There are several possible reasons your legs may be swinging when you ride, and you first need to identify the reason.
Possible reasons are:
- You are working too hard to keep your horse moving
- Your position in the saddle is out of balance
- You are using the wrong muscles in your legs to maintain your position
- You’ve formed a bad habit based on one of the above
Once you have discovered which of these issues is your individual problem, then you can go about targeting a solution using our tips below.
1. My horse is lazy and I am working hard just to keep him going
In this case, you need to target your horse’s idleness to enable you to work less hard, so that you don’t keep using your legs all the time.
Deliberately stop pushing him – hang your legs straight down and don’t use them. When he slows down, give him one BIG kick (or more than one if he doesn’t react enough) and then let your legs hang down again.
Keep repeating – every time he slows down, give him one big reminder with your legs then stop using them again.
If you are firm enough, he will get the message and keep going without needing continual aiding.
You will then be able to concentrate on breaking your habit of continual nagging.
2. I’m not sure if I’m balanced in the saddle
If your legs are not in the correct alignment – with the classic perpendicular line ear-shoulder-hip-heel – you will not be sitting in a correctly balanced position in the saddle.
Not only will you be either ahead or behind the movement, but your legs will tend to swing around as your body tries to stay with the horse’s movement.
At halt, stand up in your stirrups without holding onto the reins or balancing with your hands on his neck or the saddle.
When you can stand without falling either backward or forward, and without leaning forward from the waist or hips, allow your weight to sink into your heels. Your leg will now be in the correct position.
Now try the same at walk.
And also at trot, standing up instead of rising.
When you can do this with ease you will have discovered where your leg should be, and it will cease swinging.
3. I don’t know if I’m using the right leg muscles
Your leg should be in the position achieved in no. 2 above
Your thigh should lay flat against the saddle. Turn your heels out – you should feel this in your hips, not your ankles. The inner thigh muscle should be totally relaxed.
There should be a degree of tone in the muscle down the back of your thigh to achieve sufficient bend in your knee to keep your heel drawn back directly beneath your hip.
The calf muscle should be relaxed – contract the muscle up the front of your shin to raise your toes, which is the correct way to lower your heels, not by pushing onto the stirrup irons.
When you use your legs, close the inside flat of the calf against your horse’s side, do not contract your calf muscle (which will pull your heels up). This is done with the adductor muscle – the one on the inside of your thigh that is relaxed the rest of the time. It should be used in a pulsing manner, alternating contraction and relaxation to stop your leg from becoming tight or clamping your knee, which would cause your lower leg to swing like a pendulum.
4. My legs have a habit of swinging backwards and forward and I can’t seem to stop them (formed a bad habit)
Review the above and make sure you have corrected these first.
If your leg is still swinging, then try focussing on keeping the inside of your calf in constant contact with your horse’s belly.
Try riding in a stiffer pair of boots or gaiters – soft might seem comfortable but gives your ankles no support.
If all else fails, you could try ‘training straps’, which attach your stirrups to the girth. As a long term use is not so helpful, as they prevent you from achieving a correct outside leg position for such actions as canter strike off, and later on, lateral work, but as a short term measure to break the habit, they may be effective.
First, identify why your legs do not stay still, and then address the appropriate issue using one of the above solutions.
- The Correct Position For Dressage
- How to Improve Your Position
- How to Ride Without Stirrups
- How Long Should Your Stirrups Be?