As discussed in my last article, which can now be read here, the way your leg is positioned and how it functions is key to how your horse is able to respond to your aids and their ability to move underneath you.
When our toes and knees are rotated outwards not only does it disrupt your leg aid, but it also closes up the mobility of your pelvis and hips, this as a rider of any discipline is an issue as your pelvis is linked directly to your horses pelvis, and how well yours moves affects how well your horses pelvis moves.
When our toes and knees are rotated upwards, this means the thigh has an external rotation, this external rotation is caused by an activated or shortened combination of a lot of muscles within the hips and legs, these are:
the gemellus superior and inferior
the obturator internus and externus
the quadratus femoris
the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus
the psoas major and minor
When these muscles are short through weakness, or contracted through overuse, the thigh muscles are externally rotated.
The issue as a rider is these muscles are also a huge part of your breaking aid, your half halt and when they are switched on they reduce the mobility of your pelvis, this doesn't mean that they never are worked or fired, but they must work as all muscles do, with a contraction and extension, and when they are locked into constant action the release part of the movement that helps the hips to match your horses hips, or even encourage your horses hind quarters to move never happens. Because your hips as a rider are restricted then in their movement your horses hind quarters (hips) are too. So if you have a horse that doesn't seem to want to engage from behind, or pulls with the shoulders then this could be part of the issue.
Different paces require much more pelvic movement than others, weak and canter are the areas that require a huge amount of pelvic mobility and stability from the ride, this means that all muscles of the pelvic structure need to have the ability to switch on and off when needed. This is the key to mobility and stability.
If we are restricted in our pelvic movement, we are then restricted in the ability to not only mobilise but also stabilise as there are key issues with an imbalance in your pelvic muscles.
So your toes pointing out is a sign that your pelvic/hip biomechanics function is being restricted.
This again then plays into the game of more, pressure, more aid, sharper spurs and strong whip. But what if we reversed the culture, what if we worked at creating more mobility that was even in a 360degree way of our pelvis, building the movement and the strength that helped our body to match the movement we wanted from our horse, and even release their back to allow the movement through?
Often riders aren't balanced within this, one leg rotates outwards and one less so, this is a sign that the muscles are even in the left and right side of the pelvis, most people think of the pelvis as solid bone that only moves as one, but there are joints that run through the pelvis and that allow the movement to be more individual through the sides, its subtle but this individual left and right movement is key to being able to match the movement that we want from our horse.
If you take a moment this weekend and watch your horse walk from behind you will see the independence of each side of the pelvis, as one side rises the other side falls, our mobility needs to be able to match that independence too. This is not an unusual movement for riders, as humans we create this movement when we walk, that's why horses are used so well for building correct muscle patterns in disabled people, because the walk of a horse matches the walk movement pattern of the rider, if they are allowed to do it correctly.
The issue begins, when we have uneven balance within our pelvis before we start, this could be injury related, not just in the pelvis but within the body, a back issue, an operation, a broken ankle, a dislocated shoulder, etc will all play into this imbalance.
But also when we then don't rehab ourselves back to even balance, but just back to function, so as long as we can move we stop the rehab, if we do it at all. This imbalance can also be created through lifestyle, sitting, crossing your legs the same way, collapsing into the edge of the sofa, or on the armrest of the car, holding heavy bags, children, mucking out, carrying feed bags, water buckets...the list goes on. If we do this unconsciously we will begin to build a favoured side, this side then becomes stronger the other weaker and the imbalance begins.
The issue with muscles becoming stronger on one side, means the other muscles lock down, they don't have the strength to contract and extend so they freeze, sometimes short and sometimes long, meaning that the side we are stinger on isn't always the side we are less mobile on, it all depends.
An imbalance like this where one side is externally rotated more than the other creates issues like a collapse in the riders upper body, uneven weight over the horses back, a locking up though one side of their back muscles creating an uneven ability to bend, uneven muscle tone through the horse if ridden by the same rider constantly, pain in the riders joints, an inability to release one leg, a lean, more reliance on one rein for balance....the list is huge.
This is why we must make sure we do our best with creating as much even balanced movement through our pelvis as possible, this is why I focus a lot on this area.
In Thursdays session we worked on it through a lot of different angles, some building strength through resistance, and some length through different ways of movement.
Take a watch, give it a go, it takes time but if you do movement like this regularly n both sides of your body, your will feel improvement ands you will find that quite a few of your "troubles" start to iron themselves out.
Any questions just shout