I thought I would mention the lovely pleasure ride at Fonthill that I went on a few weeks ago. This annual ride is run by members of the BHS (British Horse Society!) They do an amazing job with the organization, marking the way (and removing later), parking lorries/trailers and keeping an eye on the riders during the ride and checking they all come back!!
So we had a great ride. However, discussions with a keen horseman before the ride brought to light some of the musculoskeletal problems suffered by riders who do long distances on their horses or ponies. The most common complaint is simply low back pain and of course there are a number of possible reasons for this, ranging from simply tired muscles to inflamed facet joints. There is of course a lot of shock or jar that it is transmitted to the rider’s joints when the horse’s feet make contact with the ground and the forces travel upwards. The limiting factors to this are importantly the horse itself, the type of pace it has, i.e. ground shuddering or light as a fairy! The horse’s connective tissue system, like ours, ligaments, muscles, tendons, joint cartilage should effectively absorb some of these unwanted forces.
So what makes a difference to the rider:-
- Body position, sitting with a bend at the hip and knee joints which can open or close with impact.
- Sitting with the spine in a neutral position, too much extension and the joints are compressed too quickly, too much flexion and the discs may be at risk of rupturing fibres and even the central pulp exuding from the disc (slipped disc).
- Keeping head and neck aligned correctly over spine unless in a forward galloping position when the head may be extended over the spine.
- The saddle can make a huge difference by allowing the rider to sit comfortably in the flexed hip/knee position described. It needs to be placed at the right position of the horse’s back. It may help to have a knee roll on the saddle flap itself or the under panel correctly placed for the riders leg length/shape.
- The pads/numnahs that the saddle sits on can be made of shock absorbing material helping both horse and rider.
How to help stiffness or pain in the rider’s back:-
- For simple muscle and/or joint stiffness, try exercises to stretch the back and leg muscles, for example, bringing both knees to the chest, stretching hamstrings.
- Foam rollers can be very useful to massage and stretch the back muscles.
If pain persists, visit your chiropractor so that you can continue with those long summer rides!