Dressage Exercises For Toe Position And Correct Leg Alignment In Saddle
Here are some great dressage exercises for toe position when you are in the saddle. Improve how your leg sits by adding these exercises to your regime.
Achieving proper alignment and toe positioning when you’re riding will help you prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your joints, not to mention creating a better picture. Improving your fitness as a dressage rider overall will keep you in the saddle for longer, which is what we all desire.
Ideally you want to enhance your ability to get your toes pointing forward as you ride. When it comes to toe position, the key factor to understand is that there is quite a lot of internal rotation required for your toes to point forward.
When you’re in a wide position, it’s common for your legs to want to naturally rotate outwards. This will in turn point your toes out rather than forward, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid. Think about it like a ballerina stance; when ballerinas stand naturally, they’re toes generally point outwards. If you stand in a similar fashion, when you hop on your horse, you need to consciously turn your toes to face forward.
Enhancing your performance and improving your toe positioning
Thankfully, there are exercises you can do to enhance your performance and encourage your toes to face forward. In this video, I demonstrate four of the most effective exercises to improve your toe positioning.
1. Sitting wide legged stretch
Sitting on the ground, bring your legs out wide and lift your seat bones back so you’re balanced. Instead of allowing your toes to naturally fall outwards, consciously turn your toes in. Slightly bend your upper body forward towards your toes.
This exercise will help you improve your thigh’s internal rotation, gaining strength and motion and in turn help you point your toes forward.
2. Standing wide legged stretch
Standing up, stretch your legs out wide as you did in the previous exercise. Ensure your toes are pointing forward. Bring your weight to one side, leaning your upper body forward and over your leg. You’ll start to feel this stretch through the abductor muscle of your opposite leg. Consciously position your seat bones back to achieve the full stretch and then swap sides.
If this is too difficult, check the video for variations of this stretch.
3. Sitting 90 degree box
Sitting on the ground, position your legs to make two 90 degree boxes. Position yourself so your seat bones are tucked underneath, making sure you’re upright and balanced. Aim to sit in this pose without your hands on the ground. Turn your body towards your back leg and hold, before swapping sides.
You’ll feel this exercise in your hip as you internally rotate your thigh.
4. Pigeon pose
While sitting, slide one leg in front of you so your shin is resting on the floor. Stretch the other leg out behind you, making sure it’s straight and not out to one side. Keep it bent if you need to initially. Resting on your hands, bring your upper body forward over your front leg. Find your full range of motion which may be halfway forward or all the way to the ground resting on your forearms. Aim to improve range each time you practice this exercise.
This will stretch your glutes and bottom. By loosening these muscles, you’ll prevent the external turning of your thigh bones and toes.
In each of these exercises, you may feel more comfortable on one side than the other. This is why it’s important to practice these exercises regularly to ensure you’re nice and balanced on your horse.
Aim to do these stretches daily, holding for 30 seconds each. As you become more comfortable with the exercises, work towards holding each pose for 1 minute. I highly recommend doing these dressage exercises for toe position before you ride to loosen up your muscles and allow yourself to relax when you’re on your horse’s back.
For more exercises, stretches and workouts to take your riding to the next level check out our dressage rider training online program. You’ll discover all the tools to help you improve your fitness and strength for riding. These specific dressage exercises are designed to help you take your dressage to a new level.
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