To be a successful rider, you must have an independent seat. This is the result of a combination of suppleness and stability and can be attained by staying fit and by performing focused exercises to improve the flexibility of your joints. Supple, flexible joints allow you to move in rhythm with your horse. This improves your riding and provides your horse with a better experience as well.
In this article, we introduce exercises to help open your hips for comfortable and successful horseback riding. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 Which Is More Important, Strength Or Flexibility?
- 2 Hip Stretches And Strengtheners For Horseback Riders
- 2.1 1. Begin with a general stretch
- 2.2 2. Stretch your medial rotators
- 2.3 3. Stretch your hip flexors and quadriceps
- 2.4 4. Stretch your hip flexors, quadriceps and gluteus maximus
- 2.5 5. Open your hips
- 2.6 6. Strengthen your quadriceps and your glutes
- 2.7 7. Loosen up your joints and muscles with leg swings
- 2.8 50 Plus Equestrian Hip Flexor Stretch Exercises
- 2.9 Exercises To Open Hips For Horse Riding
- 2.10 The Best Stretches To Open Up Tight Hips
- 3 Practice Yoga
- 4 Strength & Flexibility Are Always Valuable!
Which Is More Important, Strength Or Flexibility?
Both strength and flexibility are important in developing a comfortable, independent seat. Your hip joints are a ball and socket structure, so ideally they are able to move 360° but stiff muscles can significantly shorten your range of motion.
In order for your hip joints to absorb the movement of your horse, you need to be able to sit in a position that allows you to move easily in any direction. Stiff muscles will hamper this.
For this reason, you should work both on the range of motion of your actual joints and on the strength and suppleness of the muscles that support the joints.
What Does It Mean To “Open Your Hip”?
Hip Stretches And Strengtheners For Horseback Riders
Here are some standing and sitting exercises that you can do just before you ride and just after. Doing these exercises will help loosen up your joints and muscles in preparation for riding and act as a “cool down” after riding to help prevent stiffness and soreness.
It’s a good idea to do three or four sets of eight of each of these exercises before and after riding (be a bit more careful if you’re pregnant). These are also good daily exercises that you can do in the morning when you get up, at bedtime or at break time throughout the day.
1. Begin with a general stretch
Stand with your feet parallel, your legs straight and your feet shoulder width apart. Engage your leg muscles to feel strong and sturdy, and keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Simply hold this position for about thirty seconds.
Begin tilting your hips individually forward and back. Tilt your right hip forward and your left hip back. Hold for thirty seconds and then tilt your left hip forward and your right hip back. Repeat eight times on each side.
2. Stretch your medial rotators
Take a seat on a straight chair or on a bale of hay with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground in front of you. Your legs should be bent at a 90° angle at the knees.
Place your right ankle just behind the knee on your left thigh. Bending from the hips, and keeping your back straight, lean forward slowly until your body is resting on your crossed leg. Just relax into it and allow your weight to rest on your leg.
Hold for thirty seconds or longer if you like. Breathe deeply. When you’re ready, switch legs. It’s not really necessary to repeat this stretch eight times. It’s better to simply relax into it and hold it for a longer period of time.
3. Stretch your hip flexors and quadriceps
Stand flat-footed with your feet parallel and hip distance apart. Keep your hips parallel and step your right foot back while simultaneously stretching your right hand up above your head.
You should feel a long stretch through the front of your body especially in the hip flexors at the front of the hip and in the quadriceps the front of your leg. Stand and breathe for a minimum of thirty seconds and then do your left leg and arm.
In between each stretch, go back to your starting position, rest and breathe for thirty seconds. Repeat eight times on each side.
4. Stretch your hip flexors, quadriceps and gluteus maximus
Begin just as in #3, but after you have stepped back with your leg once, step back again. Your goal is to get a deeper stretch that engages your gluteal muscles.
Now, instead of raising the same arm, raise the opposite arm. Hold for thirty seconds; move back to starting position; rest and breathe for thirty seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat eight times on each side.
5. Open your hips
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees to achieve a slight squatting position. Raise your arms to shoulder height and bend your elbows so that your arms form a 45° angle with your upper arms parallel to the ground and your forearms perpendicular to the ground. Palms should face forward as if you were raising your hands in surrender.
Raise your right foot; turn your toes out and reach the foot behind you to place it firmly on the ground. You should feel a stretch in your groin and in your hip. Hold for thirty seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat eight times for each leg.
6. Strengthen your quadriceps and your glutes
Classic lunges are perfect for strengthening the muscles in the front of your thighs and those in your seat. This action will simultaneously add flexibility to your hip joints.
7. Loosen up your joints and muscles with leg swings
Stand near a wall, fence or other stable object and support yourself with one or both hands. Swing your legs (one at a time) forward and back and from side-to-side as far as you comfortably can.
Do 8 to 10 swings in each direction on each leg. This easy exercise helps get blood circulating and loosens up your joints and muscles.
50 Plus Equestrian Hip Flexor Stretch Exercises
Add some of these stretches as you like throughout your day.
Exercises To Open Hips For Horse Riding
The Best Stretches To Open Up Tight Hips
All yoga poses work to increase joint flexibility while simultaneously improving mental and emotional focus and calming the nerves – all good qualities for horseback riders. Here are three poses that focus specifically on hip joints:
- The Triangle
- The Lunge
- The Angle
These are just a few of the many hip focused yoga poses you could try. Additionally, you may enjoy performing this full yoga exercise series for equestrians several times weekly for overall strengthening and hip opening.
Yoga For Equestrians
Strength & Flexibility Are Always Valuable!
Regardless of your riding level, one of the most important aspects of good riding is having an independent seat. When you’re able to move freely and easily with your horse, you will be able to communicate with him or her effortlessly. This adds to your safety, and to your enjoyment and fun while riding. When your seat moves along with your horse you avoid a lot of discomfort for both of you.