Every rider, no matter what lever or what discipline, must always remember to keep the line from ear to shoulder, to hip and heel. This keeps the rider balanced on top of the horse. Should this line become broken, the rider's balance will automatically change and affect the horse in a negative manner.
Instead, your leg should drape nicely around your horse, relaxed and with heels down. However, keeping the heels down is one of the most common problems riders encounter. It can be difficult to do because of a number of reasons: maybe your calves are not flexible, maybe you're gripping your seat a bit too much or something else.
In this article, you'll find three best tips to help keep heels down.
Why keeping your heels down is essential
You might think that keeping your heels down throughout your ride wouldn't have that much of an affect in your riding.
Well, you'd be wrong.
When your heels pull up, your heel is not usually not the reason that causes trouble, it's the result of other issues.
Usually, when your heel pulls up, you're doing one of the following things:
- Squeezing the saddle with your knees
- Squeezing the saddle with your thighs
- Leaning forward
- Not sitting balanced evenly on both of your seat bones
When these issues are corrected, you will notice how your heels fall lower and you will be able to relax your leg and your seat.
However, this may be easier said than done, which is why we have shared some useful tips below.
Sit up in two or three point
No matter your discipline, even if you're a dressage rider, shorten your stirrups and sit up in two or three point seat. As your stirrups are shorter, it's automatically easier to keep your heels down. However, if you still find it difficult, pick up trot or canter and go around the ring for a good five to ten minutes.
This will help you to get into the correct position, as on the long run, keeping the weight off of your heels would become tiring. Your heels will automatically start pressing down.
Stretch at home
Your calves or inner thighs could simply be tight, which will prevent you from pressing down your heels and keeping them there. So take some time at home and stretch your calves and inner thighs. You can stretch your calves by pushing your toes and the ball of your foot against a wall, keeping your leg straight and leaning towards the wall. You will feel your calves start stretching!
Also, stretch your inner thighs by sitting on the floor and opening your legs as wide as you can. Keep your back straight and lean forward.
Longe line is your best friend
Experienced riders spend hours on the longe line practicing correct seat. Ask your trainer to longe you on a calm horse, drop your safety stirrups and make circles with your toes and ankles. As your leg relaxes, it'll become easier to keep your heels down.
When your instructor is present, he or she can give you invaluable advice and tips on how to correct your seat and to keep your heels down. They can also tell you when you're doing it correctly, so you'll learn how it feels.
Extra tip! Check your stirrup length
If your stirrup leathers are too long, it's going to be hard to keep your heels down. Make sure the bottom of your stirrups hits your ankle bone: if the stirrups are longer, it'll be impossible to keep your heels down and to still keep your stirrups on.
Using magnetic safety stirrups
Note that our magnetic safety stirrups can also be a great help with correct foot position. The magnets in the stirrups and your magnetic insoles pull towards each other, ensuring that your foot is always in the right place. This prevents your foot from slipping and allows you to push your heels deeper down without feeling like you might lose your stirrup.
For instance, our Ophena S and Ophena S Pro are excellent stirrups for improved leg and foot position. Thanks to our magnetic safety stirrups, many of our customers have reported feeling more confident and balanced in the saddle.
You can read our stirrup reviews to find out more.
Though your heels may seem like such a small part of your body, seat and posture, keeping your heels down is very important in order to keep correct balance. With simple exercises, you can get a better seat, which will ultimately make your aids even more effective, too.