I often get asked what we can do about flappy, unstable lower legs.
I often probably give what sounds like a dismissive response of let’ sort out the hips and core and see where are at then. I know that is frustrating for riders as we want a fix to our exact problem now!
So, I will try to explain why I say this now.
In terms of riding position and aids to the horse the lower leg does not need to be in contact with the horse unless directly giving an aid. If your lower leg is constantly on your horse’s side he will quickly become dull to it and no longer respond without a more forceful action.
The problem most riders tell me they have is that they niggle their horse with their lower leg, even when they try really hard not to they find it difficult to keep it still. Unfortunately this also means they then feel like they have to keep niggling as the horse isn’t listening.
Whether we believe it is the case or not the majority of the time this niggling comes down stability. The stability of your lower leg comes down to the stability of your hips and torso too, as they are the foundational unit from which they operate.
I am a follower of Mary Wanless and her Rider Biomechanics, as I believe her system has the potential to teach every rider to ride to the best of their ability. Mary teaches the rider to hinge from the knee as they ride-in this respect the lower leg almost becomes irrelevant unless giving a specific upwards transition and/or lateral aid. Far too often when trying to stabilise our lower leg we push down into the stirrup; which causes our seat to pop up. If we can focus on lengthening the front of our thighs and into our knee this will create a more stable base without losing our seat.
The magic of this is, that if you use all of those big muscles above the knee –quads, hamstrings, glutes and core muscles to stabilise you, your lower leg will automatically become stable as a result. The energy/go signal your horse receives comes from your hips and seat bones. I advise you to go and check out Mary’s books if you want more on how this works.
I find this most easy to see in rising trot when you essentially pivot over the knee to rise up using the power from your glutes and hips.
For me other than hips that are so tight they have broken my physios acupuncture needle (true story) this was a fairly easy adaption to my riding. Apparently when trying to encourage others to do the same not everyone has quite the same thigh strength!
So, rather than focus purely on the core stability element of this (check out earlier blogs and my youtube channel if you want some core exercises) let’s start with the basic matter of thigh and glute strength. Unfortunately as many of us have sedentary jobs our thighs and bums kind of go to sleep and as we may have been riding for many years bad habits and compensations creep in. This means we don’t quite have the thighs of steel and bums we can bounce a ball at we deserve from our hours spend in the saddle.
Try this little circuit 3-4 times per week and see your thighs and bum become a power station.
Set a timer for 3 x 1 min rounds perhaps with 10 secs rest between to give you chance to move between exercises. Repeat the circuit 3-4 times –literally only 12 mins of exercise you can do that can’t you!
Bridge half thrust-1 min.
Side Lunge to Balance-1min
Wall Sit – 1 min
Let me know how you get on!