Exercises To Keep Your Heels Down
Ever since being a little girl bouncing around on my welsh pony “Smokey” at pony club, the words heels down have been drummed into my ears as I am sure you can relate. This is not just for looks, its for safety reason to.
From a biomechanics standpoint it’s important to understand that heel down are like the cherry on the top. They get improved as the centre of the rider improves. Yes, you can work on heels down from day one if you like, but without a strong centre and balanced neutral spine, it can be a hard thing to achieve and often can create a hollow back in some riders without the centre set up correctly. The key is to work from the center out and once you have created this strong centre achieving heels down becomes much much easier.
Our heels and ankles are a common area that can create a blockage as they absorb the horse’s movement. This blockage and stiffness will affect how well you can move with the horse.
In this video, I demonstrate some stretches that will help you gain a greater range of motion in your ankle so that you’re able to naturally drop your heels down. Practice these enough and you’ll never have to hear someone correcting the position of your heels again!
This stretch will target your Achilles tendon and calf muscle depending on your position. These are both common areas where we can hold a lot of stiffness which will result in you having to force your heels down as you ride.
Find yourself a wall and press your right foot up against the wall. Bend your knee towards the wall to target your Achilles or straighten your leg, pulling your hip closer to the wall, to feel it more in your calf muscle.
Rolling your ankle will help you improve your range of motion. Simply stand on one foot and draw circles with the other. Start with anti-clockwise and then change direction.
Tip: complete the calf stretch on one leg, then do a few ankle rolls before swapping legs.
Your ankle joint is probably one of the last areas of your body you would think to work on. However, spending some time to improve the range in motion in your ankles will help greatly in your position in the stirrup.
Not only that, if you have a blockage at the base of your stirrup, it will affect how the movement of your horse flows out through your body. This will also impact your seat and upper body position, throwing off your entire composition as a rider.
Making sure both your ankles have got good freedom and mobility will help you transfer the force of your horse. Often what is happening with your horse reflects what is going on with you. So, putting the time in to improving your own fitness will not only positively impact your riding, but also your connection with your horse.
For more exercises and stretches to get you started, be sure to download our free guide. 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.