When I’m working with someone on horse I will often ask them to put more weight through the thighs, perhaps imagine they are kneeling. The phrase/cue originally comes from Ride With Your Mind with Mary Wanless, however as I’m only ever focusing on how the riders body is working on the horse I don’t ever use a cue I don’t have an understanding of when and why I’m using it from an anatomy point of view. So I tested it and analysed what it did to riders (including myself) if they did it.
The two most common reasons I use this cue are
- Pain -often the knee but sometimes the ankle.
Now I’m not saying there shouldn’t be weight through the heel as we are originally taught as there definitely needs to be a connection to the foot but if a rider lacks stability they will often push down quite a lot into the heel in order to try and create it; which then results in joints locking and becoming rigid instead of force absorbing. This then contributes or indeed causes a pain issue, or at best just doesn’t enable you to move with and communicate with the horse as well as you’d like to.
However if you bear weight through the thigh what you actually do is activate the muscles at the front and the back of the thigh and hopefully if done well the glutes too. So you’re instantly using some big muscle groups to help stabilise you further and in the case of joint pain give it a much bigger support system.
A rider truly in self carriage has these muscles activated as they ride. They won’t be tensing and flexing with huge effort as if doing a workout but they will just be gently working away, supporting the body and enabling it to absorb the movement of the horse and move itself to give aids and accelerate and decelerate through transitions.
If we expect self carriage from our horse we should expect it from ourselves.