Do you know how to use your legs?

How often have you been told to: “Use your legs!

But did anyone ever tell you how?

Communicating with your legs can be as basic as a kick which crudely transmits a desire to go faster or, with development of control and finesse, can become a language filled with subtle nuances which produce a harmony only seen between the best riders and their mounts.

The first step towards this rewarding refinement is to gain sufficient control over your legs to avoid sending garbled messages to your horse.

Correct leg position.

We all know what a correct leg position should look like, and that the leg must remain relaxed, without gripping.

What is not often taught, is that to maintain this position some degree of tone is necessary in certain muscles; specifically, the inner thigh muscle – just enough to keep the upper leg lightly closed against the saddle without tension (gripping), without any corresponding tightening of the buttock muscles; the hamstrings (to keep your knee bent and your lower leg stable beneath you), and the muscle up the front of the shin, which raises the foot and stretches the calf to produce a deep heel, which should not be achieved by pressing down onto your irons.

  • Have a photograph taken of yourself, and check your position – is your heel directly below your hip – do your knees and thighs lie flat against the saddle – are your heels below your toes?
I would have liked my toes to be more pointed forward, but the alignment ear-shoulder-hip-heel is perfectly clear
  • Position your leg correctly without your stirrups, and then check the length of your leathers – if you cannot reach the irons without dropping your toes, they are too long.

Use of different parts of the leg

Once you have developed a degree of co-ordination of individual muscles within your legs, ie., you can tighten one muscle at a time without affecting others, you can begin to use your legs to produce a variety of effects:

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