Lucinda Green MBE shared a great tip to stop you pushing off your stirrups whilst jumping as this puts you in front of the movement. She suggests jumping without stirrups then retaking them and jumping exactly the same way.
What I found great about this is that very often even during flatwork people are pushing into their stirrups which causes tension in the lower leg, and can encourage the joints to try and lock out; which sends your lower leg forward.
I think many people are doing this because they have misinterpreted the “weight in your heels” instruction. They then try to push their weight down.
As a rider you need to focus on being in your own self carriage. That means you aren’t excessively pushing or pulling in any direction. Any push from your body should be equal front to back, left to right-Symmetry!
So, what should you do with your feet?
You want a connection with your stirrups, that means equal weight in your feet, but that weight doesn’t push down it supports itself. You should be able to feel the stirrup across the whole width of the foot and be supporting your heel and aware of it’s position.
This is why I like to do exercises that improve the connection to the feet.
Bringing awareness to the feet can be done a number of ways depending on where you are in your exercise journey, and how connected you are to your feet already.
An initial awareness can be brought by rolling your foot on a ball, either a smooth ball or a prickly physio ball. Standing on the floor barefoot after this will give you new sensations and connections to your feet.
When doing regular exercises such as squats, tuning in to whether you have equal weight in both feet, whether you have your full foot in contact with the floor can all help to increase your awareness of your feet.
Working on unstable surfaces such as balance pods can give you an extra insight to how equal your weight is. Are you tipping one way more than another? Maybe your toes tip forward or your heels drop down -fine as long as it doesn’t tip your whole weight back.
Transferring this to your riding, now you have more awareness do your feet feel equal in the stirrups? If your horse drifts left or right can you correct it by gently increasing the connection to your opposite foot?
Our feet play a bigger part in our riding than we realise and it’s not about force or big efforts, just by improving our brain body connection and awareness to them we can make big changes.