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Heels down!

Stretches to help loosen the lower leg.

· Smart Technology,Riding Style,Foot Position,Equestrian,Riding Tack

If I have heard the phrase “keep your heels down” once, I’ve heard it a million times. I’d shove my heels down and forget about until I was once again reminded with a yell from across the arena. I rarely thought about why it was so important that I keep my heels down. For one, our heels and ankles absorb the horse’s movement and without proper heel placement can hinder how we move with the horse and can decrease the effectiveness of our aids. Heels up and toes down can signal we are gripping too hard with the knees and not enough with the thighs and calves.

However, some riders have difficulty keeping their heels down due to tightness and lack of flexibility in the calves and ankles. This tightness can lead to discomfort when trying to grip with the calves and keep the heels down. New and old riders alike remark on tightness in their ankles and calves. Forcing your heels down and straining those muscles can lead to injury. We can never expect ourselves to get better and to be able to keep our heels down if we don’t help our bodies to do so.

There are several stretches targeted specifically at increasing flexibility in the lower leg:

1. The crossed-leg stretch improves flexibility in the hamstrings and calves and also stretches your lower back. To perform this exercise - stand with your feet slightly apart and then cross your right leg over your left one. Your right leg will be slightly bent and your left will be straight. Bend at the hips and reach toward the ground. For added balance, rest your hands on your right knee. Repeat on opposite side - crossing your left over your right leg. - Horse and Rider

2. An Achilles stretch is key to stretching and loosening the Achilles tendon. Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward. You can also hang your heels over the edge of a stair or curb and gently push down through your heels.

3. To loosen the foot and ankle while standing, roll each foot over a ball or other round object to release the plantar fascia tissues. Wearing shoes without the proper support make these tissues sore and irritated which can make keeping our heels down difficult. - Paleo Hacks

4. Another stretch to loosen up the ankle is to kneel down with one leg forward and one leg behind. Keeping your heel down, rock forward as far as you can on the front foot. - Paleo Hacks

5. These are just a few stretches that can help improve flexibility in the lower legs. Many exercises, even if they aren’t specifically targeted for equestrians, can be helpful. Having a strong body and mind enables us to be effective equestrians.

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