As riders we can be very aware of the feeling of our hips. Very often they can feel “tight” or sore and we will often to be told to stretch them.
In some cases this may help, however riding in its very nature encourages out hips to stretch.
The opening of the hips to take our legs around the horse stretches out our adductors/inner thigh and the position of our thigh which will be at around 45⁰ or indeed much less in a Dressage Saddle means the Psoas is in a lengthened position. So, in reality any time you are on a horse you are stretching out the front of your hips.
The nature of muscles is that they work in pairs synergistically, something called Reciprocal Inhibition This means when one is lengthened its opposite muscle shortens. For example if you bend your knee your hamstrings at the back shorten and your quads at the front lengthen.
More specifically in relation to riding as your Psoas lengthens the Glutes at the back contract I,e shorten.
This is actually a very clever mechanism designed to protect us as if all of our muscles were to be loose and floppy we wouldn’t be able to stand up!
In day to day life most of us will spend the majority of our time sat down at desks, on the sofa or bending forward mucking out, sweeping the yard etc. This whole time your glutes are being lengthened and in its simplest terms-not being used!
Then we get on a horse and ask those glutes to work hard!
Let’s be honest they just aren’t prepared for it, and it means all the other surrounding stabiliser muscles also not prepared; try and help out . And if they aren’t up to the job then the Psoas isn’t able to fully relax and has to work in contraction. The Psoas hasn’t been trained to do all of this work . In simplest terms the muscles are not working as a team and individually they are too weak. This weakness instead causes them to tense up/over tighten and potentially go into spasm.
Stretching muscles in spasm can actually make them worse!
For any of my 1 2 1 clients that I see with hip pain I actually programme hip strengthening work, but first we have to take care of any muscle spasm. Here are 3 “anti spasm” releases I recommend you do for a couple of weeks before you begin any strength work.