Toes Turning Out?

An incredibly common problem I see is riders toes turning out. It's frustrating isn’t it; as you have a lovely ride and someone takes a picture and all seems well until you realise your feet are pointing at quarter to three!

 

I also imagine over the years your instructor may have tried to turn your foot in causing you to yelp that it won’t go that way!

 

There can be a few common reasons why riders feet turn out.

 

One reason is tight abductors. The abductors are the muscles around your outer hip and bum. These are the muscles that turn your hip out -and therefore turn your foot out! When we sit on a horse these muscles which sit on the outside of our hip are put into a shortened position as our inner thighs (adductors) are lengthened to go around the horse. Due to this continual shortening they can become "over shortened" and unable to relax back down which then travels down the leg and rotates the whole thing.

 

Another reason could be a spasm in the Piriformis muscle. The Piriformis is a muscle located deep in the glutes and is a hip rotator, so it’s very action is to turn the foot out. As with the abductors it can become tight and then hold the hip externally rotated-causing the duck feet effect.

 

In both of these cases another issue that needs to be addressed is Hip Stability. If there is weakness in the abductor and glute muscles they will “latch on” to try and create stability.

 

For this reason I always like to take two pronged approach to this issue.

 

Step one. Release the muscle.

Step two. Strengthen the muscle.

 

We are of course going to start with releasing the muscle.

 

Release The Muscle:

In order to help the muscle relax and lengthen we need to release any impingement that may be present.

 

Start with the Anti Spasm exercise for the Piriformis.

https://youtu.be/EVd1RBbrmtE

 

Then try releasing the abductors and Piriformis with a ball or foam roller-personally I prefer a ball. Any ball will do such as a tennis ball, of a hockey ball or one of those spike physio balls I hand out all the time.

 

For the Piriformis sit with the ball somewhere between your seat ball and your outer thigh-you’ll know when you’ve hit it! Roll around there, pressing and releasing until you feel the tension fade.

https://studio.youtube.com/video/xdOrJtIxy5E/edit

 

For the abductors I find the traditional foam rolling technique too strong for most people so I suggest just hand rolling the ball down the outer thigh from the outside of the hip to the outside of the knee.

https://studio.youtube.com/video/-fJ5gjz7YhI/edit

We will have a look at hip stability next week.

 

 

 

 

Bottom Rib to Hip

I work regularly with riders on how they can better activate their core whilst riding. It’s not that most riders don’t have great core stability they just struggle to activate it whilst riding.

Often when asked to sit up tall we simply stretch up-often sticking our chests out (your headlights as I call them) and have then created admittedly a taller frame at the front but our abdominals are now in an elongated position and we will be shorter at the back. Then in order to try and stabilise riders will often lean back a little more as the horse moves forward creating a hollow back.

In order for our core to work effectively we actually need to be equal in length at the back and at the front.

This enables us to use our front and back equally and be able to truly stabilise and go with the movement of the horse.

Now of course for some riders they are actually using too much front and too little back and in fact need to open up, but I see way less of these riders so I’m going to focus on the former position for this week,

Essentially to create equal length front and back we need to close the front a little which in turn if done correctly will activate the muscles of the abdominals and hip flexors enabling them to work correctly.

I use the cue –take your  bottom rib closer to your hips, which is basically a tiny ab crunch. (The ladies in my class has changed this phrase to P!bes to B**bs….I’m sorry but apparently that makes it easier to remember!)

To find the right muscles and movement pattern before you get on your horse you can try this exercise on the floor. It’s like an ab crunch but with about 2/3 less movement.

So I want you to lie on the floor, knees bent feet hip width apart. Your hands go behind your head-purely for support they do not pull on your head at all! Your elbows should also stay out to the sides throughout. You are going to recruit your abdominals and as you breathe out pull them back towards your spine. Do a few breaths like this first to get the hang of it, breathe in let your belly rise, breathe out, recruit and draw in towards your spine. You are trying to prevent your belly from popping up as you lift up. Now breathe in to prepare as your breathe out recruit the abdominals and send your bottom rib towards your hips, your shoulders lifting slightly as you do so-however the bottom of your shoulder blades should still be on the floor. Keep your eyes focused to the top corner of the room. Your belly should not pop up as you lift.

If you feel this in your neck you are not recruiting your abdominals correctly and may need to focus on just the breathing pattern for a while until you master it.

Once you can feel this recruitment pattern try recruiting bottom rib to hip whilst on your horse. This adjustment will appear really minor and you should remember to keep your shoulders open as the rib cage drops-otherwise you will be in the opposite problem of too hunched!

Give this a go and let me know how it feels and if it helped!

 

Influence the Tense Horse

If you ride a tense of stressy horse it can be difficult to understand how you can influence him other than hanging on for the ride and pushing forward.

 

However there are some things you can do with your own body that will help a little-or at least not make it worse!

 

It seems obvious but it can be really tricky to actually do, but try it to hold tension in your own body.

 

Start with your breathing. Breathing into your Diaphragm or belly breathing taps into your Vagus Nerve which creates relaxation in your own body that will transfer to your horse. It also encourages relaxation of your Psoas muscle that sits at the front of your hip, this will allow your seat and leg position to be more relaxed.

 

Keeping your elbows closed into your sides encourages you to switch on your back muscles which will allow your arms and hands to relax down the reins. You will have a much more stable but relaxed contact if it comes from your back rather than your arms.

 

Before you get on rolling your glutes on a small ball can release tension in your seat, and of course some general movements such as arms swings or fig 8s, leg swings, squats and lunges can encourage muscles to switch on and work more efficiently rather than bracing under tension.

 

If all else fails have a little sing song as it will help you do the above without even realising! I’d avoid any Mariah Carey high notes though……..