The Less is More lesson was bought home to me recently. I have had a succession of instructors that have screamed “MORE LEG”, “PUT YOUR LEG ON” to the point where I had convinced myself that I did not have strong enough legs for the job. Imagine then what a relief it was to me discover that the better way is:
Leg On, then immediately off. If you do not get the response, on again and immediately OFF. When you get the response you want – keep the leg OFF”.
If you don’t, back it up with the whip, but be persistent in the on/off approach. Not more leg, less leg but more often and just to re-iterate, when you get the response you want – KEEP THE LEG OFF.
Less is More – This was not only a relief to hear but how beautifully it works!
I do not have to clamp my legs onto the horse to keep it going, even when asking for the horse to move away from the leg laterally, its on and off, not constant pressure. My horse is sharp to the aids and I am less tired.
Throughout this journey I have been continually surprised that my gargantuan efforts have been hindering my progress and less is, without doubt, more.
Think of your stirrups as snugly slippers, soft and warm and gently supporting your foot.
Then, forget about them!
Instead of driving your heel down and pressing on your stirrup, which will cause you to push off the stirrup when rising, (took me ages to stop putting too much weight in my stirrups!) try to imagine tightening the cords in back of your knee and/or achilles to RAISE YOUR TOE.
Try not to tip your ankle, keep it level, always with the toe forward. Think of your ankles as the soft and flexible antenna.
The stirrup has absolutely no use whatsoever other than somewhere to softly rest your foot!
As always, enjoy
Everything I post has the word balance in it somewhere. Ensuring you are ‘in balance’ with the horse whilst he is constantly changing centre of gravity takes time to learn.
The trick is relaxation of the lower body, which includes those buttocks as mentioned in an earlier post. The upper body remains upright, supporting itself.
You should strive for the lower body to be completely independent of the upper body. Feel like you could unscrew yourself from the waist and separate the two parts. Aids with the legs should absolutely not affect the upper body.
You can achieve this by noticing whether you are collapsing in the upper body with the effort of the leg aids, if this is the case, re-establish your position and try again until your leg is able to go ‘on’ and ‘off’ independently of the rest of your body. Once again, you could be putting in too much effort!
It will take much practise, but just being aware of when you have achieved it and more importantly, when it is all going wrong will help you get there.