Often I talk about recruiting your core correctly whilst riding by visualising sticking your bottom rib to your hips. I have found this technique works really well, however another element to this is being able to keep the chest open to avoid the shoulders rolling in.
Unfortunately as most of us spend the majority of our time hunched over a desk we struggle to do this and instead bend from our lumbar spine sticking the chest up to create an open feeling in our chest. This unfortunately then undoes all the good work you had done on creating a neutral pelvis as by lifting the chest you have more than likely lengthened the front.
In order to be in balance the front and back of your body should be the same length. In order to create an open shoulder and chest without compromising this length we need to create space at the rib cage and keep the abdominals switched on and short.
This is actually very subtle when you see it but I promise you the effects can be magical. I have mentioned before how if we are hunched and heavy in front this transfers more weight to the front of our horse, which can go a few ways from a very heavy horse in the hands, being on the forehand or struggling to really use the shoulders-either way it’s not what we are after.
To help you learn this technique I have an exercise for Thoracic extension. That is essentially upper back extension. It is a really subtle and small movement that focuses on keeping that bottom rib to hip with core engaged and then trying to separate the other ribs up and away and from each other.
Begin lying on your front, arms down by your sides.
Engage your abdominals so that you should feel them lift away from the floor a little. Keep your bottom ribs on the floor throughout, gently starting at the top of your chest imagine separating your ribs out and lift forward so that your head will come up but the only movement should be in your upper back. Return to the start position.
This can be made harder by putting your hands on your forehead as this adds additional weight.
This exercise should be done slowly and with real focus on the ribs. Try working up to 2 x 10 reps.