“How to Stop Squeezing”
Recently I was asked for tips to stop squeezing your legs as you go across the pen, especially on a fast cow.
Of course, you don’t mean to squeeze … you just do! Then your horse gets the wrong signal, goes too fast, misses a cow or doesn’t stop well. It’s frustrating. I understand.
Let’s work on this squeezing challenge by first identifying what you do want your legs to do.
You want them to be underneath you, in alignment with your hips, close to your horse (but not gripping) and have just the right amount of tension (not tight, but not too loose.)
To accomplish that, consider these ideas:
1. How is your balance?
Sometimes when you haven’t had the opportunity to ride much, your center of balance may need adjusting. If you are not comfortable and deeply centered on your horse not working a cow, you will squeeze with your legs when you do work a cow.
With a mentor, make sure your seat position is correct for cutting and your stirrups are adjusted properly. Then spend time in the saddle. Feel your horse’s legs moving underneath you as you warm him up. Exhale deeply, down through your core and into your horse’s rib cage beneath you. Loosen your elbows. Feel like your seat is a heavy, heavy … but soft … anchor in the saddle.
2. Is your horse tuned?
Sometimes horses who have not been tuned in a while are hard to ride! When that happens, anyone who rode that same horse might accidentally squeeze their legs. Make sure your horse is tuned. This is a simple suggestion, but so important.
3. Talk to yourself as you work the cow to stay loose.
Sometimes squeezing your legs can be the result of you getting tight mentally as you work the cow. This is where patience with yourself and working cattle over time will help you maintain a deep, soft center of balance … and not squeeze.
Stay cool. Stay in rhythm with the cow. As you work the cow, talk to yourself … constantly. Simple phrases like, “Read the cow. Settle in. Breathe. Stay cool. Read the cow. Read the cow. Read the cow.” This kind of self coaching can help keep your legs loose.
4. Pay attention to the tension in your legs.
Finding your center of balance and correct leg position are parts of the learning curve everyone experiences.
You can help yourself by noticing when you get tight. Just tell yourself to relax your legs. Be patient. Thirty seconds later you may have to do it again. No big deal. Just repeat. Whatever works for you has to be implemented by you over and over and over …….
Just keep working on it. Soon you will develop improved skills. It takes time.