One of the most common issues I find among riders, especially riders or English disciplines, is excess tension in low backs, hips and legs. Frequent grinding of heels and a death grip of the calves makes for tightness in the horse’s rib cage, reluctance to go forward, inability to lift the back, and essentially the exact opposite of what the leg is intended to do. I find the addiction of riders to their heels and calves is one of the hardest to break.
In part I think this comes from many English disciplines teaching to ride with legs on at all times. There are several issues with this: one is that any being subjected to unchanging stimulus over a period of time becomes numb to it, thus requiring more and more leg from the rider. You essentially create a horse deadened to this leg.
The second problem is that the muscles in the horse’s sides will inevitably tighten to protect themselves from the offensive grinding, kicking, jabbing and squeezing. This tightness their shoulders, which tightens their back, which means they will not be physically able to go freely forward without constant begging and nagging. A horse ridden like this cannot, cannot, cannot and I repeat cannot, be supple. It’s not possible. You can put the fear of God in them to go forward, but these muscles cannot release and work effectively so long as there is a vice grip around them.
Thirdly, every time your leg scrunches, squeezes and grips, your hips tighten and your seat bones become unlevel. You cannot effectively ride with your seat? And therefore you will need more leg and more hand to fix problems you essentially create through poor use of the leg.
It’s exhausting, your horse hates it, and it doesn’t work anyway. Are you sold yet? Relax your calf, learn to ride from your seat, and supple your horse’s shoulders and loosen their back.
You’ll have a veeeeerrryyy different ride under you, I promise.