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How To Keep Your Heels Down Over The Jump

Submitted by member: DLaPointe

How do I keep my heels down over the jump? Sometimes I stand on my toes just before the jump.

Answer by Julie Winkel

Keeping your heels down over the jump is very important, not only for your balance in the air, but for your horse’s balance as well!

It is a habit, good or bad, that develops with muscle memory and practice.

The best exercises are to begin with a pole on the ground, trotting over it. Build up to cantering the pole, then gradually work with low jumps to start.

As you reach the take-off point, relax your knee (even open it away from the saddle), relax your ankle joint to allow the weight to stretch all the way down in the heel, and get your eyes up!

At the take-off every time, tell yourself “heels down, eyes up!” The part about your eyes is key in keeping the balance correct. Shift your eyes up and over the fence as you approach and maintain a high level focal point in the air and on landing and departure.

If your leg swings back, you are either pinching with your knees, stopping the weight from dropping all the way down to your heel, or ahead of the motion at take-off (usually caused by looking down).

Additionally, as the horse leaves the ground, the rider’s leg should be supportive, not active. If the leg is squeezing at take-off, the rider is interfering with the horse’s focus and it is difficult to stretch down in the heels.

Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition is key at low jumps until it becomes a habit.

Your mantra at take should be “HEELS DOWN-EYES UP!”

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Julie Winkel

Julie Winkel has been a licensed Hunter, Equitation, Hunter Breeding and Jumper judge since 1984. She has officiated at prestigious events such as Devon, Harrisburg, Washington International, Capital Challenge, The Hampton Classic and Upperville Horse Shows. She has designed the courses and judged the ASPCA Maclay Finals, The USEF Medal Finals and The New England Equitation Finals.

For more information, visit her website:

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