Do you know what’s involved when asking your horse to push his hip over? A lot more than you might think. Pushing the hip over is one of the most common exercises I include in my riding routine and is a basic skill all horses should be able to do whether they go on to be a performance horse or become a trusty trail riding partner. Practicing lateral movements will help your horse build muscle, improve suppleness, and teach collection, and it’s also a great way to introduce your horse to lateral movements to help him perform more difficult maneuvers later on in life.
When asked to push his hip over, your horse might drop his shoulders either to the outside or the inside. And if he’s really unbalanced, he’ll move his entire body in the direction you’re asking his hip to move. If you’re not properly moving your horse’s hip over, he won’t gain anything from this exercise, and it might cause even more issues with his ability to stay collected.
To learn my tips on successfully moving a horse’s hip over during a lateral movement, read on.
1. Keep him on the line.
The key to pushing your horse’s hip over is to make sure his front end stays on the same line you started on. Before asking for his hip to move over, find a line in the arena that you want to move toward. This could be a fence post that’s directly in front of you or an imaginary line down the rail.
2. Engage his core.
When your horse is properly balanced, with square shoulders, and is tracking on the same line with his hip pushed over, he’s engaging his core completely. Think of it as pushing his belly toward his chest.
Yes, his hip is pushed sideways, but the rest of his body is squared and pushing forward. It almost looks like a “prance” as his front and back legs move on the diagonal in synchronization. This movement is very similar to a passage dressage maneuver, but less elevated and exaggerated.
3. Work the hind end.
With all this talk on keeping the shoulders square and in line, you can’t forget about the hind end. Once your horse’s core is properly engaged, you want him to “sit back” on his hocks and use the propulsion from the hind end to push his body forward down your line. If you don’t have forward motion, something isn’t right.
When you engage the hind end and start to ask for the hip to move over, you’ll use your inside leg and outside rein to keep the shoulders and core square and on the line.
4. Bring it all together.
Once you’re engaging the hind end and core to keep his shoulders square and underneath you, the front feet will be tracking one in front of the other. When your horse is unbalanced, his shoulders will drop out from underneath himself causing the outside foot to move outward. When this occurs, you’ll feel your horse start to move in the direction of the shoulder he’s dropping instead of staying on your straight line.
When this maneuver is performed correctly the right front foot will track directly in front of the left, moving forward down the line you started on. You’ll feel your horse evenly between your legs, and you shouldn’t feel resistance towards the left or right rein. At this point, he’s moving off your body and is perfectly balanced. If he’s now moving down your straight line, you have successfully asked him to move his hip over, meaning his shoulders are square and his entire body from the hind end through the core is engaged.
Now your horse is collected, underneath himself, and moving laterally down the line you started on. If he doesn’t master this movement on the first try, don’t stress about it. This kind of body manipulation takes practice for both the rider and the horse. If needed, make this exercise easier for your horse by using a rail to block his shoulder from moving off track.