EC Question of the Day – Heels Down!
We recently asked our readers: “How do you get better at keeping your heels down?” We received some great feedback, including advice from a personal fitness trainer for equestrians, from knowledgeable trainers, and from riders who have learned some tips! There are even two video exercises to try.
Check out the answers here:
Personal fitness trainer for equestrians here! If the calf muscle is tight, or overactive, it is unable to lengthen into an extended position (aka heels down and toes up). It has nothing to do with the rider’s ability to ride, it has to do with a muscle imbalance in their lower leg. To correct this, I recommend foam rolling the calf and static stretching the calf, while strengthening the opposing muscle, the anterior tibialis, aka the shin!
Honestly, I started doing Pilates and/or yoga and it helps you be aware of your body positions and they stretch your heels! It has definitely helped!
I like the mounting block stretches before lessons as it helps students make the mental connection of allowing the ankle to depress causing their heel to drop. Especially right before they get on the horse. They need to do more throughout the week, but this works great at lesson. I have had amateur ladies who wore heels to work every day and struggled with heels down. So, to help, I suggested taking a stack of books (or box) and set under their desk. Then they can stretch frequently throughout the day. It really worked and both my students and I really noticed the difference.
Judy Zimmerman Harrison
I like to take spurs off of the riders, Buckle the straps and hang them on their toes , while they ride without stirrups.
I use an exercise band–my students stand facing me and hang onto the ends like they’re holding reins. I have them put their toes “down” while I pull lightly on the band. Most of them catch themselves before nose-diving into the dirt. I then have them put their heels down–they instinctively rock their weight back and bend their knees a bit. They’re amazed that (much heavier) Miss Jaime can’t move them! I teach mostly newbies (first rides through advanced beginners) and we almost always have a blast!
I believe I learned from my trainer by riding while standing in my stirrups… Once I continued keeping my heels down, I was allowed to sit in the saddle.
If I still wasn’t doing a good job of applying leg or keeping my heels down, my trainer would take away my stirrups/irons until I did.
I hang my heels over the edge of my steps at home for 10 minutes every morning and night. I do 30 seconds pushing the ball of my foot into the step, 30 seconds focusing on pulling my toes up, then 30 seconds pushing my heels down. Then when I ride I do the same in the saddle doing two point! Also just holding two-point and letting my heels bounce down and stretch.
I start off by telling my lesson people to put their heels down toes up and ride with the stirrups on the ball of their feet. I’ll give them gentle reminders and tell them in every corner of the arena to check where their feet are in their stirrups. If that doesn’t help, I have them practice rollbacks – as in trotting/cantering the horse, then stopping, backing up a few steps, turning towards the fence and trotting/cantering off the other direction (and repeat the process). Doing these sudden stops helps them realize that if they keep their heels down their butt stays in the saddle and they don’t get off balance!
Andrea M. Burckhardt
Ride bareback. You don’t fall off if your heels are down.
Here’s one of our favorite in-the saddle drills at Pro-Activity’s EQFit!
And a great out of the saddle drill to go with it:
Thank you to our readers for great input! If you have a suggestion or photo for our Question of the Day, please email Delores.Kuhlwein@EquineChronicle.com.