HELP! Stop swinging lower leg at canter?

My first show is in 2 months and my lower leg still swings a lot. I jump 2’6 in equitation and hunter divisions.

I need some advice as how to stop my leg from swinging while sitting at the canter and while in half-seat. I only go 1-2 days a week to my barn because it is 1.5 hours away, so some advice for stuff I can do at home along with stuff I can do on the horse would be greatly appreciated!

My leg kind of swings
like a rocking chair, if you can visualize that. I tend to lean forward at the canter and need to lean back more.

So apparently my horse just has a super rocky and unbalanced canter, because I rode a different horse the other day and my leg was perfectly still in perfect position. I don’t know if this changes anything, should I still work harder on getting strong lower leg or is there a different solution to this.

If you are bold the absolute best way to get feedback on COTH is to have someone film you riding. Tension and/or weakness is contributing to an unstable lower leg. Seeing what is actually happening will really tailor the feedback you receive.

A common cause (I can’t say if this is yours without any video as GLR said) is pinching with the knee. This causes your lower leg to come off, which then swings as your knee is acting as a pivot point.

If you think this might be it, you can try thinking about pressing your ankle bone to the horse’s side and imagining that it is glued there. This will naturally unstick your knee and help you hold your lower leg still.

You may also find that your upper body being too far forward is because of your weaker lower leg…lots of position flaws come from the bottom up. When you can fix your base, the upper body tends to fix itself too.


I had the same problem for a long time. Finally figured out the issue with my current trainer. When I came to her I told her I had an issue with my leg swinging at the canter. For the first 6 months of lessons with her, we focused on dressage to address issues with my upper body (and confidence issues). I have a tendency to curl my shoulders, particularly my left shoulder. I had never been aware of that before.

Finally one day I asked her when we would address my swinging lower leg. She said, “your lower leg doesn’t swing anymore.”

Lo and behold, she was right. Turns out my issues with curling my shoulder when I was nervous (particularly in the canter) translated to stiffness and tension through my body. When you are on a moving animal and you are tense, that energy has to go somewhere. Hence my swinging lower leg. Once my body became more aligned (shoulders straight above my knees, knees directly above my ankles) and less tense, my issue with the lower leg stopped.

You might not be able to fix this issue in 2 months, but keep at it. My guess is that it is more an issue with your upper body than your lower body, and that you are carrying tension somewhere. Take dressage lessons if you can.


Work without stirrups and even bareback.

Shorten your stirrups and Turn your toes forward and your leg will stop swinging.

Lack of core strength to stabilize you position which can be improved off the horse. But you can’t really develop much strength in the saddle riding once a week any more then you can improve in any other sport. See if you can’t commit to at least twice a week, a third day would be even better.

Sometimes the saddle hurts you more then helps you, especially if it comes with the school horse. Working in full seat with no stirrups as much as you can will really get into the abs you need to strengthen works even in saddles that don’t suit or even fit the rider.

1 Like

If your trainer is willing and your horse will tolerate it, working on a lunge line with no stirrups/no reins can be very helpful for fixing position problems.

I agree that saddle fit is a huge factor. If you’re battling the saddle not conforming to you, it’s going to be near impossible to have good form. Have someone knowledgeable take a really good look. If you’re in any sort of chair position, it’s really difficult to be in proper form. My previous saddle did this to me. I could NOT do a proper two-point and would then throw myself over fences which caused my leg to slide back every time. So it’s definitely something to look at in addition to all the other device above!

Arghh I have the same problem, yes saddle factor is huge, but what really helped me was to canter over ground poles over and over and over bareback. My main reason for a swinging lower leg, was trying to jam my heel down in a futile effort to feel more secure. You have to really sink and be a part of the horse for your lower leg to stop, another cause of my problem was a lack of trusting my distance, but ground poles helped me to adjust my eye and let live.

1 Like

Saddles are so beefed up and bulky these days. Try switching to a flat saddle like the old school Hermes. I’m talking no knee rolls. I love these saddles because you can really feel your horse instead of feeling like you are in a car seat. A handful of the top pros you can find still using them. They are great because they make you use your calf (the correct part of your leg to use) instead of pinching with your knee. If there is no knee roll, you will need to squeeze hard with your calf. Try riding around in one of these flat saddles for awhile and then when you go back to your comfy saddle you feel soooo strong.

Thank you everybody for the great advice! I will try out many of these suggestions and have someone make sure my saddle is fitted to me and my horse correctly!

This helped me and one of my friends who was having trouble with that. Think of this as a trial for just one ride, not something you want to make into a habit. But just “try this on for size” so to speak … visualize trying to reach your legs down and around the belly as if to touch your heels together underneath the horse. Think about actually trying to do that as you go into the canter.

Be careful doing no stirrups, as this may cause you to grip with your knees more! For me, riding in two point is more effective for working on this.

Does your horse accept your lower leg? I mean all the time, like a gentle hug? Your horse needs to accept your leg… Are you pinching (even just a bit) with your knee?

That can start a swinging leg.

When cantering - work on being soft with your body, follow the horse with your seat (back to front) and allow your thigh to be soft and move from the knee like a hinge. Toes forward heels softly down. Don’t jam your heels down it causes tension and stiffness. Allow your hip to softly tip forward; that may help you sit more upright and not lean with your shoulders.

I rode Equitation as a kid and I developed some stiffness and goofy habits. I am riding with a lovely trainer right now that I admire. She is the most beautiful rider and the horses really like her. She has been helping me develop this feel and my horses are happier.

My trainer used to tell me this all the time. She doesn’t anymore. I’ve probably done all of the things listed here. I think what helped the most was:
a better fitting saddle (I need a short flap)
pure strength in leg and core
cantering without stirrups and feeling comfortable opening my hip angle

Unfortunately doing all of those things took a long time and I’ve been riding 4-5 days a week for over a year. I am not sure you can totally fix this problem in 2 months riding 1-2 days a week. But you can try. Do yoga or pilates at home to strengthen your core and legs. Concentrate on not moving your leg at the canter.