Do you ever look at a top rider and think to yourself: “Every movement is just so graceful”… and then you’re envious because you feel like a sack of potatoes every time you climb into the saddle? Well in this post, I’ll be talking about how to get a sturdy lower leg as an equestrian!
In the summer of 2018: I could no longer ride my horse, Legend, so I took up the chore of riding my sister’s horse, Dreamer (who hadn’t been ridden in a year or two). After riding the constant crow-hops out for good, I thought to myself: “I literally have nothing better to do” so I rode bareback for two months straight.
By October, I was cantering and jumping bareback on this lil pony with her incredibly choppy gaits. By the time I stopped riding her, I had a perfectly sturdy lower leg, still hands, and a stronger seat. Probably one of the best decisions I could’ve made as an equestrian!
So if you’re like me, and are always looking for ways to improve as a rider… here are ways to get a sturdy lower leg as an equestrian!
Want a Sturdy Lower Leg? Ride Bareback!
Bareback is an excellent way to improve your lower leg, as well as your seat! If you’re still an inexperienced rider, then start out at a walk or with a trainer – it can feel a little different than the saddle. Hey, I even had my very first fall while riding bareback haha, be safe ; )
Slowly work your way up, while always pushing your limits. If you’ve never trotted bareback, work on getting a nice, swinging walk. If your canter is fabulous, start going over canter poles and small jumps. Whatever you do, make sure that you’re engaging the correct muscles, sitting up tall, and focusing on relaxing your leg.
Don’t Forget to Stretch!
Having flexible calves is so important for keeping that correct leg position, as well as pushing your heels down!
Stand with your toes on the edge of a step then push down into your heels. Repeat several times. Always be sure to stretch on the ground before your ride to warm up your muscles and prevent injury!
No-Stirrup… November? No, no-stirrup whenever!
Look, I tried… rhyming isn’t my strong suit. Anyways! Riding without your stirrups will practically force your lower leg into the correct position.
If you have yet to experience no-stirrup work, start with someone (your mom, a friend, your trainer, etc.) lunging your horse so you can work on your balance, rather than steering. And don’t forget to work up to it! If you start right off the bat, you just won’t be able to walk for a solid week. Try intervals instead, 5 minutes with stirrups, 5 minutes without; or, one lap around the arena with stirrups, one lap without.
Either way, no-stirrups work is one of the quickest solutions to achieving that perfect lower leg!
Two-point in short stirrups!
Two-pointing in short stirrups – no-stirrups for the extra burn ; ) – will force your calves to jump into gear. This will improve your strength and flexibility tremendously!
To stay in the two-point for long periods of time, you’ll need to rely on your balance; however, if your lower leg is slipping too far back or too far forward, your entire body won’t feel steady. Therefore, when you hit that perfect position, you’ll know it!
Get a Sturdy Lower Leg by Exercising Outside of the Saddle!
Exercising on your own is a fantastic way to improve your lower leg! A lot of equestrians don’t get enough saddle time to build the correct muscles and gain flexibility.
Simple Calf Raises: Stand with your toes pointed forward, keeping your knees straight, then raise your heels off the ground while pushing through the balls of your feet.
Lunges: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then take a big step forward with your right leg. Shift your weight forward so your heel hits the floor first, then lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Tap your left knee to the floor while keeping weight in your right heel. Repeat on the other side!
By having strong calf muscles, you won’t run the risk of your legs getting tired after being held in the correct position.
And there ya have it, folks: fool-proof ways to get a sturdy leg as an equestrian! Remember that strength, flexibility, and muscle memory all take time… but don’t neglect exercising these solutions!
Tell me, what is your favorite way to improve your lower leg??
All the best,
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