Opening Your Hip Image

Have you ever received the riding instruction of “open your hip” and not sure what it meant?

Or have you been accused of leaning forward, but when you try to sit more upright, you feel as though you are constantly losing your balance toward the rear of the horse?

In this video, I am going to explain one simple concept in riding – what it means to “open your hip”.

Click play below and enjoy!

I’ll see you in the comments!

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83 Responses

  1. Thanks Callie, that was very useful information! I haven’t heard that term before. I’m still quite new in my lessons. I can’t wait to try opening my hip in my next lesson!

  2. Thank you so much, Callie! That video was a great illustration of opening the hip, rather than using the back. Your videos are much appreciated!

  3. Thanks Callie. I haven’t been told to open my hip. I have been told I have good equitation. And I want to keep it that way so I’m going to be mindful the next time I ride that my hips are open. Thanks.

  4. I’ve learned to sit talk as deep in my saddle but I think my confirmation, forward curve to lower back, requires me to flatten my back to open my hips. Is this a correct for me?

    1. Diane, having the hip in the correct position puts your back in that ‘flat’ position!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  5. Hi Callie,
    Thanks for sharing the video, it’s very informative and structured.
    I am a beginner rider and practicing sitting trot and my instructor hasn’t used this terminology yet, however, it will be helpful for me in future.
    Thanks
    Saad

  6. Great video! I think I’ve been taught this except as the ‘pelvic tilt’. And I’ve never had it applied to the rising trot. However, most of my early training was western AQHA style, which often had a ‘chair seat’ look. I tend to either overdo or under-do my opening of the hip. I also have a tailbone injury which often gets aggravated if I ‘open the hip’ too much. Any advice for this?

    1. Michele, have you watched the video we posted on the blog last week using the exercise ball, you can click here to watch it and do that exercise to help you ‘find the middle’.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. This was so, so SO helpful to me!! Probably the most helpful video I have ever seen in 30 years. I finally know exactly how to open my hip for the first time! Thanks Callie!

  8. I love your Better Riding snippets. A simple description w/ visuals. I am a visual learner & have been riding A long time. Riding styles change. Opening the hip at the trot was very foreign to me. I have slowly figured it by process of elimination during lessons by my instructor’s comments. I could see from what you demonstrated how I was accomplishing it. Thank you
    Laurie Dove

  9. I am beginning dressage lessons. When we canter my horse will make half a lap around the arena then in a corner will break to the trot. I know this is something that I am causing. I tend to lean forward when he goes faster. Watching this video shows me exactly what I have been doing when you were riding incorrectly. Your explanation are always clear and timely for me. Thank you!

  10. I have been told to open my hip when I was trotting and at times it is difficult for me because I have a hip replacement on my left side but it is getting easier the more I ride

  11. Thank you Callie for explaining this opening the hip concept. I didn’t realize why I was leaning forward when I was riding. So now I will try to open my hips more so that I can become more stable in the saddle. Hopefully, my horse will become more stable as well.

  12. Hi Callie,
    This was helpful, especially at the canter, I need to concentrate on opening my hip Haven’t thought of it much at the posting trot, but now I will. Can you suggest any exercises for making the hip more flexible? thanks, Kathy Anderson

    1. Hi Kathy! Click here to read an article that Wendy Murdoch wrote on some TTEAM exercises for opening the hip. Have you had an injury or hip replacement, anything that would cause ‘stiffness’ in your hips?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Great question! Simply put, it makes riding the trot easier for the rider and more comfortable for both horse and rider. The bigger the horse moves, the more posting makes riding that movement easier.

  13. Thank you so much for this clarification, Callie. I was going to ask you to explain this concept, but you beat me to it!

  14. Until I took your Balanced Riding class, I thought “open your hip” was a horizontal opening – like a yoga warrior II pose. Then you taught me it’s a vertical opening. That was a real game changer. I notice that when I am tired, I tend to close my hip. It’s a sign that I need to slow down and walk a bit.

    1. That is exactly what I thought, horizontal, as in yoga, since I do a lot of that…. It never ocurred to me that I had the wrong idea in my head, and never thought to ask for clarification. My teacher keeps mentioning it a lot… Curious to see if my new understanding of the instructions will make a difference. I bet it does 🙂

    2. Mary, great observation! You definitely want to come back to the walk if you find yourself having difficulty with maintaining the position from fatigue.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    3. Same here! When I hear “open your hips” I think pigeon pose. No wonder I didn’t get it….Thank you Callie, this was very helpful. (as always!)

  15. You talked about the ‘feel’ of opening up the hip. As an older rider, I am looking ahead (not forward) to a total hip replacement. How does this affect, if it does, the feel of opening the hip? Also, in general for those of you who have done this, have you noticed it affected your riding? Thanks!

    1. Jackie, this might be something that you should speak with your doctor about movements that you should avoid!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. You explained this exceptionally well! We need more instructors like you! 🙂

    Thank you very much!

  17. Thank you Callie! Very helpful video…although I have never heard that phrase. I posted earlier this week that I cantered for the first time ever ! Before mounting/cantering I worked on loosening up my stiff hips on the ground with my instructor using a hoola hoop, a type of skipping and sitting in a chair with my butt cheek hanging off and moving my hip bone around. The cantering went well on a lunge line but boy were my hips sore for a few days afterwards. I am narrow hipped with long legs. My lesson horse for 8 months was half quarter horse half haflinger kinda barrel shaped and I started having little right hip problem. That’s the leg that goes over when I mount and he has barrel middle. So do I need a leaner horse? Does this make a difference? Should you be riding a horse that fits your own body shape. Don’t know if I am saying this right. I am riding a new lesson horse that seems to be leaner to learn my cantering. His trotting also seems lot less bouncier than the previous horse. When I finally am buying
    my first horse, I want to get the best one for me. I will certainly have my instructor help me when the time comes too. Any suggestions and thoughts on this are appreciated.

    1. Hi Sally, the shape of the horse depending on our anatomy. If you have a shorter leg it can be very difficult for you to find the correct, comfortable position. I think that riding multiple horses can help you find a horse that is most comfortable for you when and if you decide to purchase a horse. If this horse is the one that is available to you to ride then you can still have fun riding him, but perhaps when you go to purchase your own consider the body size of the horse. I hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  18. Thanks Callie, always appreciate your offerings!! Not really getting going in the saddle yet, Maverick has some sore back issues (I think he had them when I purchased him in Feb 2017, from previous life, but this year after the winter off, I decided to really do what I could to address that area. I had him thermal imaged, chiro and acupuncture, and a few weeks of cold lasering, which seems to be working. As well as Masterson sessions, and some lifting exercises for his top line. I am planning to start in early June, and that we will have a better time riding if he isn’t sore, of course. Meanwhile, watching the video has me itching to get back in the saddle!

    1. Sharon, it sounds like you have done a lot of the steps to make him comfortable and working on getting him using his body better. You may have already considered this but have you also had the fit of your saddle evaluated for when you do begin riding him again?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Thank you, Callie, I did find your Demonstration very helpful. I am older rider and so opening my hip will definitely help and now I understand what that means.

  20. I appreciate this video demonstration of the meaning of ‘open your hip.’ I’ve been told this several times during posting trot because I tend to lean forward a bit. Seeing the difference in your posture is very helpful to me as well as seeing the difference it makes in the horse’s gait.

  21. From today, my instructor changed, and the theme of his first lesson was “opening the hip.” What a coincidence!
    Before heading to the club, I watched your video twice so that I had a very productive conversation with my instructor. He taught me a few stretches that I could do on the back of my horse, helping me opening the hip and balance.
    I shall appreciate if you could also share some stretches on the horse to help my body less tensioned but flexible.

  22. Thanks Callie – a clear and concise explanation of a common instruction. So obvious when you know, but difficult to understand without a clear explanation!

  23. Thank you this helps a lot! I am a relatively new rider who purchased an OTTB a year ago. I have been told numerous times to “use my seat” to control his speed, which has been admittedly out of control a handful of times! Yikes! My instructor has observed my tense forward position which seems to either shut down the canter or break into gallop. He says “relax, sit back, open up”. I will practice this at walk , trot till my buddy and I are more in sync! Thanks!

    1. Shari, great idea to start by practicing this at the walk, then moving to the faster gaits!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  24. Callie
    I am so thankful for these videos! You have a wonderful way of explaining things. I was watching this video sitting down and practicing the open hip concept. I will take all of the information that I have learned over the past few weeks and apply them to my riding.

  25. Great video! You explain things really well. As a new rider these videos are invaluable. I can see by the way I have been transitioning from the trot to canter.. how my body position is affecting what my horse does. Going to be practicing & concentrating on the open hip position more! Thsnk you!

  26. For my first few years as an adult beginner I was very confused about “open the hips.” After all, I had 4 kids, and had no idea how I could open my hips any further! If only someone had explained that it meant the angle (aka leaning forward or back), not spreading… LOL!!

    1. Ann, this is exactly why we explain the terms since those two meanings have very different results, LOL! I hope this gave you some much needed clarity 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. Callie,

    I watched your video on opening hips yesterday and today I tried to apply what I have learned. I have a Morgan mare, ride mostly English pleasure and some small hunter jumps. Live near Hiawatha National Forest and ride on beautiful sandy trails for miles. Today we rode our customary 7 mile loop. We trot and canter intermittently to build the cardio fitness and endurance. I have a dressage coach who got me pretty balanced and with the neutral back, but every now and then I will fold up into the jumping position in the fast canter. Today I was very mindful of opening the hip angle and keeping my back neutral and tall and the transitions were impeccable, canter was beautiful and I felt so balanced and at ease! I credit it to your video – you explained it so well – THANK YOU!

  28. Hi Callie, my trainer is always telling me too open my hip, It took me awhile but watching you opening during riding really helps a lot. Thanks

    1. Jane, glad this video could help clarify your instructor’s coaching!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. Thank you once again for sharing such useful advice – as a beginner I find all those little tips really improving my riding.

  30. Callie,
    Thank you for this video! This is hard for me to accomplish in the saddle but I understand the concept. I am regularly mindful of this as I have a tendency to close the hip joint. Your video was very clear and helpful as always.

    Thank you.
    Nancy

  31. Hello Callie, thank you for such a clear demonstration. I’m 36 & have been riding approx 11 months. There is so much to learn! I have the tendency to lean forward and my lower legs apparently go all over the place, and I’m oblivious. My instructor tells me to ‘put your bottom under, tuck it under’. Perhaps this is a similar message to opening my hip? I certainly feel the lower back that you describe when the hip is closed. Will make this a focus on Sunday! Plan on sitting down and watching your videos tonight. Thank you very much

    1. Serena, I would be careful not to ‘tuck’ too much because it will cause the lower back to round too much (click here to watch the video from last week for a further explanation). One phrase that I’ve heard Callie use is to ‘sit on your pockets’ you’ll find that your pelvis will open and you will maintain that flat back. I hope that helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  32. This is exactly what I was taught, and what I teach. Good explanation. I will add that I would like to see your pad pulled up in the gullet of your saddle 🙂

  33. Was very helpful and instructional to have you ride the examples and talk through the correct way to open your hip. Thank you so much Callie for this clear and concise visual of a problem area I struggle with! Since I have a tight back and tight hips, do you think exercise programs incorporating lots of stretching like Yoga would be beneficial? What about dance like Zumba?

    1. Shay, I definitely think that doing other types of exercise is helpful for riding. Yoga is great for stretching and I think dance is fantastic work for some body movement awareness! Click here to check out a video Callie did on exercise for riders 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Thank you so much Julia!! As a life-long learner the information and videos CRK provides are effective and a great aid to all riders!

  34. I want to have your balance and confidence in the saddle! This was a great video! Thank you!

  35. That’s the first time this has been explained so clearly. I have a wonderful instructor, but cannot recall if this term was ever used. I can see where I am closing my hip angle causing the horse to drop out of a canter OHHH! I have a ride tomorrow night and will focus on this. Is it possible this could be used as a half-halt as well? By the way Noel’s browband was really groovy

    1. Noel’s browband was a gift from Wendy Murdoch from her African safari, I do love it, thank you!
      Yes! This can be part of the half halt as well.

  36. okay – here goes….I have just started riding in the last year and a half… and female, and as say that because I get sore sometimes riding and I’m pretty sure a male rider would not experience it if you get my drift lol. My instructor has not corrected me either in opening OR closing my hips. What error in my positioning do you feel would contribute most to this issue?

    1. Marie, it may even be a saddle fit issue for you. Do you find that this happens in any saddle that you ride in?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  37. I tend to stiffen up and end up bouncing around. I will try your techniques. Most times to keep from bouncing, I hold onto the saddle horn.
    Help

    1. LoRayne, it could be that holding onto the horn is causing you even more tension and brace in your body – that brace and tension prevents you from allowing your joints to be soft and moveable to absorb the horse’s movement!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  38. This was very helpful because I find myself leaning forward and bouncing around. I definitely will try these techniques. Thank you.

  39. This is the first time I have heard about opening your hip and I am looking forward to trying it out next time I ride my horse. There have been quite a few ‘new things’ in Callie’s blogs which I have tried out the last few weeks (not bracing (!), breathing through your back, posture, shaping etc.) and the improvement has been enormous so far! My horse really appreciates it and is very enthusiastic. Both riding instructors that I have were very impressed, little did they know that Callie’s videos are helping my to ‘find my seat’!

  40. Hi Callie,

    Thanks for this demonstration. I was always confused about what it meant to “open your hip” and I do exactly what you demonstrated not to do. My instructor tells me to open my hip when I’m trotting and cantering. It will be difficult for me to get it right because my instinct is to use my entire upper body rather than just my hip joint. Thanks again for all your videos, they are truly helpful to me — and from reading these comments to everyone who watches your videos.

  41. Thank you so much a very helpful and informative video. will practice this as soon as I possibly can.

  42. Really enjoyed the video, I am so tight in my hips! Can you recommend any exercises to increase the flexibility? Really enjoy your videos and your teaching. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Kerry! Click here to read an article Wendy Murdoch wrote up with exercises for loosening the hips.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  43. Hi Callow
    I could use a visual of how opening the hip joint assists with sitting the trot without bouncing-thanks so much

  44. Thanks so much, Callie! I will go out and try this right now. I think a too closed hip angle may be one reason why my horse can’t sustain a canter, among other challenges. I am so encouraged to have your instruction, as I am “on my own” with my horse most of the time. Wish you were on the West Coast.

  45. Hello Callie

    This is great timing of you showing the opening the hip, in my lesson a week ago she mentioned this to me when I was cantering but I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant at the time and I thought to myself my hips must be quite stiff because my day job is generally an office job and I do have to sit down alot which does not help.
    If my hips are not opened well, I guess it must of been a cause for slightly loosing my stirrups which were moving towards the middle of my foot and this was happening a lot with a sitting trott, is this relating to me not opening the hip. The horse I have been on as rather bouncy sitting trott, so I guess I need to slow her down and I have only been on it twice so maybe next time I may feel a little better. Are there any particular exercises I might be able to do before I go for the lesson?

    1. Hello Callie

      I am not sure if you have replied to my post but where do find this, do you send it by email

      1. Hi Lisa,

        I did reply to you this morning via email!

        -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  46. Hello, have just subscribed to your teaching posts, watched the subject of opening ones hips. I have had years ago hip replacement on my right side and also suffer with Osteo arthritis, thus I realise now how stiff I am in the hip region, but am limited with what excercises I can do. Could you please suggest any to losen me up so to speak. I am writing this post from Cornwall in England, keep up the good work!!

  47. Callie,
    I’ve started following your posts from the other side of the world! I’m in Western Australia!
    Thank you very much for your explanation of this, I’m new to riding and continually told to “lean back” but your physical demonstration of opening and closing the angle has really just hit it with me. I struggle with feeling balanced and my riding is yet to hit a consistent Conversation wit her my horse, though I suspect he knows I’m trying! I’m extremely privileged to ride a delightful, and respectful horse, and I feel we have some great conversations with our bodies when riding. Hopefully now hearing and seeing your demonstration of this angle I cam be an even better communicator with and really help our weight placement at the right times for him to move in the most fluid natural way for him.

    1. Hopefully the visual will help you in understanding the opening and closing of the hip! Let us know how it goes when you get a chance to practice 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  48. Thank you, Callie! I have been riding for over 50 years. I am on my 3rd horse, only this one is a large pony. I have NEVER been told about opening my hips. I took Saddleseat lessons at age 12 for 6 months. I taught myself to jump and do many other things when I got my very hot horse at age 16. I have now gone back to lessons because I have learned fear, at age 68, and my pony, being a rescue, was wild when I got him. I no longer bounce, I thud, so I need to be careful. Your instructions are very clear, and I need them. Thank you again!

  49. Thanks for the great explanations in your videos. I use to ride when I was younger (a lot younger lol) now at 55 I am finally getting back into the saddle, started lessons a couple of weeks ago, western style only ever rode in an English saddle before, not sure whether I like the western saddle. Trotting… I don’t bounce I thud, I have never heard this term before. Hopefully I will get it right again.

  50. After ten years of riding, I finally understand what closing or opening the hip means. And I saw, in a tangible way, what effect a closed hip has on a horse during a canter. It explains why my horses would break into a trot or a run when I failed to open my hip during the canter.

    Thank you for the video.

  51. Thank you! I’m trying to come back to riding. And I’m being told these mostly while working on my seated trot during the lateral movements

  52. Hi, great video! I’ve been told I need to open and relax the hip for canter as I have a chronic problem with not being able to sit the canter well (sitting trot is OK). I really like how this integrates with your new video about defining what contributes to the common corrections of “shoulders back” and “heels down,” and how the correction for back rounding and tense legs also really seems to complement and aid understanding about how to open the hip effectively. I do have one question: I always experience back pain when up in two-point for a while, probably due to using the back to close the hip as you describe. I’m having trouble though picturing how to close the hip without using your back. Can you do a video about this? Thank you very much! 🙂

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