Ideally, the leg from the hip down, should be moving in concert with the horse. This might look as if the leg is quiet. It might also look as if the leg is moving as much as the horse is moving, whether at first level or with the cadence of a collected trot at Prix St. George. The leg movement that follows the horse movement is what gives the appearance of a quiet leg. The rider’s leg is actually not still; it has to have motion, but the motion has to be in concert with the horse, otherwise the motion can become random. The instructor can see the motion articulated in the rider leg and sometimes the rider can feel the motion of their leg and describe what is happening.
The horse is in collected trot. The rider is able to create and maintain a correctly collected trot with a degree of cadence.
Incorrect Leg Motion: (at any level) Sideways Flapping
When the leg flaps on and off the horse’s sides, mostly from the knee down. There is a lot of sideways motion. This is pretty common. It is not completely incorrect because it does mean there is a degree of relaxation and motion following the horse. The leg aid can be used because the rider is not clamped through the lower leg. But it is not correct motion because the horse’s trot has up and down motion, not swinging so much left and right. In order to get a higher quality of trot, and to use more refined aids, the leg can’t be constantly swinging back and forth and on and off the horse’s sides.
- Gripping through the thigh, blocks the motion going from the hip all the way down to the ankle, so the lower leg, which is loose, reflects the motion by swinging on and off.
- The thigh is not long enough, which is partly due to gripping through either the thigh or knee or both.
- Not enough support through the core and the upper body.
- Using the leg aid in an off and on again motion; which is good in that the rider does not hold the lower leg constantly on the horse, but uses the leg aid and takes it off, however, this should not be a constant on/off motion.
- The changes in going from riding a working trot to a collected trot, which has cadence, which translate into more up and down motion for the rider to absorb and follow.
- The following motion has to be absorbed primarily through the hip, which has to have a greater degree of open and close, due to the increased motion of the upper level collected trot. If the rider is not able to absorb the motion through the hip, it will come out somewhere! In some cases, it will be below the knee in the lower leg.
- Raise the student’s stirrups a hole to help stabilize; stirrups that are too long may cause the rider to grip.
- Pull the student’s thigh away from the saddle to let it open, then roll it in and pull it back.
- Have the student put weight in the stirrup. Do not brace your heel down; this is not putting weight in the stirrup correctly. Instead, press down on the stirrup with the bottom of your boot.
- Feel your stirrup. Let your leg be supported on the stirrup with every step of the trot. This helps you stabilize the whole leg in place underneath you.
- Have the student ride collected trot on a 15 meter circle around you in sitting trot. Have the student look down at their leg and watch it bounce around, have them fix the motion, then let it bounce around again, then fix the motion again. Switch directions. The repeated fixes should help the student see and feel the difference between incorrect and correct motion.
- To help the student use their core correctly, ask them to knit their ribs together and push their lower back against an imaginary wall or their instructor’s hand in the flat of the back.
- Think of letting the knee look down in order to lengthen and loosen the thigh.
- Have the student imagine their leg encased in a black pipe hangs solidly from the knee into the stirrup. The image and feel of solidity seem contradictory to being loose and following, but the following motion has to be absorbed primarily through the student’s hip, not the leg.