A featured entry in the "Deep Seat" series

Gripping with knees
When your horse spooks, your first reaction is to grip tight with your knees. After all, you want to stay on, right? Well, yes, staying on is the priority, but gripping with the knees is not the key to sticking to your horse.


You are trying to hold yourself in place by gripping with the knees and often the thighs as well. The problem with this is that the horse becomes like a slippery grape. Imagine that you are holding the top of a grape between your fingers. If you squeeze it, the grape will pop out of your fingers (Illus. 29). In the same manner, if you grip with the knees and the thighs, you are gripping mainly the upper portion of the horse’s barrel. This makes you more likely to pop off your horse’s back because the lower legs have lost contact with the horse’s barrel (Illus. 30).

Illus. 29
Problem: If you pinch the top of a
grape it will pop out of your fingers
Illus. 30
Gripping with your thighs
Noodles — To rectify this situation imagine that you have cooked noodles for legs. This will cause the legs to relax and lengthen (Illus. 2). Cooked noodles are soft, movable, and sticky. You want your legs to move softly with the horse, stretch long, and stick gently to your horse’s sides.

Illus. 2
Spaghetti legs

Contact with thighs and calves — Next, consciously think about having contact with the calves and a very light contact with the thighs. This contact might resemble a wet towel. It sticks to the horse but it does not squeeze (Illus. 31). The knees should rest lightly on the saddle without any light coming between the knee and saddle. Your heel must be down to maintain balance.

 Illus. 31
Solution: Imagine your calves are like
a wet towel that sticks to your horse’s sides.

Debbie Kay Sams

Debbie Kay Sams has written for Practical Horseman, Equine Journal, and Instructor magazines. For many years she has organized and led drill-team riding for all… See Bio

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