Fallen arches? Bad knees? Plantar Fasciitis? Back Pain? Headaches?
Leg slipping back? Stiff seat? Can’t sit the trot? Crap lateral work?
Did you know all those things can be linked back to your foot posture and your ability to balance/control your posture?
As humans, we use balance and proprioception (body awareness) almost constantly in and out of the saddle.
From the time we tack up, get on, hack, all the way to mucking out and feeding- our body is constantly regulating and balancing us through movement. One of the first things I look at in riders is how they can stabilize themselves through movement, and from side to side. Surprisingly, I see many riders who have trouble even balancing on one leg standing still- and then wonder why they have certain issues in the saddle. Take into consideration that the basic requirements of our chosen sport are to influence 1200+lbs of animal underneath our own body control.. a unbalanced rider take on an extra level of concern…
Issues that can stem from lack of balance in the saddle include pain in the lower body- specifically the ankles and knees, trouble staying stable landing jumps, trouble asking for certain cues such as lateral work and lead changes, and the list could go on. Our base of support at our feet create so much of our movement potential. Balance of course is also important if we take a tumble. While we can’t always control how we land, those of use who fine tune our balance and proprioceptive skills (our ability to know where our joints are in space..without using our eyes) have a much better chance at landing in a better position.
If we take a look at movement as whole, poor control of our foot leads to poor control every else in our posture. Control issues in our balance generally stem from issues in our foot itself as well as issues controlling our pelvis via our hip musculature. If you’ve been reading our previous posts, you’re probably starting to notice a theme… our pelvic stability is IMPORTANT.
As humans, the optimal foot posture is a three point position on weight bearing in the foot.
As riders we “balance” on the front portion of our foot, with the weight of our body and force absorption happening through our ankle joint and heel.
In both positions if the muscles in the foot aren’t working, we are going to run into problems.
Standing upright with your feet about hip width apart, keeping weight balanced between the three points shown above, lift through the arch/inner ankle, and feel the hips engage to rotate the whole leg open. Remember- don’t let your toe or heel lift off to accomplish this, just the arch and subsequent leg is opening up and out.
As shown in the video you should notice that your foot posture changes, and muscles through the hip and leg have to engage.
Now imagine (or try this!!!) this movement and engagement in the tack for the lower leg… that lower leg may be easier to engage and lock into the side, and our hips may be a little more stable. Try this action of lifting through the inside and engaging through the outside of the leg at the walk in a two point, or seated. You should feel the hips engaging, the core having to work a bit harder, and muscles working throughout the lower body. This will likely feel weird, hard, and completely foreign. Stick with it. Over time you should notice a more stable and consistent connection in your lower body and seat.
Simple, small changes done consistently in and out of the saddle are where magic happens.
Start playing with splaying your toes, moving toes individually, picking things up with your toes. How we can control our feet says a lot about how we can operate the rest of our body. Engage your feet, and you open up a whole world of possibility!
Practice this through the day, every day, in and out of the saddle! Comment and tell us how it feels for you!