Make it easy to step up into the stirrup by keeping your quadriceps strong. I encourage my riding students to do daily plies (the dancer’s term for a squat) while they brush their teeth each morning. Such exercise will help keep you strong and keep your legs ready to mount and dismount easily. As with any exercise, consult your doctor if you have concerns about your hips or knees, and always stop if you feel pain.
Here’s how to do a dancer’s plie:
1. Place one hand on a barre or high piece of furniture. Place your heels together with your toes pointing outward (in a slightly wider placement than how you turn out your toes for comfort while riding). Tuck your bottom under.
2. Bend your knees slightly while keeping your back straight and your tailbone tucked under. Press your heels into the floor as you dip into the plie – and don’t allow your knees to pass over your toes.
3. To raise up, push your heels down, and use your thigh muscles to push your body back up to a standing position.
When this basic plie becomes too easy, advance to a grand plie and a more dramatic “squat.” As you follow these steps, you’ll raise your heels as you bend your knees deeply. Although your knees will pass your toes, they should angle in the same position as your toes point. Begin with five plies a day, and work up to 15 or 20.