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Sitting in the Saddle

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - December 1st, 2011 - More with Les

Tenth in a series
After looking at the hands as communication devices, Les focuses on the seat.

To be effective with your leg cues, you need to be straddling your horse with your weight resting on the bottom of your hip bones. You also want to get to where you can stay balanced in the saddle no matter where your leg is on the horse. As we’ll discuss later, you’re going to need to move your lower leg from the spot just behind the horse’s elbow, to move his shoulder, to a position way back on his barrel, the cue to move his hip. So if you feel like you need to use your legs or the stirrups on a regular basis for balance, you’ve got a long way to go before you have the freedom to use them to effectively cue your horse. Keep just enough weight in your stirrups to keep from losing them. Also, if you’re clamping with your knees, you’re liable to vault out of the saddle if your horse stops, just let your legs hang when you’re not using them and keep them relaxed.

You’re also going to want to sit back on your back pockets. There’s an old saying, and a good one: “If we can see the “W” on your Wranglers, you’re riding bad.” If you lean forward, and your shoulders get in front of your hips, you could be in big trouble if your horse makes a quick lateral move. In all the years I’ve ridden, I’ve very seldom seen someone fall off a horse backward! They usually fall forward, either when the horse stops or stumbles, or they fall to the side when a horse snaps out from underneath them. Since hard stops and fast turns are what we’re working toward, you’d better work on keeping those shoulders back now so you’re ready for the fun stuff when your horse is!

Foot Position
Maybe it’s from riding so many cow horses, but I’m really more comfortable with my foot all the way in the stirrup, rather than keeping it under the ball of my foot as many riders do. All and all, it’s a matter of where you feel most comfortable and where you’ll have the most capacity of movement with your leg – without losing the stirrup. Also, I don’t worry about keeping my heel down; you just want your leg to be relaxed, comfortable and maneuverable. You sure don’t want your heel up, but don’t worry about pushing it down either, it will put too much weight in your feet.

Stirrup Length
Again, this is a matter of what feels best to you, but I’m finding that I’m leaning more and more toward a shorter stirrup, as I explain on the DVD. Pick the place where your leg is both comfortable and maneuverable.

Using Your Legs
I’m often asked: “When I use my legs, should I be kicking or holding them steady?” Well, just as we’ve talked about how you shouldn’t use steady pressure with your reins, I’m not a big believer in steady pressure with your legs either.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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