Open and Closed Hip Angles
I had a lunge lesson today that centered around learning to control hip angles. My trainer said hip angles should stay closed when riding huntseat, but didn't mention other disciplines or situations. I'm curious: in what disciplines/situations do you close your hip angle? In which do you keep an open hip angle? Why?
I always find the use of the words "close your hip angle" confusing, but I didn't learn to ride hunt seat. One can close their hip angle (make it more acute) By several different means. Well, two , basically. YOu can either bring your thigh bone up by moving your knee forward, or you can cant your whole upper body forward , from the seatbones, and this will close the hip angle.
I know you would not want to close the angle by moving your knee forward, but you can also make your thigh bone close the hip angle by raising the stirrup and bring your whole lower leg up higher, like closing an accordian.
But I think when they say "close your hip angle" they mean to cant the upper body more forward, from the seatbone. Right?
In dressage, one would probably be thinkg more of openning the hip angle, and again, this can be done by either moveing the whole lower leg back further under the rider, or by moving the whole upper body back , from the seat bone (not from the waist, as this would not change the hip angle at all).
Our bodies have so many joints, I just think it's amazing how we are so articulated!
In dressage you want to kind of think of having an "open" front of the body so that you have the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle alignment that is in a vertical line.
I've never been able to understand why Hunt Seat Riders ride with such a forward upper body......when their upper body is infront of the verticle, their weight is on their horses forehand, making it that much more difficult for their horses to get off of their forehand.......never understood this.
To my understanding, your hip angle should be opened and flexable to move in accordance to the horse, where your upper body should be tall at at the verticle, so your weight is over your horses center of gravity - that way, you can aid your horse to move off of their back end, pushing themselves along, instead of putting weight on your horses front end, where they cannot do their job properly.
When riding in dressage or western set, you want your hip angle open, because closing it locks the joint and you then lose the ability to follow with your seat.
Riding hunt seat, you have to fold forward at your hip (close the hip angle) to ride in two point or jump position, and close the hip angle even farther to follow the horse's motion over a jump. So hunt seat riders have to be able to change the hip angle at will.
Dressage and western riders change the hip angle only slightly as they change pace, and need to concentrate on keeping the hip open, relaxed and flexilbe for a softer, following seat.
Hope that makes sense, I tried to do an image search and find some illustrations for you , but didin't have much luck.
Best I could do:
Dressage rider with a very open hip angle:
Jumper rider with hip angle closed the correct amount over the top of a fence:
Hunter seat rider with a too closed, exaggerated hip angle:
Hunt seat, slightly closed hip angle on the flat:
Sounds like your instructor taught you something important! but possibly didn't really explain the purpose of it. In hunt seat you do ride with a more closed hip angle, because you ride more out of your half seat rather then a full seat and b/c of the horse's center of gravity (more about that later). A half seat is a more closed hip angle, a full seat will be an open. There are times when your hip will be more closed like a faster or long stretch of gallop or or more open like a sitting trot so it's important to be able to go back and forth without it affecting your your balance.
MIE- My guess is that you close your hip angle more then you think you do. When you post is your upper body perfectly vertical with your body going straight up and down? I'm guessing not. If so, the you're posting behind the motion and you aren't with your horse. When you gallop across a field are you in a full seat? I'm guessing not.
Angles of the upper body is all about the horse's center of gravity like MIE said but I'm going to disagree with a few details. When a horse is standing there it's right in the middle of the horse, with rider sitting up straight right over it. Balanced, right? When the horse moves forward his center of gravity makes a slight shift forward and the rider should too. Imagine your position when you're just standing there (on your own feet). Your body is straight up and down right? What about when you start walking, don't you very slightly tip forward with your body? What about a run? Very few people run with a perfectly vertical upper body! Same for your horse. A hunter rides with a more closed hip angle b/c they ride more over the horse's natural center of gravity and more with the motion of their horse. A dressage rider or even jumper will want more of the horse's weight to be shifted back to his hocks (collection), thus the more open hip angle. A hunter doesn't not go like a dressage horse or jumper.
ETA: IF your horse gets heavy on the forehand simply b/c you close your hip angle 1) you're probably ahead of the motion and center of gravity (bad!) and 2) probably not riding the hind end of the horse.
Great points upnover, makes a lot of sense.
I don't do a lot of eventing (like, none) so I'm curious.... I would think an eventer would vary their hip angles the most. Sitting deep in the saddle, lightening your seat over a long stretch of gallop, going up and down hills... do you not?
Glad that made sense, wasn't sure if it did. Hunt Seat Equitation has a much better explanation and I almost went to grab bit to just quote GM instead of writing out myself... but i'm feeling a little lazy. :) Maybe tomorrow. :)
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