Proper leg position and use of leg aid

I’ve seen threads about leg position on here but so many things in the riding world contradict each other based on how we’re taught and other. My main equitation questions are

  1. What is the exact and proper way to add leg. I’ve always been told to ask, then tell, and finally shout. I’ve always understood that as a little squeeze with the inside of you calf would be an asking, telling would be adding pressure from your heel/spur. And yelling would be a light kick. Has anyone been taught this differently or adding the aids in a different way or with a different part of your leg?
  2. The location of toe and heel, while I know to send my weight through my calf and into my heel and to keep equal pressure across my foot the contradictions come when we’re told to not pinch our knee and keep our toes turned parallel to the horse’s body. I can hold my leg still like this without pinching until I ask my horse to do transition from one hair to another at which point I feel my leg pinching at the knee of my leg turning out and I pinch with the inside of the calf. What exercises would help fix this?

I think each horse is different in terms of what pressure will work best for them. Highly trained horses with lots of buttons seem to only need me to think about using my leg and they respond. Some schoolies used to beginners need a few barrel thomping kicks to get going. I think in an ideal world I prefer something as you describe.

The back of the calf is usually strongest in most people. It’s the fat part of the muscle and we can feel pretty secure when wrapping our legs around a horse like that. The detail of not turning toes out and not pinching with you knees is a matter of finesse and strength gained through experience. In the last two years I’ve started to get my leg not turned out as much. But I have to consciously think about keeping my feet parallel or at a degree less than 45. If I’m doing something difficult, I tend to revert to toes pointed out at 90 degrees because that’s my comfort zone. It’s just a matter of practicing the right way and training your body to do something new. And then developing those muscles that will help you achieve it.

I like my horses to be very light off the leg. I don’t actually go through the “ask, tell, shout” routine with them. When I ask for forward, I use a very light, clear aid. If I don’t get the response I want through my leg, I use my whip - nothing dramatic, but a tickle or pop behind the leg to say “no, mare, I really meant forward.” I really dislike riding horses who are dead to the leg, and in my experience if you use the “ask, tell, shout” progression most will learn pretty quickly you don’t mean it til you’re “shouting” and will merrily tune you out til you do.

For leg position, the very best instruction I’ve ever gotten is to “feel like you’re kneeling” in the saddle. This helps keep the lower leg underneath and weight distributed evenly along the flat of the thigh. To give a forward leg aid is just a light squeeze through the lower leg at the girth. Leg is ideally in contact with the horse from thigh down - often, folks will have more of the back of their thigh in contact with the saddle which turns the knee and lower leg and toes out. The kneeling imagery has been the best for helping me with this - and lots of work in two point.

What Kashmere said.

My horse is very light off the leg … unless she has decided to resist, in which case you have a fight to make her move. I do light leg, then touch of spur, then if we have a full out balk/fight, lots of spur (this does not happen that often anymore). If you kick or even use too much squeeze, she gets angry and that can precipitate a balk/fight.

One part of the puzzle is making sure the horse is “set up” for the transition, in balance, awake, and on the bit. That, IME, is at least as important as the leg aid itself.

I don’t like whips because they interfere with your hand position (and also they make maresy mad). But I agree that backing up a light leg aid with a whip tap on most horses is far preferable to using heavier and heavier leg aids. You really don’t want the horse to realize that they can just ignore a leg aid!

And I don’t love spurs either, because they interfere with your leg position. My toes generally point forward, and horse has a big barrell, so my heels are nowhere near her sides even in my jump saddle. This means I’m not going to accidentally spur her, which is a good thing. But it does mean that if I want to make contact, I have to turn out my toes and move my leg quite a bit, which can feel like it is affecting the integrity of my overall position in the saddle.

So while I’m wearing spurs every day right now, as back-up, there are days and days I don’t actually use them.

As far as keeping your toes forward, some of that depends on how your own body is put together, and some of that depends on your developing fitness level. My toes took several years to return to a forward position when I started re-riding; I think it’s something you can’t rush, but can just stay aware of.