Written by: Alison Barr

Improve your leg position with a targeted knee exercise.

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Alison Barr Photo

Knee alignment is important under saddle, whether you experience knee pain or not. Correcting your lower leg position can prevent future problems, improve your leg aid precision and enhance the quality of your ride. For those with knee issues, good knee alignment can turn a painful struggle into an enjoyable ride.

Two key factors for riders to consider are:

1. Is your knee positioned to be supported by the saddle?

2. Is your knee aligned with your foot?

The first issue relates to your hip position. If your hip is aiming forward, parallel to your saddle, then your knee is supported. Photo 1 shows a good direction for the knee. It is aligned to absorb the impact from sudden stops or starts. The whole inner thigh, knee and top of the calf are supported by the saddle flap.

The second issue relates to whether you have any twist between your knee and your foot. Twisting is one of the most common triggers of knee pain. The optimal alignment for the knee is to have your knee cap lined up over your second toe. You can see this in photo 1 – the knee and the foot are pointed in the same direction, with no twisting at the foot.

The challenge for riders is achieving the position seen in photo 1 without creating unnecessary tension. Riders often achieve this position, but they do so by gripping with their inner thighs, buttocks or calves. This tension makes it harder to follow the motion of your horse, sustain the correct leg position and communicate clearly with your leg aids.

When to Get Help

If you have trouble maintaining this correction, can’t achieve the correction, or if your knee pain persists, then consider getting assessed by a professional such as a physiotherapist. Knee alignment and kneecap tracking issues can cause pain and discomfort, but these issues often respond well to directed exercises and simple hands-on treatment. You could notice improvements even if you have degenerative changes like arthritis. It is important to note that properly fitted and adjusted equipment, like your saddle, stirrups, and footwear, can also impact knee alignment and knee pain.