Back Pain and Horse Riding

Back pain is a problem for over 95% of the population.

This is a favorite topic of mine. I get many e-mails from people on the web asking for help. As a Physiotherapist and a Pilates Educator I can advise riders on how to control their back pain. I have suffered lower back pain all my adult years and understand how debilitating it can be to your life and especially your riding. So many riders are told to give up riding by their DR. or Chiro or physio or even family…because it is bad for their back.

Here is a statement you wont hear from too many people.

HORSE RIDING IS NOT BAD FOR YOUR BACK.

The job of looking after a horse IS bad for your back.

The key to controlling back pain is core stability and knowledge of the mechanics of how things work.

* As a Physiotherapist I treat back pain for a living.

* As a horse rider I suffer back pain.

* I understand the mechanics of the spine and how it works.

* I understand the heavy labor required to look after horses.

* I know the muscle energy required to ride with skill and good posture

Now to clarify what is bad and what is good for your back.

Sitting on a horse with good core stability and posture requires strength and good spinal alignment. This is good for your back. (Same posture as sitting on a ball at the correct height). Asking the horse to perform movements on command requires much more strength and posture control. This will strengthen the whole body. This is good for your back. A rider with good strong core stability will in fact strengthen and improve their back while riding. (of course don’t fall off). I’m talking about dressage, flat riding not jumping racing or rodeo)

Unless you ride well you will not improve

A rider with poor core stability and posture will most likely not improve their back pain or their riding. This can change once they are taught core stability first, and then HOW TO apply this in the saddle. Riding can be bad for your back, but it does not have to be forever. Any person taking up or participating in ANY sport should train core stability before expecting too much success. I practice it, I teach it, and I totally recommend training core stability for controlling back pain in any person but especially in horse riders.

THE JOB OF LOOKING AFTER HORSES is bad for your back

This is hard on any person. There is much repetitive heavy lifting involving throwing and twisting. Even putting a bridle or a saddle on can aggravate lower back pain. Mucking out yards and carting feed all is bad for the back. Packing the car or truck for a competition, lifting the tail ramp, leading a strong horse all require a strong back. All these activities contribute to the cycle of ongoing back pain.

The Key To Controlling Lower Back Pain is Pilates

I strongly recommend training core stability (pilates) for any person lifting on a regular basis. The use of a back brace and a sack trolley can reduce the impact on the lower back joints while working in the yard. Getting smarter with the way you do things is the key to minimizing the strain on your back while on the ground. I use and teach core stability to all my patients in my work. I teach all my riding pupils about core stability and how to use it in the saddle. The next time you hear horse riding is bad for your back…tell them IT”S NOT you are training core stability controlling your pain and love it.

For further information on strengthening the core muscles as a horse rider look at Applied Posture Riding.

Cheers Annette Willson

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