Do you have trouble following the motion of your horse? Feel crooked on your horse? Do you tip forward or stick your bum out? Does your horse look slightly lame in one direction, or always land on the wrong lead over a fence. The culprit may be tight hip flexors which can impact how you ride and how your horse moves.
Hip flexors attach at the front of the spine and the inside of the pelvis before running down through the pelvis to attach onto the inner thigh. Hip flexors enable you to draw your knees up toward your torso, move your legs back and forth, and side to side. The muscles of the hip flexor are responsible for providing your hips and lower back with a full range of motion and keeping them properly aligned. The hip flexor also serves as a stabilizer, keeping the joints of your pelvis and lumbar spine strong.
Modern life is tough on hip flexors as they are in a shortened position while you sitting, either at a desk or in a car (and even when you sit on your horse). The constant sitting can cause your hip flexors to become overdeveloped, tight, stiff or short, and you may experience pain and limited range of motion in your lower back or hips, and balance or posture problems. Tightness in the hip flexors causes muscular imbalances in the hips, pelvis and lower back, the most crucial of which is a weak abdominal core and gluteal muscles and a tight lower back and hamstrings. For riders, this results in a lack of suppleness through the lower back, knees which grip and ride up in front of the center of gravity and a lower leg and heel which just won’t stay where it belongs.
How do your tight hip flexors affect your horse? When one hip flexor pulls tighter, you tend to tilt to one side, so that one of your seat bones presses harder into your horse’s back than the other. When you think about how your horse responds to your seat aids, you can see why that might be a problem. When both hip flexors are tight, it puts increased pressure on the tree points of the saddle, which causes the horse to hollow its back and fall onto its forehand. Beyond that, tight hips prevent us from having the flexibility needed to make the subtle adjustments that enable us to communicate and ride to our full potential.
Strengthening your hip extensor muscles brings the system into balance, increasing the hip joint’s range of motion and enables dynamic following of the motion of the horse’s back.
There are several stretches that can help loosen up tight hip flexors. The video below explores a few.
And below is a very simple stretch that takes only a few minutes.
Do you have any tips for dealing with tight hip flexors? Share them in the comments.