Gripping with the knees
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, May 20, 2008 09:19 PM
This blog was inspired by a question I have received from one of the readers of my website. Thank you for sharing with me your thoughts and concerns.
Should you grip with the knees for better stability in the saddle?
Knee must lay flat and connected to the saddle the same way the thigh should. However, using your inner thigh muscles to hold on is a bad idea for many reasons:
  • This pushes you upward off the saddle because you are squeezing a slopped surface of the saddle flap.
  • Your inner muscles become tight and they cannot respond to steer your horse if you need to.
  • You can grip so hard your horse will have hard time using his back muscles.
  • You will bounce during the sitting trot.
  • Such knee becomes a pivoting point around which your lower leg will swing backwards and your upper body forward during jumping. That mistake in jumping is called pivoting around the knee, or unstable lower leg, or gripping with the knee.
To make sure your knee lays flat and connected to the saddle you must have your thigh rotated inward enough from the hip joint. And you keep them rotated with muscles on the sides of your hips during riding. When you able to do that you will have a feeling of a snug fit around your saddle and into it. Read more about thigh position .
During riding inner thigh muscles are not completely relaxed, otherwise you will not be able to keep your horse straight effectively. They are toned and have a give and elasticity in them to allow your horse to move. You can use them at your discretion to bend your horse, to prevent drifting to the side, to direct your horse, etc.
I'm speaking from experience. It took me a year to rotate my thighs enough and keep them in position easily. But the more my hip joints were stretching and letting thigh rotate the deeper I could sit in the saddle, the longer my leg became. I developed better stability in a light seat and I can gallop across the fields or ride big rising trot without losing my balance. Because my upper thighs are faced forward I can use them effectively to control the energy of my horse. On young or green horse there are moments when horse speeds up or stiffens his back. It is hard to ride then and gripping with the knees feels like logical response. I still have the reflex. But I fight it and consciously work on keeping my thighs rotated and steady, my core strong and my pelvis vertical. It helps me to stay balanced and help my horse to find his balance. And it helps to relax my horse.
Happy riding...
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