My Equitation is Flawed

The only way to reach your goals is to identify your weaknesses, then work your but off for it.


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Even since my days of dance classes I have been told two things; My hips are not square therefor throwing off my center of balance, and I have a lovely toe turn out. After developing tendonitis in my left Achilles in early high school, physiotherapy showed that I had short tendons in the backs of my ankles. This was not surprising seeing as I had naturally been walking on my toes since I could walk. Well this might be alright for pointing my toes in dance class, that was not the case with getting my heels down in horseback riding. It only made sense that I should then choose horseback riding as the hobby that would take over my life of course.

Although I would consider myself an effective rider, I have two main flaws in my equitation that prevent me from being a better rider.

The first flaw is my center of balance. In the saddle I tend to drop my right hip and lean right, sometimes quite dramatically. At times I might even throw in a little lift of the right shoulder to unsuccessfully try and even things out. This especially gets me into trouble with bending lines to the left, and cutting the corners coming off the jumps and going right.

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slight lean to the right

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leaning to the right over fences – throwing my left leg out to rebalance

The second flaw in my equitation are my heels and lower leg. While I have been much better at establishing connection with the horse through my lower leg instead of controlling him all the time with my seat, the angle of my ankles still puts up a major barrier. The way my feet want to sit in the stirrups puts my big toe in the air, and my pinkie toe down which rotates my ankle to the wrong angle and restricts my lower leg from properly sitting against the horse. With my ankles at this angle it is impossible to therefor get my heels down properly.

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a look at the angle of my ankle

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my big toe wants to point up, rotating my ankle down into the wrong angle

With suggestions from my coach and a little internet research I have found two exercises to start with in trying to correct my Equitation flaws.

Exercise One:

cog

Wii Fit Center of Gravity Test – my own results showed leaning to the right

Pull out the old Wii balance board folks!

Wii fit has numerous games and activities with the board that are all based on balance. To start, I tried my luck with the Center of Gravity Test. Result – needs improvement..

There are many other balance games to try on Wii Fit that require minimal movement, great way to start a lazy morning.

Exercise Two:

1-5m-yoga-pilates-rubber-stretch-resistanceThe second exercise has to do with stretching my ankles using rubber resistance bands.

By sitting flat on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me I start by placing the middle of the rubber band one at a time on the palm of my foot, and holding the band a few inches from the ends in each hand, allowing some tension. Some things I can do with this exercise are pointing and flexing my foot – spending longer flexing the foot before pointing it – and lifting and holding my foot a few inches off the ground while the foot is flexed. The back of your legs and your ankles should feel an uncomfortable stretch, but not so much that it hurts.

So, I will be playing around with these exercises all week and will see how it has affected my riding and overall equitation by the end of this week.

To be continued. . .

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11 thoughts on “My Equitation is Flawed

  1. I’m the same way with both- I get a little twisted and my toes point out like I’m in first position. I’m still working through straightening myself out, but the way I’ve addressed getting my heels down and foot straight is by doing the traditional “stand on the stairs thing.” I do it everywhere I go- I drop my heels off of curbs, off staircases, off chair rungs, everywhere. Finally I’m noticing that it’s starting to stretch me out!

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    • Good point! I’ve also tried the standing on the stairs to stretch your ankle. When I am going around filling the water buckets in the stalls at the barn I sometimes stretch my ankle against the stall door while I wait for the bucket to fill. I bet if I stuck with it regularly I would notice a huge difference!

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  2. I’m actually built so that my normal comfortable position standing is like a ballet first position – I have almost no natural inward rotation, which means I literally cannot keep my toes parallel to my horse. At its worst, I rode with my feet at a 90 degree angle to my horse. (There’s some photos on my blog under the horses label if you’re curious as to how this looks) Towards the end of my youth career (and recently since I’ve started riding seriously again), I’ve been able to get to almost a 45 degree angle by rotating from my hip and thigh, but it takes serious muscle for me to stay there that I just don’t have right now!

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    • yes i’ve also seen lots of hunter riders who have their feet turned out away from their horse like you experience. I’m not sure which problem I’d rather have, they both come with their own issues and struggles to correct.

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  3. I’ve had similar problems (probably from my former life as a dancer), and yoga has helped me a lot. If you look, a lot of great riders and trainers have major equitation flaws. Equitation is important, but it does not make or break a rider. If you are passionate about the sport, you are capable of achieving a lot!!!!

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    • Although I agree that having good equitation does not always mean that you are a great rider, in this case I have picked 2 equitation flaws that affect my riding abilities and are the leading factor in my riding errors. when i am not sitting square in the tack it affects how i balance the horse, asking for lead changes, and falling into corners. I hope that these yoga activities can help correct my habits therefor making me a better rider

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