Friday, November 20, 2020

Left leg vs right leg - picking apart the biomechanics

I know, I seem to be doing a bunch of biomechanics posts of late, but that's where my brain is at so that's where the blog is at.

Following up on my last post about keeping my legs close is understanding how my right and left leg are different, how that affects my riding, and what I need to do to make them more even. My left leg is the stronger leg, and tends to stay more under me and doesn't brace or swing.

Let's start with the obvious differences. In these pics, I'm not actively focused on doing anything different with my legs. Let's call this "normal": 

Perhaps the most obvious difference here is the angle behind my knee - the right leg is MUCH more open than the left. You can also see that my lower right leg has slipped forward and is bracing on the stirrup - especially obvious because the stirrup leather is pushed forward instead of being perpendicular to the ground. My left thigh is brushing against the block and is parallel to it, while my right thigh is nowhere near the block, and the angle of the front of my thigh and the block are quite different. We could also discuss my pelvis here, which definitely affects the leg, but let's just focus on the leg.

Next set: I'm actively focused on "keeping my legs close."

The angle behind my knee is more even between the right and left legs, but the right knee is still more open than the left and the lower leg is still a bit braced and forward., which you can also see in the stirrup leather still being a little in front of the vertical. There's still a big gap between the block and my thigh on the right leg, but there's no gap on my left thigh (I should note that I don't ride jammed against the block, it's more the feeling of the fabric of my breeches brushing the block). So, keeping my legs close has helped a bit, but my legs still aren't as even as they should be, and the bracing on the right leg is going to (and constantly does) cause problems.

Final set: I'm actively focused on pushing my right heel away from the horse, bending my right knee, and keeping contact between the fabric of my breeches and the thigh blocks:

The behind-the-knee angles are MUCH more even here, and the right stirrup is parallel to the ground. The right thigh isn't quite parallel to the block, but there is no longer a gap between my thigh and the block.

Buuuut, I'm struggling to keep that position. You can see that my right knee has dropped down and back as I'm using my lower right leg to keep his haunches in line for the left bend. Ah well, it's a work in progress!

The biggest difference I feel when my right knee has more bend in it is that I'm not as stiff in the hip, and no longer pushing my right seatbone out of the saddle. Keeping my right thigh on has the added benefit of making me more stable in the saddle, especially during transitions, which is when I like to brace the most.

Which of your legs is stronger? Do you notice an imbalance between your legs, and if so, in what ways, and how does it affect your riding?


  1. I find that my right leg is weaker in general, but my left leg is tighter, especially up in my hip and IT band. I definitely have an easier time holding bend with just my leg to the left, but if s**t hits the fan, my right leg is better at catching me than the left, and I almost always come off to the left (which probably has more to do with my tendency to collapse my body left). Also, you are a LOVELY rider and even when you really break down the biomechanics and nitpick things you need to improve, I'm jealous of your equitation and effectiveness. I find your leg especially good.

    1. Oooh, I collapse right, so probably the leg thing is related. Thank you for your kind words, but I admit that one of the reasons I'm becoming so nit-picky about the biomechanics is because I'm not as effective as I would like to be. The right leg problem manifests itself in my hips and seatbone, making movements like shoulder in and half pass almost impossible for the horse to perform. So it might *look* good but sometimes it's not very effective. :(

  2. You may already be on top of this, but is your left hip advanced slightly (right hip drawn back)? I ask this because your legs remind me of my legs, but opposite! My left leg was always straighter, more down in the stirrup, more open in the knee. My right leg often drifted TOO far back, popped out of the stirrup, and had a more close angle and tone. It's probably a bit deceptive in the pictures since they are taken from slightly different angles/etc, but it does look to me like your right seatbone is a bit closer to the cantle than your left. Learning how to twist right and draw my right hip back has been huge in evening out my legs!

    1. Ha, you got me! YES, my right hip is back, because my right lats don't engage and my left lats over-compensate, so my hips twist. I also tip my pelvis down, but one thing at a time... WHY do these body parts all have to be so complicated?!?!

    2. Ugh and ask interconnected! So rude of them to mess one another up like that!

  3. I love biomechanics. My left leg is more released down and has less tone. My right leg is stronger, and I would argue more effective, but I have the tendency to draw it up or let it slip back my right sit bone. I also like to collapse left, something about carrying young children around on my left hip. That being said, knowing is half the battle and I think that I become pretty darn even over the years. Rotating away from my collapsed side has helped reprogram me and Harley used to swap to the left lead if I didn't keep myself straight. Shifting both of my seat bones to the right also helps me release my right leg down and find the middle again.

    Have you experimented with changing your stirrup lengths? Your right heel is below his belly in the side views. A shorter stirrup could create some interesting effects for you, even if it's just temporarily raised.