View Full Version : Too open hip angle?

Sep. 9, 2009, 11:18 PM
I have this terrible habit of having a too open hip angle, falling behind the motion and round my back/shoulders instead of following. It stems from spending way to much time on a stopper and working with some green horses, though now I am jumping no bigger than 2'9” it needs to be corrected before I move up at all.

I have two trainers both who immediately (individually) spotted this problem. One has been having me work through gymnastics focusing on over exaggerating closing my hip angle and KEEPING it closed. The other had me shorten my stirrups by about 3 holes (OMG I felt like a jockey) and had me work through my courses in my 2-point with a nearly fully closed hip angle. Both tactics are helping but I was wondering if COTH had any more ideas or if anyone else has had this problem and worked through it. I also realized with my stirrups super short my legs are weak and swinging around over the fence.

This is a video of me riding a few weeks ago, you can see that I start out okay but just after the peak of the jump my position falls apart. You can really see it around 23 seconds and 1:14 minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcDt8jSYHrs Looking at it again for some reason I seem to tuck my hips under....


Sep. 9, 2009, 11:25 PM
Hi! You ride up at Quail Roost dont you?! I used to run a barn up in Bahama. At any rate, from your video I will say two things. One is that I feel you are "floating" your hands instead of using a real crest release. A crest release IS an intermidiary step to an auot release, but because your hands are floating, your upper body really doesn't have anough support to fully close. You also are too quick over the top of the fence, coming down and opening up before your horse is landing. I would 1) exaggerate and PRESS your knuckles into the crest more to give your upper body more support so you CAN close more and 2) SLOW DOWN and exaggerate your closing the hip, not opening up til one stride AWAY from the jump. I see you trying very hard but you are just too fast over the top of the fence. Your leg is excellent and you aren't interfering with the horse. The horse also has a "quick" jump which makes you get quick in the air.

Sep. 10, 2009, 12:40 AM
I agree. I think you are lucky to not have to work so hard at staying open and back. ;-). Just try staying down for a whole stride after landing, maybe even two to exaggerate it before you sit back up.

Sep. 10, 2009, 12:50 AM
I'd love to see the responses you get--I have a tendency to do that also. Haven't worked over bigger jumps extensively enough to work on it though.

Sep. 10, 2009, 09:54 AM
Working thru the entire range of motion, rather than focusing on just one aspect of it (closing), seems to really help people learn what they are striving for. So remember that in your lessons, your trainers are focusing on teaching you one part of an entire skill set.... you will need to be careful to practice moving in and out of an open hip angle to a closed hip angle. It can be helpful to thoughtfully go from vertical to completely folded down, paying attention to how the range of motion affects your leg, your seat and your hands. Beginning this at the halt, even tho' people will look at you like you are crazy, is enlightening :lol:

Sep. 10, 2009, 10:03 AM
A couple of things before you get too down on yourself, which is the tendency of all diligent riders ;)

First off, while your leg APPEARS good, your heel is TOO deep and therefore your ankle rigid. (Yes, TOO deep...Steinkraus speaks to this problem.) The effect this has is to straighten the angles in the knee and hip, pushing you up and AWAY from the horse, and also causes you to ride just a SHADE behind your leg, particularly after the apex of the fence. Because the too-deep heel in effect is straightening your leg, it gives the effect of riding in too long a stirrup as well, which will cause you to get quick or play catch-up with your upper body. Rather than pushing the weight down into your heel, think about PULLING THE TOES UP and staying as close as possible to the saddle, and keeping the knees and hips soft so they can flex and absorb the motion (you can practice this in two-point). Really exaggerate this feeling at the base of the fence and let the horse jump up to YOU, thereby closing the angles in knee and hip. It's the rigidity in your ankle that is the root of the problem, even the problem as someone already mentioned with the floating hand.

Keep us posted with updates. Best wishes!

Sep. 10, 2009, 01:07 PM
Ok, good suggestions so far. I'll add a few more. And, after riding Western for 20 years, I had this problem too. Forever it seemed so know what I am talking about all too well.;)

And have to first say you don't rally need any huge release over these small fences but, in order to learn and develop muscle memory, you will need to exaggerate a PROPER crest release for awhile. Right now, you have not mastered that and are sort of floaty short releasing, crest release has the hands BELOW the crest 2 to 3" with knuckles firmly on the neck. With enough strength in the lower body and good angles, this becomes an auto release easily.

1) Grab the mane at least halfway up 2 strides out and STAY there for 2 strides after landing (You will hate it, I sure did). You can't do it because your upper body will not stay d.o.w.n. You have to retrain it to do so. When you flat, put your hands almost to the ears and down 2 to 3" on either side. You will hate the feeling so start at the walk and learn to love it. Then go trot and canter like that-it is an excercise to untrain and retrain your basic perception of balance. Sucks the first few times, just so you know.

2) Something is going on with your lower leg. It should be at the girth and you are pushing it forward every time you open up. Try thinking about pointing (just)your knee down and getting more of the forward part of your thigh on the saddle which should help get your butt out of it and keep it there. Work in two point ALOT on the flat. Walk, trot and canter with transitions staying in two point. That pretty miserable too. But make yourself do it and you will get there.

3) and you might not like this...Get a bigger horse. It's too small for you and hiking the stirrups up to compensate for not enough barrel to support your entire leg is not helping you. Your upper body is so long in relation to the length of it's neck you will not be able to fold that hip angle closed for a proper release of any kind. Since you have that problem anyway, this one is not a good choice to help you fix it and may be part of the reason you do it, to compensate for a too small mount. See it all the time when the Pony jocks ride something they are big on or the kid grows out of it.

Anyway, if you have to go one way, too open, or the other, ducking, this is better and safer. But it's a fault you need to work on, preferably with a bigger horse or, at least, one with more barrel and length in the neck.

IMO, with your very long upper torso and shorter leg, you need one with a long neck to accomodate your long torso and almost slab sided but still very deep thru the girth to create a longer leg, which will also minimize the torso.

Hope you don't take that wrong, everybody is long in one and shorter in the other. know which you are and selection of a horse that "fits" is alot easier. And when you ride one that is a better fit, it's easier to do things correctly instead of compensating-and that looks like a big part of the problem here and why you are feeling awkward instead of comfortable.

Sep. 10, 2009, 01:11 PM
I had a similar problem when I was riding in college - I would sit up a bit quick on the back side of the fence (think riding more like a jumper rider than a hunter).

My coach's words to me were to think about staying in my 2-point, with my hands still on the horse's neck for one stride after the fence - since on a hunter course there wouldn't be many tight turns, lol). This really helped me a ton on most fences where I needed to slow down my body and create a prettier picture but it didn't inhibit my ability to make a quick turn after the fence.

Hope this helps a bit. Good luck!

Sep. 10, 2009, 01:33 PM
Thanks for all the tips! It is nice because a majority of it my trainers have said at one point or another, just reaffirms I am working with e right people.

I know I need to ride a bigger horse, I don't own the pony but he is wonderful to work with because he is so well trained but he does I think increase my open angles because I am tall on him. My own horse (slab-sided TB, she fits me perfectly http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/chichirme/Lady/20.jpg ) is rehabbing right now and is w/t only but I am riding some great school horses that fit me better. They may not know their changes or nail every distance but they can go around the course with a monkey on their back and not blink an eye. So they are great to use for working on my position.

Glad to know others have been through this and that it is fixable.

Sep. 10, 2009, 02:27 PM
I would focus on it while you are trotting around in warm-up. Go from sitting trot (vertical) to a light seat, to a two-point, to a full-on over a 5' fence jumping position along the long side, hold the 4' fence position around the short side, then slowly transition back to vertical sitting trot down the next long side. It is something you can do on your own horse during rehab- heck, practice at the walk too. The hardest part for a lot of people is learning to push the hips back towards the tail to close the hip angle. As you go from regular jumping position to 5' fence position, think about doing a squat. Butt back towards the cantle, belt buckle down towards the withers, reach for the ears then plant your hands firmly on the neck.

Sep. 10, 2009, 03:56 PM
I do this too.

Part of it comes from doing the jumpers as a junior and riding not so nice horses and part of it comes from messing my shoulder and hip up when I fractured my back a couple of years ago. For me it has really become visible now that I am jumping over 2'6.

I also tend to float my hands above the crest instead of pressing into the crest for my release.

My hip tends to lock up if I close my hip angle too much....my right calf and foot also go numb....however, the more I really practice and work those muscles the better it gets, but I have to REALLY think about it.

I do "pony push ups" when I am flatting...get into a really exagerated jumping postion, lean down flat against my horses neck and flex that hip. Press down in my stirrup and make my leg feel like it is a mile long...push my seat backwards in the saddle and reach for those ears. This helps me stretch out and get that hip engaging before we jump.

My trainer also has to help me visualize the correct way to release. She tells me "run your hands FORWARD thru the mane" over the fence. Holding mane with one hand up really didnt help me...it had the desired effect, but it did not give me the actual motion I needed to retrain my body to do.

Before a fence she really had to remind me to RELEASE! I found that by her verbally telling me before each fence to release, I naturally made a huge effort to release, which closed my hip angle.

I still really have to think about it, and it if I in tight or take a flyer, my gut reaction is to sit back sooner to stabilize myself.

BK to some
Sep. 10, 2009, 04:41 PM
JumpIt - in my unprofessional opinion, i think your hip-angle is excellent for the height of fence you are jumping in your video. You are not doing what so many of us do - getting ahead of the motion and leaning on the neck. thank goodness. So for that jump height, and working on going higher, you look fine to me.

i did notice that your hands are a bit floaty - for a crest release, they should be on the neck, not floating above it. But it looks to me like you are balanced enough to to on and do an automatic release - keep the same contact with the mouth, let your hands follow the mouth over the fence, keeping a straight line from bit to elbow.

you stirrups do look a bit on the long side. they seem ok for this fence height, but to go higher, you should probably shorten them. not 3 holes at once though, go up gradually.

if you need some other exercises, try jumping with your reins tied in a knot, your hands out to the side. if you can keep your weight in your heels over your stirrups and stay balanced, then you are doing great.

Sep. 10, 2009, 06:28 PM
Maybe I am blind today, but I do not see it all. What I see is a rider sitting patiently and letting the motion of the horse or pony open and close the angles.

I think part of the problem is perception, as findeight stated; you are too tall for the pony. Not to say you should not ride the pony, but I believe that is a large part of what people are seeing.

I see this all the time with riders that are outside the pony phase. The short choppy stride, the quickness with which ponies can get up and down, and a rider whose upper body is not balanced with the horse, it all exaggerates that quickness often makes the rider look like they are closing up too quick.
I stepped through the video and did not see one instance of you beating your pony to the ground.

So I think it just appears like you are being quick. Your hands and your seat on the other hand, relax; your pony has one speed and is not going anywhere. You need to use your seat, less hand to control the pace/impulsion.

The pony is cute over a fence and could be even nicer over fences if you relaxed you hands, and gave her a little more freedom over the fences, and helped dictate impulsion more with your seat.

I liked the way you used your voice when the pony got a little long, but that probably would not have happened if you were using your seat better.

And for the love of Pete ask for the lead change don't wait for it to happen. You sat passively as she counter cantered past her change, inside aids, balance with the outside aids, and I am sure this pony would give you a change on a straight line.

At the end of the day I think large part of the closing to quick "issue" changes when you are on a horse, but you are still going to have to work on your hands and your seat to get that seamless flowing look.

Sep. 10, 2009, 06:32 PM
BK -

I agree that my angles are ok for that height but the problem is that I'm not adjustable. If the fences are raised or I am don't get a good distance I get left behind because I can't change my position to match the fence. I've been known to even slip my reins because I know I won't give a proper release/two-point to keep from hitting the horse's mouth.


Thanks for the complements!

I am afraid that my position doesn't change when I am on a larger horse. Pony is actually a jumper and what you can't see is that he is arguing with me about our choice of speed. We were trying to see if we could get the pony strides in which we did but obviously it is not the best pace for him but he can't quite make the horse stride so it is a bit of a struggle. On the issue of leads, that is his sticky direction they've never been 100%, I was asking just not as definitively as I should have been.

Sep. 10, 2009, 08:11 PM
You have a tall upper body on a short-necked horse. This combined with the small size of the jumps makes your ride in the video perfectly appropriate.

And here's a thought. If you really want to find your proper balance over the jumps, instead of working on a firmer, more pushed-down crest release, drop the reins entirely. Do a bunch of gymnastics with your arms stretched out at shoulder height or on top of your head. It is a simple exercise that teaches everything you really need to know about upper body position in the air.

You are a nice rider. Have fun and don't sweat the small stuff

Long Spot
Sep. 10, 2009, 08:59 PM
You have a tall upper body on a short-necked horse. This combined with the small size of the jumps makes your ride in the video perfectly appropriate.

And here's a thought. If you really want to find your proper balance over the jumps, instead of working on a firmer, more pushed-down crest release, drop the reins entirely. Do a bunch of gymnastics with your arms stretched out at shoulder height or on top of your head. It is a simple exercise that teaches everything you really need to know about upper body position in the air.

You are a nice rider. Have fun and don't sweat the small stuff

This is what I was thinking, too. You can bump the fences up to the level where you feel you lack the adjustability in your close, not argue with (cute!) pony about speed, and feel for yourself on what is appropriate.

I do have to say, if you are having a discussion about speed with pony there, a job well done. Tactful and not obvious.

Sep. 10, 2009, 09:13 PM
I do have to say, if you are having a discussion about speed with pony there, a job well done. Tactful and not obvious.

Ha, yes well this was the ride just before that not quiet as unnoticable. :lol:

1A http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGYq6DYqqnU&feature=related
1B http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2mPxpot3zQ

Can you tell my trainer finds us rather amusing? :D

Sep. 10, 2009, 11:00 PM
There are two things that help me although I also tend to stand in my stirrups with my knee locked.

I think "elbows down" and think about putting my elbows ON my horse's neck and my hands by his ears. I also think "flip your butt back" and really think about flipping my butt BACK in the saddle. You can also help by trotting your fences in 2 point 5 or 6 strides out, especially bigger fences.

Sep. 10, 2009, 11:40 PM
I agree with Hauwse and Ludgerfan, here.

First of all, to agree with Hauwse, a nice open body that lets the pony jump up to them is refreshing. Please don't throw that away and start over closing the upper body. For goodness sake, everyone these days closes their body too much. A new fault every once in a while is far less boring. :winkgrin:

I do see a tendency for your bottom to not quite clear the landing after the apex of the fence is completed. And here is where I agree with Ludgerfan: the problem is in your base (in fact, most problems with the upper body are from base problems). Your leg is straight, too deep in the heel.

The base of your position should operate like springs. Your knees should bend, your ankles bend, your hips bend. Think "sproingy" to follow the movement. For this to happen, the heel must be in line with the hip - there must be bend in the knee. The best way to feel this is at the trot - focus on sinking in and feeling every step compress and then open the joints. Like a spring.

When you get bend in the knee, you will be able to keep the open body without your rear touching too soon as you will also have just a touch more angle through the hip.

Only once your base is fixed, and the hip angle fixed, should you worry about the release.....because, a correct release is a result of the rest of your position. If the rest of it is correct, the release will fall into place once your muscle memory relearns.

Positions should always be fixed from the ground up:
Because the higher up parts are a result of the lower parts.