Applied Posture Riding - how touse lower leg when riding

  • How to Control The Lower Leg Using Quads And Hamstrings

     Training The Lower Leg Before Any Other Body Part Is The Key To Good Riding!

      I believe the lower leg is the most important body part to train for stability, control, and strength in horse riders. I see and hear from many other instructors the training of the seat is the first priority. Well, I am confident to challenge this concept and train my pupils with a different process.

    DSC 0088 In this photo,  the riders' lower leg is too far forward and not solid against the horses’ side. The hamstring muscle is not engaged, and she is pushing her heel down using her quads and gastroc muscle. This is a common problem riders have. Their lower leg either swings forward or away from the horse's side. This is most obvious at the trot.

    Both the rising trot and the sitting trot create a movement that the rider cannot control.  Control of the lower leg can be gained if the rider is taught how to use the lower leg properly. The hamstrings are the key muscle to control the lower leg movement and stability.

    I know this because I am a Physiotherapist and I teach Rider Biomechanics.  The lower leg can sit solidly against the horse without putting pressure on the horse. This is another skill to learn for horse riding. Once a rider can keep the leg still the seat is the next target to train.

    The deep independent seat is the aim and end result of our rider training but the end result needs to follow certain steps before it can be achieved. Horse riding is so different from other sports because we are trying to balance, control, and direct a live animal with its own personality.

      Horse riding exercise programs need to acknowledge this. A hockey stick or a basketball will go where you direct it. A horse does not always comply. In addition, they decide to spook at imaginary things, spontaneously.

    Good balance makes for a safe confident rider and a strong stable lower leg will provide a rider with good balance and strength to support their seat body and hands. Once the seat becomes dislodged a rider will always grab the reins. The seat is less likely to become dislodged at spontaneous movements if the lower leg is solid.

    Once the lower leg is solid and the use of the hamstrings and quads is coordinated then a rider can move on to train the pelvis, lower back, and train for a deep independent seat. The seat is only independent if the lower legs, trunk, and hands can move and be used without the seat bouncing in and out of the saddle. I call these horse riding exercises…. movement patterns.. and these patterns are unique to my program.

    A movement pattern is a practiced part of a whole movement. For example, if we want to learn to walk again after a major injury the physio will break up the routine. So back to the horse rider. The hamstrings bend the knee if the hip is fixed the heel will move closer to the butt. If the heel is fixed and the hamstrings tighten the hip will move closer to the horse.  This movement is the aid to apply the lower leg and engage the seat into a deeper position. This is a difficult concept to write about and for riders to understand.

    My Applied Posture Riding Membership Program has much more detail than I can write here. The Quads straighten the knee and we all know this. If we are sitting in a chair and we decide to stand up we transfer weight from our seat to our feet. Because the ground is fixed our heels and feet stay still. Our body moves over our feet and then straightens up. There are quite a few changes in the center of gravity to get upright.

    When we stand up in the stirrups our weight transfers from our seat to our stirrups, as in the rising trot. Because the stirrups are not fixed the weight transfer will cause the stirrup to move and in every case, the lower leg will swing away from the horse's side.  To stop this when we are rising trot we need to learn a movement pattern to train the lower leg to stay at the horse's side.

    Erin and Leanne Home feb 2012 059 websizeTraining the hamstrings to bend the knee is one of the most important movement patterns in dressage riding. It is not the calf muscle! When the horse rider is sitting deep and upright and wants to apply an aid it is the hamstrings muscle that comes into play. The seat will follow. It is not the seat then the legs…It may well feel like it but if the lower leg is not engaged first the seat has nothing to stabilize.

    Very good riders do all this in a split second and appear to be doing nothing. The learner rider needs to train the individual movement patterns to be able to achieve the end result. There is a simple exercise you can do immediately on a gym ball.

    Bending your knee is different from applying your lower leg, however, the action of moving your knee is the technique to learn.Erin and Leanne Home feb 2012 062 websize

    If you want more information on this or just want some advice go to my  Applied Posture riding Membership Program.

    So If you get a wobble up in your lower leg when trotting or even at the canter then this means the use of your lower leg muscles when riding is not correct. 

    Enjoy your riding and good luck

    Annette Willson.

    Remember to look at yourself before you blame the horse.

  • Managing Injuries In Horse Riders

    We all know riding is our passion and we all know the general public, health professionals in particular label horse riding dangerous. Well everybody is right but to be fair more money is spent on contact sports to rehabilitate injuries than in horse riding.

    Horse riding produces more repetitive inflammatory injuries rather than high impact traumas. Although my injury is an impact injury from a direct fall many riders suffer ongoing pain, stiffness, and soreness in many parts of their body on a daily basis. Shoulders are a primary target for sprains, strains, and minor trauma injuries.

    Lifting, throwing, pulling, tugging, dragging, rails around the tail ramp on a float, etc all cause pain. All these objects including throwing rugs and lifting feed buckets, even grooming horses regularly all affect the shoulder and or upper limb joints. The lower back is another common and painful area to affect horse riders.

    So How Do We Manage Injuries In Horse Riders?

    I believe and state "horse riding is good for your body" I state "horse riding is not bad for your back". The job of caring for your horse is the damaging part of the sport. Also, obviously, I have to say falling off IS bad for you, but if you don't fall off and ride to your own level then horse riding is one of the best sports for fitness, tone, and happiness.

    Managing Skill level

    ben and rusty 2A strong lower leg is essential for confidence and skills. Horse riders seem to spend so much money on lessons. Well, not all instructors will teach you good skills. If you are progressing and your strength, confidence, and performance improve then your instructor is of good value. If your instructor begins to reproduce the same lesson over and over and repeats the same instruction then.

    1. You have reached the limit of that instructor and time to change, or

    2. You have a block in yourself you need another approach or more professional instruction, or

    3. You need more time between lessons to establish the skills you are learning.

    Re point 1. Many instructors are great with the initial basics and great to a certain level. This is a good thing but if you are advancing beyond the skills of your instructor then don't be held back and move on.

    Re point 2. Many instructors are able to identify rider problems but don't have the skill or knowledge to fix them. Eg. commonly I hear from riders who are told over and over "You're crooked..straighten up", repeated every lesson. Yes, the instructor can identify the problem but the solution requires much more insight than just "Straighten Up"! This is one of the most common problems I hear about from riders. This is a problem that requires much more knowledge from a professional.

    The Applied Posture Riding program has detailed information about this. Gymkhana Clare 2012 068 websizeA rider will never be straight in the saddle if they can't sit straight on a chair, walk straight or lie straight. It may be their spine, it may be their hips, it may be their pelvis.  In many cases,  long term bad habits and lack of stretching can affect your riding posture.

    Without knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, a riding instructor will not be able to instruct a rider on HOW to fix their riding posture. Good skills lead to better and safer riding.

    Managing Minor Injuries and Pain.

     It seems a good idea to manage minor aches and pains before they become major aches and pains. We all manage pain... we don't manage NO pain. So if you have minor aches then learn to deal with them every day before they develop into serious problems that will require months of rehab, money, and time away from horses not just riding.

    A broken shoulder cannot even feed a horse let alone rug or, ride a horse. Minor shoulder pain can lead to a complete spontaneous rupture over time as it decays away slowly. Bang one day it is fine the next day it is ruptured! It happens!! Learn to stretch and exercise properly every day, don't assume riding is enough.! I have a great program to manage NO pain as well as manage existing injury.

    Managing Major Injury as a Horse Rider.

    stock photo 4145745 impromptu exit Lower back pain doesn't mean stop horse riding!  Of course, when you have a major injury you need to seek local professional medical advice and you need to follow it. Having scans and seeing specialists in their field is essential. If you break a bone and it takes six weeks to heal then it takes six weeks to heal, you or I cannot speed time up. If you try, it usually ends up needing more time because you wreck it. A CT scan or an MRI scan tell the truth, it is what it is. Healing time is real as well.

    I look at the cause of pain and deal with why you have pain as well as how to manage and fix it. I look at the state of the injury and give advice about the mechanism that will harm and help. It may be as simple as changing the way you do what you do not stop what you do. EG. I stand on a bench to brush my horse to protect my shoulders. I use a sack trolley to move feed around. I have gaps in my fence to walk through rather than climb under or over. I use a back brace for pain control in my back.

    My passion is horses and I also love seeing riders return to their passion after injury and most of all love seeing riders achieve what they have been told to stay away from If you have a problem with your riding and have reached a block in your progress and have a look at the Applied Posture Riding program. 

    If you want to follow my way of training join my, follow Applied Posture Riding Membership Program