Student Who Uses Too Much Leg
A trainer asks for tips on teaching a riding student how not to grip her horse continually– making it anxious and nervous throughout her ride. Q & A by Lynn McEnespy.
I have a student who uses too much lower leg causing her horse to go too fast and almost run away with her. Other people and myself ride the mare and have no problem slowing her down. I have told my student that she is squeezing her mare to death and to over exaggerate putting her toes in and heels out but she still manages to squeeze. Any ideas on what else I ca try? Her family is getting really frustrated and feel the horse is the reason they are not making progress on slowing down mare but in this case it is rider error.
You don’t say which discipline you ride, however I will answer from the dressage judge’s perspective on the problem.
Since you have already determined that other riders have no difficulty with the mare, your conclusion that your student needs to improve her skills would seem logical. It would also indicate to me the horse is not dealing with a saddle fit or pain problem.
There are many very good videos and reference books on seat and position and hopefully, your student is willing to devote some time to studying what constitutes a good seat and how to achieve it. I have found that there are MANY ways to describe how to ride and just as many ways to interpret those descriptions. The key for an instructor is to find the right combination of physical and mental exercises for the student to really get the idea.
When you say “too much leg” I assume that your student grips with her legs to hang on and actually falls back or slumps in the saddle and balances on the reins. This can be very obvious to the instructor, or it can be subtler in that the rider is simply totally ineffective.
Most riding problems (especially with women) come from a lack of tone and connection in the torso. It is actually the stomach muscles that provide most of the control of the seat and back creating the ability to use the reins and legs independently. Instead of focusing on the gripping leg problem, I would suggest that stabilizing her seat would help her keep her leg where it needs to be and not use it to hang on. A program of exercises on the longe line without reins would probably help (assuming the horse will safely allow this). The ability to start and stop without reins, even at a walk, may give her the idea of how to use the stomach muscles correctly.
If you are living in California, and if you have a chance to attend a rider biomechanics seminar with J. Ashton Moore, I can highly recommend it. It gives instructors some excellent insight into how bodies function when we ride.
Click here to find out more about Lynn McEnespy.