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Knees and Ankles

Some one wrote in that they were knock-kneed and wondered if that might
have something to do with weak ankles. Did you know that your knees and
ankles were connected? So are your hips. If one joint is moving out of
balance, then the other joints are all compensating some how.

Think of a skeleton. Look at the hips, the wide pelvic structure, and
the legs hanging straight down from the hip socket. The knees fall directly
under the hip socket. And the ankle under that. If you push the knees
inward, the hip joint flexes to allow the leg bones to move in at an
angle. And if you want the feet to be flat, then the ankle joints must also

Now imagine this skeleton on a horse (and you have a halloween ride:-)
The hips must flex in order for the legs to move outward and around
the horse. The knees must bend around the horse. And we want our feet
flat in the stirrups, so the ankles must bend as well. If any one of the
joints is weak, it will show up not only in that joint, but in the surrounding
joints as well. (And also the pelvis, back, neck and head. But we'll just
stick to the legs for now.)

A problem that many people have is weak ankles. The average person has
ankles that bend inwards too much. A typical sprained ankle comes from
turning the ankle under - the outside of the ankle joint is not strong,
the person steps with the knife edge of the foot and the joint gives by
turning under. This is just the way we are built. So, we have to strengthen
the ankle, specifically, the muscles that make up the outside of the joint.
We also need to lengthen the muscle on the inside of the joint. 

Think of your knee. As you walk, the quads and the hamstring have to work
together. One tightens while the other lengthens. Back and forth. You
don't think about these while you are walking until something goes wrong.
Every joint (that I know of) consists of these complimentary muscles.
When you go to correct a problem with a joint, you have to think about
which muscles you want to strengthen and which you want to lengthen.
Get an anatomy book. You'll see all the muscles and ligaments that
make up the ankle. It will give you a good idea of what you are working
with. Of course, unless you plan to make you living giving a massage,
you don't have to memorize them all.

OK, now you have a little theory about joints. What can you do about it?
A few exercises. Sorry, I don't know any for knees. I can straighten
a new born foal with knock-knees, but don't know anything for an adult.

Put a wedge pad in your stirrups. The fat side will be on the outside
and the thin side on the inside. This forces the ankle to bend. When you
remove the wedge pads later, it will be easier to maintain the proper
foot position.

A simple and seemingly useless exercise is to run your hand from knee to
ankle on the inside as if you were flattening out the muscles. You don't 
have to press hard. Do this for a few strokes. Then on the outside, put one
hand near your knee and one at the ankle, and push them together making
a mound of the muscle. Again, not hard. This helps to lengthen the
inside and strengthen the outside.

While riding, take your feet out of the stirrups and bend your ankles up
and out, stretching them. Do this frequently before they start to hurt.

Another hurtful exercise (Yeah, I know lots of these). Sit on the horse and
after you have warmed up, drop your stirrups. Pretend there is a string 
attached to your knees. Slowly lift the string. Your hips should stretch 
outwards. You'll only get a very little stretch before it will hurt.
Try doing this just a couple of times. Then relax and ride. Then do it
again.  By opening up the hip joints, it is much easier to get your
legs on the horse, and easier on the other joints. But be careful.
This one leads to muscle cramps quickly if you are not warmed up.

Dragon Crest Ranch
Some where near Masonville, Colorado

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Dragon Communications
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