How to Stay Comfortable in the Saddle

Horse-riding is a very common activity among hinterland residents and is a great form of exercise. Back pain is also a common complaint, so, when is horse-riding beneficial and when it is harmful? What exercise should you do to help prevent back pain from riding and reduce your time off the horse.

Riding with a good technique uses most muscles in the body. Sitting on a saddle with a controlled, upright posture requires the core muscles to stabilise the body against the movements of the horse. This type of activity is great for the spine, as long as good posture and core stability are maintained. Problems occur when people are suffering with back pain and have lost their core control before they start riding, or when they are riding with poor posture and control or for longer periods than their fitness allows. Getting a horse to move in certain ways under command requires whole body strength along with core stability.

As physio’s we tend to see more injuries from looking after horses than we do from riding. The manual work required to look after a horse requires lots of lifting, bending and twisting. These repetitive actions are known to be harmful to the spine and often lead to injury. Be aware of your spine when you are cleaning and maintaining your horses. Use your legs more than your spine for lifting and turning and consider a back support if you have had a previous injury.

Most people ride on a weekend basis and may not be physically fit enough to cope with the length of ride and postural control required. Having good cardiovascular fitness is essential, so this type of exercise (eg. Walking, swimming, running, cycling) should be incorporated into your lifestyle. Core stability exercises such as pilates and fitball exercises will ensure that the postural muscles have the endurance required to support the spine during horse-riding. If you are already suffering with back pain, it is essential to have these muscles working well before you return to riding.

Seek advice from a physiotherapist early to avoid chronic back pain or time out of the saddle. Craig and Rebecca Steele operate Hinteractive Physio and can be contacted on 5442 5556.

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