Pelvic Lift
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, April 4, 2013 09:27 AM
At the end of March I have visited my dear friend Frances who is recovering from a knee replacement surgery and already has started riding a little bit. As usual it was intense riding and learning experience. We had a lot of fun working with each other and the horses. Plus, equestrian DVD watching and discussions afterwards. She coached me every day during my 6 day visit, helped me with my seat and also helped me discover how to apply pelvic lift to influence horses in a way that encourages them to lift their withers and collect themselves. This was a huge bulb going on for me. The idea of "pelvic lift" wasn't new to me. The precise mechanics of it's execution was a huge discovery.I know not to push with my hips and even slow them down to control the tempo and balance. However, the idea of "lifting" the front of my seat never occurred to me. I was thinking more about lifting the whole pelvis rather than just the front of it. Now looking back I realize without this tool I was struggling to really collect the canter in particular. I always wondered I am working so much on controlling my hips so they do not swing too much forward in canter and then watching my rides I felt I wasn't successful enough. Well, Frances showed me the remedy. As soon as she told me about the lifting motion of the pelvis I knew this is something very important that was missing in my riding.
Let me try to explain how it works. First, lets look at our pelvis and the different ways we can lift the front of it which is the pubic area or bikini line. The simplest way is to use your glutes muscles (buttocks). If you squeeze them they round the lower back and rotate the pelvis to lift the front and lower the back of it. People do it when they hear "tuck your tail bone under" or "flatten/round your lower back".
The other way to lift the pelvic bone is to use muscles in front which are abdominals, especially lower parts which are physically attached to pelvic bone. Rectus Abdominis is attached to pubic bone and Obliques are attached to the wings of ilium (hips as they mistakenly called). This is the action we need. I have exercises on my website that helps to develop controlled pelvis mobility using correct muscles. Click here to read more.
Also, I am not 100% sure but I strongly suspect Psoas muscles are very important in this lift. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
  • This lift should not really round your back. It is more an isometric contraction rather than actual movement. Abdominal muscles create actual movement, the only way to oppose them is to use back muscles which can lead to stiffness. This is why I never thought of lifting in this way because I was afraid to round my back too much. However, as everything in riding, moderation is the key and pelvis does oscillate around neutral position back and forth as horse moves.
  • Psoas muscles are attached to the lumbar vertebra at the front of the body, behind the stomach contents and to the thigh bone right under the hip joints. See the picture from a website When they contract the pull is created at both ends this will discourage the lower back to round.
  • Also, Psoas muscles will not be able to really lift the pelvis. If anything they are designed to lift the thighs. However, thighs must be very stable, laying flat and stretched around the saddle, gently pressing into it. They will not lift off it. At least they shouldn't. Psoas rather create stability and prevent hips from sliding forward/downward, hence, giving rider a sense of lift.
  • When I was riding in Denver I felt that I was most successful in collecting canter when the "lift" came from inside of me and didn't require a lot of effort. I will explore these ideas and find out more on how important Psoas muscles are in this action.
When do we want to use the lift?
Basically every time the motion of the horse moves the hip forward you apply the lift action with more or less intensity depending on the gait or goal.
In walk hips lift alternately. This is a great way to collect the walk much less rein action is required and horse is lifting the front and moving the shoulders with greater freedom. Cadence of the walk is also improved.
In trot hips lift more or less together with extra emphasis on the one that is pushed forward at the time. This will help organize and collect the trot allowing the horse to have longer neck and more freedom with the shoulders
In canter hips lift during the downward motion of canter stride and into the flight phase. Inside hip lifts a bit more than outside. During flying lead change lifting new inside hip will help a horse to have expressive changes.
A note of caution!
To be able to do the lift successfully a rider must have a strong core and stable upper body. Thighs must be well conditioned to stay gently pressed into the saddle at all times. The lower leg is gently attached to the horse's sides so the feet are light in the stirrups. Taking lower leg off the sides and pushing too much into stirrups will create unstable lower leg. Also, do not overdo the lift. Your lower back should not appear as it is rounding every stride. The action is not really visible apart from making hips appear more quiet and organized.
Happy riding...
Comment by Jane on Thursday, April 4, 2013 07:50 PM
This was a super blog to read before leaving to ride. Thank you, Irina! I look forward to working more on the pelvic lift and also to more great blogs! :-)
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, April 4, 2013 09:50 PM
Thanks, Jane!
I am glad you liked the blog. We can play with this idea when I come to teach the clinic in June :)
Comment by Jane Perry on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 02:30 PM
And now I know that the pelvic lift not only requires a lot of core strength but a little more coordination and faster reaction times than I currently have - can't wait for that clinic! :-)
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, April 20, 2013 09:55 PM
I totally agree with you, Jane. I find coordinating the pelvic lift smoothly, especially in canter, is not an easy task. In Denver I rode horses who already knew how to collect their canter and it felt easier than on Santo who is young and not yet collected enough :).
Comment by Leslie on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 11:24 AM
Just found this lift myself, this week. So, I searched for info on it and found your blog. Thank you, it confirmed that I am on the right path. I, in the next few weeks, will refine it as my horse adjust to the collect canter and the new feel from my hip.
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