The Incredible Shrinking Leg (or How To Avoid Losing Your Stirrups!)
Ruth and I have been giving a bunch of seat and leg position riding lessons lately, and we’ve discovered some interesting things about the correlation of the pelvis, lower leg, and losing your stirrups.
Does this ever happen to you?
Do you lose your stirrups in the sitting trot?
Does your horse slow down in the sitting trot or when you work without stirrups?
Does your knee come out over the front of the saddle when you’re in the sitting trot or canter?
Does it seem that the more you use your leg, the slower your horse goes?
Do you lean forward no matter how hard you try to bring your shoulders back?
Is your bum smacking the saddle in the canter rather than sliding along your tack?
Is it hard to get up into a standing or 2-point position and keep your balance?
Is it just impossible to keep your heels down below the stirrup bar?
All of these problems could be related to the following position issues.
1. Your pelvis is not in a neutral position.
2. You’re gripping or pinching with your knee.
Here’s how the cycle unfolds.
When your pelvis is NOT in NEUTRAL, it can’t work as a spring or joint to follow your horse’s movement. Most of the time with the problems described above, the pelvis is in a too closed or tight position. As a result, in order to keep your balance, you feel that you have to pinch with your knees to stay in the saddle.
This causes problems.
When you pinch with your knees, your whole leg actually draws upward away from gravity (the ground) and shortens your contact with the seat in the saddle. (When I say “seat”, I’m not only talking about where you sit, but also I’m including your upper thigh all the way down to the top of your boot.) The less length of leg you have around your horse, the less stable you are.
When you pinch with your knees (which also closes your thighs), you actually give an aid for your horse to slow down. Remember, your upper leg should close for downward transitions, and your lower leg should close for upward transitions. Your horse won’t know what to think when you close your ENTIRE leg! This is why when you grip harder in the sitting trot to try and stay balanced, your horse slows down.
By now it’s a catch 22 because the slower he goes, the more you’re squeezing to try and speed him up. And yet the more you squeeze, the slower he goes! You’re squeezing yourself right off the top of the horse. (Like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube).
Pinching with your knees with a closed pelvis also inhibits your body weight from dropping into your heels where it should be. With a pinched knee, you stop the ability of your weight to actually get to your heels. (It’s like putting a “stopper” at your knee like a stopper in the bath tub. Gravity can’t pull your weight down to your heels. The “stopper” at your knee is blocking the weight from going down to your heels just like the bathtub stopper keeps the water from running out of a bathtub.)
Pinching with your knees also leads to losing your stirrups. When your leg is not as long as possible, your weight can’t drop down to the stirrup bar. When your weight is not down on the stirrup bar, your heel comes up and you lose your stirrup.
So there you have it. When you get your pelvis into neutral and elongate your thighs, you’ll solve many problems. Below are a few pictures and images that you can use to help with this issue.
Pelvis too closed Pelvis in Neutral Pelvis too open
Elongate your thighs by thinking “gardening knees”.
For more information and solutions for improving your riding position so you don’t lose your stirrups go to www.programyourposition.com