The Broken Record
You have probably heard it a million times… Heels down! Have you ever wondered why?
There are a couple different reasons why your coach may be drilling on this particular action. For starters, your stirrups do not slide along your feet when there is weight sitting in them. Why not be on your tip toes instead? Keeping your heels down brings your center of gravity back. This help you stay anchored in the saddle if your horse trips, lurches, jumps, and overall moves.
The stakes get even higher if you are a jumper. When you are landing from a jump, your foot becomes a lever to absorb the impact and enable the transfer of it up your body. What type of lever is determined by how supple one's calves are, as well as low your heels can go. If you are unable to flex your foot, the force is absorbed fully through the foot. Because you have a metal bar with minimal give below it, you risk breaking your foot. This is especially true if you have osteopenia or and bone density concerns.
(Blue- Fulcrum, Green- Force, Orange- Load)
Okay... so you know why it is important... but what if you can’t get them down? There may be a few different reasons for that.
One case could be that your calve muscles are super tight, which prevents the range in your ankle. A massage therapist can make quick work of that; Another example could be if you have ever sprained an ankle, in which you may have damaged your ATFL. This ligament is very important for holding a bone called the talus in place. If this bone slides slightly out of place it may be jamming and preventing the foot from moving properly. Massage and physio can help this. If it is particularly stubborn, a physiotherapist with their MANIPS (like Kiera) is able to assist by doing a manipulation similar to what a chiropractor can do.
Something to keep in mind - if you're a fan of high heels or have had a long term injury that prevented you from moving your ankle (such as a fracture) the muscles themselves may be shortened. A physio or a massage therapist is your best bet to get direction on fixing this problem!
About the Author: Jessica Bateman RMT, E.
Jessica Bateman completed her Bachelor's in Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia Okanagan. She has received the necessary 2200 hours to practice as a Registered Massage Therapist in Alberta. As a former hockey trainer Jessica is experienced with traumatic injury treatment. She strives to bring people as close to their post injury form as possible through massage and exercise. Her passion lies in whiplash treatment as well as low back injuries.
Her professional training contains various modalities including but not limited to: taping, prenatal massage, lymphatic drainage, hot stone therapy, exercise prescription for the general population as well as athletes, cyriax frictions, myofacial release, cupping, injury prevention, return to work conditioning, work hardening training and shockwave therapy.
When not working, you can find Jessica hiking in our beautiful mountains, swimming or riding one of her two project horses. Traveling is a huge passion of hers as well she is constantly searching for new destinations to check out.