Having Issues with Heels

froghorse

New Member
May 12, 2019
12
4
3
USA
I'm having some issues with my heels. I always tend to walk on my tip-toes, and I think it's 'cause I have autism, but I'm not sure. But, because of this problem, it's also really hard for me to keep my heels down when riding horses. When I'm at school and places I try to remember to walk heel to toe, but I don't think that's working. It's fine if the horse is walking, but once he starts trotting (because he's super bouncy like on an exercise ball) and me kicking him, my heels start to go up. And because of my heels not going down, I don't think I should be able to canter. I am pretty much progressing normally everywhere else. But it's probably going to take years for me to keep my heels down without noticing it, if ever. I do heel walking for 2 times a day for 10 minuets each, with like 1-2 minute breaks to walk on my tip-toes. (while wearing my paddock boots) But then when I'm done, my heels are kind of sore. Is this normal? I've been trying to keep my heels down for about almost a year, but while I'm riding they always say, "Keep your heels down!" and I'm starting to get frustrated. I actually think I'm doing pretty well everywhere else.
Then my father says that some of the people there had to take years to ride with their heels down, but that seems like an awful long time to be patient and wait. I want to be a good rider and learn to jump some day, but I don't think I'll ever be if I can't keep my stupid heels down. Will I ever be able to keep my heels down? o_O Thanks for reading, I hope someone can help me and answer.
 

Jessey

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
24,839
15,261
113
41
Suffolk, UK
Welcome :) I think the first thing to point out, that heels creeping up when you start trotting is something almost everyone faces, your bodies natural reaction when you are anxious (bouncing around on a horse isn't first nature to most people) is to try and pull into a fetal position, and that tends to mean your legs draw up to your body and your hands draw up to your face, it's something we all have to reprogram our brains to not do in this situation :) It can also be hard if you are on a slower school horse that needs a lot of kicking to keep them going as that tends to encourage heels to creep up.

I think your plan about practicing heels down is good, it shouldn't make your heels sore though, so just do little and often :) Another good thing might be going into a riding position without the horse, so stand with your feet apart (shoulder width) and squat down a bit, like when you sit in the saddle, remember to keep your heels, hips and shoulders in a line and keep those feet flat on the floor (or even have your toes up on a small block), you will need to engage your tummy muscles/core to be able to do all that and not fall over :D Building muscle memory takes repetition and doing this when you can will help fill in the times between your lessons when your muscles aren't learning that position :)
 

chunky monkey

Well-Known Member
May 2, 2007
7,128
5,331
113
My legs still come up after many years of riding. Also instead of walking on your heels. Which could cause eccess strains down your calves and Achilles. Practice standing on a step. The stairs are good for this. Put the balls of your feet only on them then drop your heels down below and then lift up. Do this 10 times a couple of times a day and you will strengthen the arches in you feet.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sonjanae

Sparky Lily

Well-Known Member
Nov 27, 2008
1,824
429
83
Yell, Shetland
As others have said, you are not alone with this issue. As you progress with your riding you will learn to put weight down through your leg, which helps improve the riding position and brings the heels lower. I found riding without stirrups for short periods in a lesson helped too. But be guided by your instructor, who can assess what stage you are at and what will help you improve. And don’t worry too much. It will come eventually.
 

fourlegs

Horse addict
Heels down is not an objective, it is a result of correct position. Forcing them down just causes tension in your body - exactly the opposite of what you want.
Ideally your body should be flexible enough so that when you sit in the saddle your legs are gently draped around the horse and your stirrups lightly balance on the balls of your feet. This comes with learning the right position of your body - something the RI should be focusing on and not telling you to keep your heels down!

There are as many opinions on the subject as there are people asked, the best explanation I have found is here - https://www.horselistening.com/2014...to-force-your-heels-down-in-horseback-riding/

I know from experience that the best riding I do is when I am completely relaxed with both reins in one hand - usually at the end of a lesson / ride but you will see me with heels up and toes out when I ride some horses because that is the most effective way to get them forward, other horses I ride with legs off and heels down - horses for courses as they say!
 

carthorse

Super Moderator
Staff member
Jan 6, 2006
9,723
5,648
113
You say you automatically walk on tip toe & that even short periods of making yourself walk heel to toe makes you sore. Maybe there's a physical problem here that you should see a doctor about? It could be that a referral to a physio would really help you, both with your riding & normal walking.
 

Skib

Well-Known Member
Dec 21, 2003
8,573
1,873
113
London
I have never been told to ride with heels down. That is very old fashioned. Pressing your heels down lifts your seat out of the saddle. Your ankles need to be relaxed - just let your legs hang and wriggle your toes to make sure your foot is loose.

The reason for teachers wanting your heels down is to prevent your foot slipping too deep into the stirrup where it may get caught - But far better to use safety stirrups and to ride relaxed. When one rides bareback, one's legs hang further forward and one's heels are in a natural position, not pressed down.

If you have physical problems, dont worry - at low level dressage tests there is a lot of emphasis on what a rider and horse look like - but the horse hasnt seen the diagrams in the book. I learned to ride with some physical shortcomings and in old age and no good teacher ever taught me nor insisted on a "correct" position.
What matters is to be balanced on the horse, not tipping to either side nor falling forwards or back.
So find a teacher who has some experienced with riding for the disabled and who can show you how to ride in a way that is comfortable for you. That way is likely to be comfortable for the horse as well.
There are times when your weight will go into your heels - in rising trot and forward seat in canter.
You will canter if you go on riding in regular lessons. Just give it time and dont expect to rush things. Even my husband learned to canter and he was 67 when he started.
Once you have ridden for some time, you will discover that what matters in riding is having an understanding with the horse, being able to communicated with the animal under you. Sometimes autistic people are brilliant at that. The important thing at the moment is for you to enjoy your time with horses and not worry about your heels.
 

Jane&Ziggy

Jane&Sid these days!
Apr 30, 2010
19,271
7,239
113
61
Surrey Hills
If you've always walked on tiptoe, your hamstrings (the muscles in the backs of your legs) will have tightened and that will make it difficult to walk with your feet flat. You might find that when you sit on the horse with no stirrups, your toes point down then too. If you gently stretch the muscles in the back of your legs and walk a little on your flat feet each day, you should be able to lengthen your leg muscles over time and find it more comfortable to lower your heels.

As Skib says, you don't have to have your heel right down. A flat foot, with the toe lightly in the stirrup, is just fine.

Little and often does it. I rode a big horse with a big trot a few days ago, and he made my heels lift to start with as I tried to get used to his movement. I got more comfortable with him after a while - everything takes time :)
 

froghorse

New Member
May 12, 2019
12
4
3
USA
Okay, I like everyone suggestions, thank you for that, but my issue with not focusing too much on my heels, as I've tried before, the people there don't like that. As far as I know, it's a place that does a lot of western riding and only some jumping and english lessons. But the instructor has lots of experience I know that for sure. What I don't get, is if what you're all saying is true, which I do believe that, why is she telling me to keep my heels down? o_O I mean, doesn't she understand this? I'm so confused.
 

fourlegs

Horse addict
Ask her to explain why - if she can't explain the reasons then go find a better instructor who understands bio mechanics and balance in horse riding.

Sadly many instructors just say the same things to all riders because that is the way they were taught - heels down, elbows in, sit up, shoulders back ... :rolleyes:
 

Jessey

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
24,839
15,261
113
41
Suffolk, UK
Heels down is an age old thing, correct position is heels down but many old school people tend to try and force it and that's not always the most productive but I can say there's probably many of us here who learnt with that mantra "heels down and sit up".
Pointing your toes in the stirrup can make you more likely to put your foot through the stirrup which is not a good thing at all, one of my very earliest memories in life is doing just that, falling and being dragged by my trapped foot, heels down is also about safety.
I think the thing is there is no one right way to learn, if your heels tend to creep up then being reminded isn't a terrible thing, but if it isn't working for you ask the instructor for another technique to help you, that's their job after all :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: carthorse

Skib

Well-Known Member
Dec 21, 2003
8,573
1,873
113
London
In the early months of learning to ride or learning anything else such as a new musical instrument, you rely on an instructor to tell you what to do.

After you have been riding for a bit you will discover there is no absolute right and wrong about many things.

Riding and the way riding is taught has changed in many and various ways in the last hundred years.
Every teacher may have a view of how things should be done - but should also be able to explain their preferences or suggest alternatives.

For instance, if a pupil like yourself has problems with the heel down position, then it would be sensible to teach them using safety stirrups.
 

carthorse

Super Moderator
Staff member
Jan 6, 2006
9,723
5,648
113
Heels down is correct, but it should come as a result of a correct and supple seat and leg rather than being worked on as a separate item. Toe down is unsafe though and something you must correct unless you're prepared to ride without stirrups.

Does your RI know that you have a problem keeping your heels flat when you walk? If she does she should realise you aren't going to miraculously produce heels down when you ride, but maybe some changes to your overall position would help. And as I said before perhaps you should look at some physio.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
OwnedbyChanter Still having bit issues help please Tack & Saddlery 14
popularfurball Issues with having feet done... Any suggestions? Hoof Care 8
P Still having a few issues. General 0
pengapenga Pics of Cindy - mare that is having some health issues General 21
joey_olop Having some behaviour issues...help!! Training of the Horse and Rider 15
Fluffey I'm having major left rein issues, can't circle or anything Training of the Horse and Rider 6
B Can someone help me?? I'm having many issues... Stubborn horse etc etc... Training of the Horse and Rider 24
S Having a few...issues? Training of the Horse and Rider 49
jUmPingIsLifE having major Issues! Competing 5
E Hi, my name is Denise....my call name is Empy. Thanks for having me on board! :) Cafe 13
J Having troubles with my lesson horse Training of the Horse and Rider 8
Ale Having fields harrowed, rolled and reseeded. Horse Care 11
Ale Having a dry winter turnout area. Horse Care 11
domane Having to Log In each time? Forum Technical Help & Site News 7
Huggy Having trouble getting onto newrider. Forum Technical Help & Site News 14
S New here - thanks for having me! Cafe 6
zerika Having problems with horse not listening to my aids and being nappy in general. Training of the Horse and Rider 6
L Having a moment Cafe 3
C Cost of having a horse Money Saving Ideas, Tips and Remedies 27
MaisieMoo Having a fab summer!! Cafe 6
Ale Having a bit of a rough time. Cafe 32
chunky monkey I'm having a bad week Cafe 7
GaryB Having a moan! (Updated!) Cafe 24
Native Lover what you having for New Year Dinner :) ( add a photo if you want) Cafe 16
DaisyAM Moving Yards - Having a Wobble Cafe 16
L Having things 'just incase' Cafe 6
L Having 2 horses and a full time job Cafe 14
L Horses, having time and not comprising their care Cafe 2
Wally The girls having a think Cats, Dogs and other Animals 3
Cremola Foam having a confidence wobble again! Confidence Club 5
Ale Ale having a jump! pic Cafe 8
L Work with them or having your own horse?? Cafe 14
P Having different work/life schedule - is it possible? Cafe 7
mu0ljk Having a Wobble - what have I let myself in for?! Confidence Club 8
L Having bandages on for too long? Horse Care 37
squidsin I'll have what she's having Cafe 9
joellie He is having a feel good day Cafe 6
L Having fun with your horse. Cafe 6
em_123 Having such a wonderful time!! Cafe 4
horseandgoatmom UGH anyone having FUN yet Cafe 13
caroline/halle Back to having horse full time Cafe 11
Mrs_T Returning to riding after having children First Timers 26
Mike Hope you are having a great Xmas Cafe 7
mystiquemalaika Abigail having a mooch around :-) Cafe 10
sjp1 Tobes is having Shoes Off tomorrow - am now anxious!! Cafe 14
sjp1 Having Loved Livery Yards, Have Finally Had Enough!! Cafe 11
Mary Poppins Having a tricky time..... Confidence Club 22
Ale Well this is painful! having great fun.. not Cafe 15
Ale I keep having the craziest dreams! Cafe 10
bitsnpieces Having my arse handed to me on a plate... Cafe 14

Similar threads

newrider.com