright, the lower leg stayed back rather than move forward.

She also did a lot of low, two-point riding with her leg in a good position, stirrup-less work, etc. Then she did some cantering, and while her leg was still moving a bit, there was a definite improvement. I recorded it so we can look at it together and she can see her progress. There were times when her leg was very quiet, then she would lose it. It's hard work, no doubt about it. Once, her leg was moving quite a bit, then suddenly, it got very still, so I asked her what happened, and she said she remember to keep it still so she knows what she has to do, and is able to do it for short spurts. She just has to be able to keep it there now. Practice, practice, practice.

And @MissLulu , her coach only rode Harley once and found his canter to be very strong, forward, and found him difficult to slow down as well. We have always known this about him.

It doesn't help that one of the girls who rides with her just got an 8K horse from her dad, went to a show a few days later, and raked in the ribbons. To be fair, she's a good rider, but this horse is amazing, and was fully trained and finished, then handed to her. Harley's just never going to be that horse. But he's so darn pretty and we love him to bits. :) And challenges like these will teach her a lot more than any perfect horse ever would.
 

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It doesn't help that one of the girls who rides with her just got an 8K horse from her dad, went to a show a few days later, and raked in the ribbons. To be fair, she's a good rider, but this horse is amazing, and was fully trained and finished, then handed to her. Harley's just never going to be that horse. But he's so darn pretty and we love him to bits. :) And challenges like these will teach her a lot more than any perfect horse ever would.

I was told and taught a loooong time ago there is a difference to being "the pretty rider" who sits on the machine, and the "effective rider" who rides and makes the difficult look easy...
Guess which is your daughter.. she is well on her way to that very effective rider.
Here when junior riders use to compete in the countries finals called the Medal/Maclay back when I showed it was very common you did a ride off.
Your saddle only was removed from your mount and you took a number from the hat and that was who you rode...no practice..
It was very apparent in a few minutes who were the passenger and who were the rider...they all rode with basic good equitation, but put to the tests of stirrup-less, jumping 3'6" course of 12 fences with change of lead, direction, needing flying changes and a host of rating for distances...
Yea... we knew who was what pretty quick.
Effective riders can ride anything.
The what I called "passengers" truly struggled.

Is she still doing those h/j and then dressage lessons?
Is it possible to ride the one then does not mesh together well for her and Harley riding the other?
:runninghorse2:...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Is she still doing those h/j and then dressage lessons?
Is it possible to ride the one then does not mesh together well for her and Harley riding the other?
:runninghorse2:...
She hasn't done a dressage lesson in a long time because the coach is only in our area twice a month, and we missed the last one because of a scheduling conflict.

At the moment, Harley's future is in limbo until the vets give us a better idea of what is in his best interest. I'm very proud of my daughter for putting that first. For now, they've said to continue to ride as usual, but she skipped a show yesterday. We won't do another until July 20th, and that's a fun show at the coach's. It would be nice to be able to do well, but I'm getting ahead of things. The out-of-province vet will be here next week and we'll do full x-rays and whatever else they deem necessary to figure out what is causing Harley's stiffness. That will determine what he can and cannot do going forward. So for now, we're not ruling anything out, or picking one discipline over the other. Her lessons in the last month have strictly been h/j though.

That does raise an interesting point, however . In an attempt to quiet her leg, her coach has raised her stirrups considerably. For hunter/jumper, that's normal. But it seems to make her leg move more than when she can lengthen it...

I still think it's worth trying a saddle that fits better, and there is a Stubben jump saddle near me that I can try... but of course if he ends up not being able to jump anymore, we're switching to dressage and need an entirely different saddle.
 
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