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“Open your hips!”
“Open your hips!”
“Open your hips!”
“Open…” Um, I think you get the idea.

I can’t possibly tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase and every time my response was the same. I opened my legs.

I bet you did too. C’mon tell the truth now.

Well, I think that I’ve finally – after all these years – figured out what they couldn’t articulate. I was supposed to lean back and by doing so I’d open my hip angle.

That’s right. Angle. Hip angle.
The distance between your chest and the saddle.

Besides how do you open your hips? They’re not hinged.

Lesson learned the hard way

Twice within a six month period the scary cat horse managed to dump me. Why? Because I was riding with a closed hip angle. Uh, that means I was tipped forward. I ate dirt because I couldn’t recover my balance. So when he slammed on the brakes and scooted to the side off I went over his left shoulder. Twice.

The only time a closed hip angle has worked to my advantage is on a bolting horse. When her head and shoulders popped up I didn’t fall off toward her back end.

I guess not falling off is an advantage.

Our pre-lesson banter centered around Core Rhythms. You know the infomercial on TV? A total core workout in the guise of Latin dance moves. What fun! All of us wanted it and the cry for a dance/pilates/yoga studio was raised. We even had a spot above the horse stalls picked out. I’m sure they’d enjoy that! Right, uh-huh.

I should’ve known what was coming.

Words that make all Dressage Diva Wannabes cringe. No, not 20 meter circles. At least not this time. It was sitting trot! On a Danish Warmblood dressage school master no less!





Okay. Sitting. Hmmm, not bad. Side-to-side, up and down.

BOING! Shoot! Quick! Stand up in stirrups. Now sit.

Side-to-side, up and down.

Don’t grip with your thigh!  Huh? How’d she see that?

Lean back a little more!  Hey! Saw that too.

No knees!  How’d she know?

Think about doing the Rumba!  Rumba? Uh, okay.

Ba-ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-ba-boom!

Whoa! My hips! I’m moving and sitting the trot!

Ba-ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-ba-boom!

I’m definitely not fluid but there’s hope. I did a good job and I have great balance. All I have to do is channel my inner dancer while chanting “ba-ba-ba-boom!” Oh, and remember to trust my balance. Hmmm, engage my core and sit up. Oh, and ground my feet. Darn feet. See? Piece of cake. That is until I tense or twitch a muscle and boing right off that saddle. Let’s not think about that though. Positive energy only! 🙂

During recent lessons it’s been brought to my attention that I have tight hips. That’s right. Tight hips. I don’t think it was a meant as a compliment. I distinctly didn’t hear “she has a tight body.” Big difference. Entirely different meaning.

I’ll admit that even though I’m small I’m not exactly in peak condition. My twenties are long gone and so is that waifish body. I have a few curves now and it took a long time and a child to achieve them. Apparently some toning and flexibility are now in order. (Sigh. Puts back the Snickers bar.)

As a dressage rider I need a combination of strength (check) and flexibility (Can I find that in aisle 8?). I need to develop a “breathing leg” and that means open hips. I am no longer a jumper. I am not allowed to close my knees or hips. My dressage legs must drape lightly around my horse’s barrel in a gentle hug. It’s all about attaining a deep seat and balance. No gripping and don’t lean forward! Both of these close the hips.

Excuse me while I return to my lessons

Your hips are really tight. I want you to take your feet out of the stirrups and walk around. Okay.

Now take both legs off the saddle. Lift them out to the sides. Not easy. Ow.

I want to see some air under your thighs. There is air! Gasp. More?! Ow.

You’re tilting forward and your lower leg is drifting back. Lift your thighs off the saddle and with your hand pull the fat towards the back. Huh? Fat?! Are you saying I have fat thighs?

This will place your inner thigh against the saddle and align your ankle and hip. Your legs should be quieter too. This feels weird.

Now pick up a trot. Still weird.

Nice. Much better. Hmmm, kinda comfy now.

Pick up a circle and canter. Okay. Arrrgh! She’s leaning to the inside.

Get her off that inside leg! Step down into that inside stirrup. Now with a breathing leg push her into that outside rein. Duh. Stepping into stirrup, tap, tap, tap. Wow no leaning!

If your inside leg clings to her, she’ll lean into it. Fueling the fire…darn.

Now open your hips and follow the motion. Your stopping your movement too soon and sending her a mixed message of forward but not really. Ride the wave. Okay. Drop inside leg. No gripping. Open, open, open…wheeeeeeee!

Where’s your circle? Look at the tracks you made when you trotted the circle. Now you see the tracks on the smaller circle? Make your canter circle like your trotting circle. Push her to the outside and look where you’re going. Drop inside leg. No gripping, tap, tap, tap, open, open, open…wheeeeeeee!

It’s magic! Like open sesame!

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