Do you have trouble keeping your leg underneath you? Do you get pitched forward or back if your horse makes a sudden stop or start? Do you have difficulty rising the trot? Do you brace your lower leg forward against the stirrup or fender in order to get your heels down? Does your horse have a hollow or sore back? Do you feel like you are trying as hard as you can and you are still having trouble sitting well on your horse? In some cases these problems are caused by a saddle with a poorly placed fender or stirrup leather. In other cases the problem is caused by a habit of jamming your foot against the stirrup.
The leather or fender is free swinging like a pendulum. If you push on your stirrups they will swing forward pivoting on the point of attachment to the saddle. If your fender or leather is no longer hanging vertically when you are in the saddle you have pushed the stirrup forward. If the placement of the fender or leather is too far forward you will still be in a “chair seat” even when the leather is hanging vertically towards the ground. Many people push their stirrups forward in an attempt to get their heels down. As a result they fail to get their heels down and they lose their alignment.
The classical alignment is important whether you ride Western or English. When riding with an “ear, shoulder, hip, ankle” alignment you are sitting in line with gravity. You will be able to move with your horse, absorb the movement of the horse and alleviate excessive pressure on your horse’s back.
Many riders think that riding with their feet out in front in a “chair seat” is more comfortable and/or makes the horse perform better, therefore they don’t want to change their position. In most cases a “chair seat” with your foot braced against the stirrup makes the horse’s job harder and creates a tremendous amount of back pain for the horse. When your feet are out in front of you all of your weight is borne on the horse’s back. When you are rising or standing all of your weight is on the stirrup bars and saddletree.
The answer to finding a good leg position is the Equiband; an inexpensive way to fix saddles with poorly placed stirrup bars or fenders and “training wheels” for those riders who have the unconscious habit of bracing their legs forward. The band works like a “V” rigging on the saddle; it stabilizes the stirrup and yet has give so the rider doesn’t feel stuck. Riding with the Equiband for a few months can completely retrain your habits by maintaining the stirrup in position. You will discover how your hip, knee and ankle need to coordinate movement to work within the limitation of the stirrup.
Use this Murdoch Minute as a ‘body position self-check’ to ensure your correct leg position. Riding with an Equiband for a few months can completely eradicate the habit of pushing your stirrup forward, stabilize your position and help you find the correct heels down position. You can find Equibands in my on-line store and more information on Ride Like A Natural DVD #1. And remember – enjoy the ride!