A featured entry in the "Deep Seat" series

Heels Up

When your heels are up, you are in diving position. Unless you are in the lake, I do not recommend diving off your horse. It has been known to be hazardous to your health.


This is the most common rider fault. Unfortunately, human anatomy does not take the heels-down position naturally. In other words, it is not a position that we normally assume in our daily lives. When your heels are up, the shock absorbers (they include the hip, knee, and ankle joints) of the leg are locked and cannot absorb shock. This throws you out of the saddle and causes bouncing, which is the ultimate no-no — it is painful for both horse and rider (Illus. 34). One exception, though, is vaulting. While vaulting, the rider does not use stirrups and is required to point her toes down.

Illus. 34


Imagine touching ground with your heels — Thinking about dragging the heels in the dirt is often helpful in lowering them.

Weighted heel — Feel your heels get heavy without force. Thinking about having a weight in your heel helps to achieve this (Illus. 23).

Illus. 23

Point toes to the stars — Thinking about pointing the toes to the sky often is useful as well.

Heels in stirrups exercise — Take your feet out of the stirrups. Next, place your heel in front of the stirrup and in the stirrup. Be sure not to put them so far in that the heel of the boot is caught on the stirrup (Illus. 33A & B).

Illus. 33A and 33B

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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