Other than improving your core strength and stability what is the biggest thing you can do to help your riding? Loosening your hip flexors.
After all, our bum is the main point of contact with the saddle and our legs and seat are our biggest aides. If we are tight in those areas we’ll be less effective partners for our horses. Not to mention more unbalanced and less stable.
Plus, the more we can reduce the stress and pressure on the horse’s back, the more they will be able to engage and gain suppleness.
Studies and personal experience will also show that when you have a strong core and more mobility in your hip flexors your knee will pinch less, creating a more stable lower leg, better overall alignment, and give the judge the beautiful shoulder, hip, heel alignment that they are looking for.
First some background
The hip flexors are made up of the iliopsoas, the sartorius, and the rectus femoris. These muscles and tendons attach at various points between the knee and lower back. The hip flexors tighten when we spend too much time sitting. Scientifically speaking, whenever our feet and knees are contracted upward.
So what can you do out of the saddle to help your performance in it?
Here’s a 7.5 Stretch Breakdown:
Pigeon Pose/ Kapotasana
Pigeon pose stretches the glute muscles, IT band, and your lower back. As an extra bonus it can be modified in innumerable ways making it progressive and a great starting pose.
Low Lunge/ Anjaneyasana
Low lunges, aka runner’s lunges, stretch your deep hip flexor muscles and adductors. Like pigeon pose, they are also highly modifiable so if you have hip and knee pain you can use bolsters, blocks, and cushions to reduce the impact. If you want to increase the impact you can turn your low lunge into lizard stretch/ Utthan Pristhasana
Side to Side Lunge
Side to side lunges aren’t technically a yoga pose but they’re still a great stretching and strengthening move.
Figure 4 Stretch
The Figure 4 stretch is one of the more common stretches for the hip flexors and leg muscles. Specifically, it works to mobilize the hips by stretching the glutes and piriformis.
Garland Pose/ Malasana
Garland pose aka deep squat stretches through the groin, ankles, and back. This pose has the added benefit being a tool to check on your ankle mobility as well. And what are our ankles? Our shock absorbers in the stirrups.
Wide Leg Forward Fold/ Prasarita Padottanasana I
Wide Leg Forward Folds are a powerhouse combination stretch reaching the hamstrings, calves, hips, low back, and spine. As an added benefit, depending on how you position your arms it is a great shoulder relief. And! Depending on how far forward you fold it has all the effects of inversions in releasing head and neck tension.
Last but not least, foam rolling. Deep muscle manipulation, fascia release. Any way you look at it it’s fabulous for loosening and relaxing.
Did you miss our 6 Core Exercises for Equestrians blog? Find it here: 6 Core Training Exercises for Equestrians