Over 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher and cavalry leader Xenaphon wrote the earliest treatise on Classical Horsemanship. In it he stated:
“I do not approve of a seat which is though the man were on a chair, but rather as though he were standing upright with his legs apart. Thus he would get a better grip with his thighs on the horse. His foot and leg from the knee down should hang loosely… a supple leg would yield… without at all disturbing the thigh.”
His definition of the correct position on a horse is what riders still strive for today. (1)
Footwork – Then and Now:
“he were standing upright with his legs apart”
Standing on the balls of feet in the stirrups during a trot or a jump is called a ‘two point stand’. Weight naturally falls into the heels, core muscles tighten, hips and knees bend slightly and ankles relax. The stirrups are the rider’s “ground”.
“Thus he would get a better grip with his thighs on the horse.”
Standing in the stirrups forces the rider to develop secure, tight legs slightly behind the girth of the horse.
“His foot and leg from the knee down should hang loosely…”
Sitting in the saddle during a walk is a novice rider’s way to build muscle memory of balance. Novices learn to stretch legs, drop body weight into heels, ride lightly on balls of feet, and add gentle pressure on one side to direct the horse. Expert horsemen continue to use the least amount of effort to get the desired effect.
“a supple leg would yield…”
With every step, the rider’s joints flex just as the horse’s joints flex. He does what the horse does, and he uses his body to direct what he wants the horse to do in his.
“without at all disturbing the thigh.”
The rider’s feet are set up for weight to be distributed properly, enabling his legs to “stick” to the horse. The balls of his feet in the stirrups align his lower legs to lie against the horse’s sides providing the basis of support for the rider’s whole body.
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Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)
TRAINING – COMPETITION – PODIUM