Lower-Leg Exercises and Horse Jumping

Lower-Leg Exercises and Horse Jumping

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Improve your jumping with lower-leg exercises.

L. Willinger/Photodisc/Getty Images

Correct positioning of the lower leg is crucial for riders who want to jump their horse over obstacles. If the lower leg slips too far back, your upper body will tip forward, making it harder for the horse to stay balanced over the jump. Jumping places stress on the legs, knees and ankles, as they are used to support the rider's body as the horse lifts and cushion the jolt as the horse lands.

Correct Lower-Leg Position

Your lower leg is used to give aids to your horse and to ensure that you have a stable seat in the saddle. Whether riding on the flat or jumping, the balls of your feet should be on the tread of the stirrup and your heels should be lower than your toes. Your knees and calves should be in constant contact with your horse and your lower legs should be just behind the girth. There are exercises that can be done both on and off your horse to strengthen and stabilize your lower-leg position for jumping.

Exercises Off the Horse

Calf-stretching exercises will make it easier to keep your heels lower than your toes. Stand with the balls of your feet on a step and your heels over the edge. Slowly lower your heels down so you can feel the stretch in the back of your calves. Maintain this position for 10 seconds then bring your heels back up. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions a couple of times a day. Other good calf stretches include the downward-facing dog yoga position and many Pilates lower-leg stretches.

Two-Point Position

When you jump a horse, you are in the two-point position, as your seat is out of the saddle and your two legs are your only points of contact with your horse. Practice the two-point position on your horse by standing in the stirrups and pushing your body-weight down through your heels. You may need to hold onto the saddle with one hand until you find your correct balance and develop a low center of gravity. Practice while the horse is standing, then progress to doing this while the horse is walking. As your lower legs strengthen, you should be able to hold the two-point position while trotting or cantering.

Riding Without Stirrups

Riding without stirrups will make you focus on having your legs in the correct position. Ride your horse over low jumps without your stirrups and you will quickly realize you must keep your legs tight, which is best achieved by raising your toes to engage your calf muscles round the girth. Rising to the trot without stirrups will also strengthen your lower-leg position and is very difficult at first. Initially you may only manage to rise for a few steps, but over time, you will be able to do it for several minutes.

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Photo Credits

  • L. Willinger/Photodisc/Getty Images