To succeed in horsemanship, you must have a correct, balanced position. The foundation for that position is a correctly placed leg. A faulty leg position corrupts your overall form and compromises your leg cues -- both of which can put you out of the ribbons. A correct leg not only looks good in the show pen and assures effective cueing, but also provides more security for any type of riding. Here, I'll demonstrate several leg-position errors, then give you one to emulate.
|Flawed leg position #1. My foot has "slid home," so that my stirrup is at the arch of my foot, braced against my boot heel. I can't sink my weight into my heel, or use my ankle joint to absorb shock. My leg has also drifted forward, which, in turn, has caused my body to tip back.|
|Flawed leg position #2. Here's another example of a too-far-forward leg, this time caused by my poorly executed attempt to force my heel down. My ankle is rigid, and because my leg is out in front of me, rather than under me where it belongs, my upper body will naturally tip back.|
|Flawed leg position #3. This too-far-forward leg is less extreme than the first two, but still incorrect, and all too prevalent in the show pen. With my leg even this much forward, I'll find myself riding back on my tailbone. I'll struggle to stay with my horse's motion, and won't attain the tall, elegant position needed to catch the judge's eye.|
|Flawed leg position #4. Here, my leg is too far back. With only my toe in my stirrup and my heel behind the vertical line drawn straight down from my hip, I'm jeopardizing my balance. Without the firm support my leg would give if my heel were properly aligned with my hip, my upper body will tip forward, and I may even lose my stirrup.|
|Flawless leg position. This strong, secure, well-positioned leg will please the judge. My weight is deep in my heel, my ankle is comfortably flexed, and the ball of my foot rests in my stirrup. With my stirrup at the cinch and my heel positioned directly under my hip, I have ultimate security, so that my upper body won't tip forward or back. I'm ready for anything-including a blue ribbon.|
Bobbie Emmons trains and shows all-around Paint and Quarter Horses with her husband, Ron, from their Emmons Show Horses in Plymouth, California. A professional trainer for 22 years, Bobbie has developed numerous APHA horsemanship champions, including Christina McGurran, 2001 Paint Horse reserve world champion in 13-and-under horsemanship.
This article first appeared in the August 2002 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.