Eighty percent of adults suffer from back pain at some point in their life, and horse riding puts you at high risk. Back pain can have severe detrimental effects on lives and even result in people having to give up riding altogether.
If you’ve picked up some bad riding habits over the years, those combined hours will take their toll. Dr Tim Hutchful of The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) says: “Musculoskeletal injuries are cumulative, a bit like bending a paper clip – you can bend it 49 times and nothing happens, but bend it that 50th time and it breaks! This is why getting into good practices is so important. Instead of waiting for injuries to happen, avoid them building up.”
Learning and adopting correct posture and riding techniques are crucial to avoid such problems, and qualified trainers or specialist physios, such as Catherine Turner at www.physio4horse riders.co.uk, can help with these aspects.
Our backs are designed to support us, but not to do the job of the abdominal and back muscles. Strong core muscles and a trim physique are very important, as excess weight puts excess strain on the spine.
Dr Hutchful adds: “Even though riding is physically demanding, it is not sufficient to let it be your only form of exercise. Keeping fit will give you more energy and help you avoid injury – Pilates is a good start!”
Daily stretching is imperative to keep the back strong and flexible. There are some simple stretches that anyone can do, which should be performed daily to help maintain lower back mobility and core muscle strength. Here are a few exercises to help keep you supple.
Flexion stretch A
Lying on back with head on floor, pull one knee back to chest and hold for several seconds. Repeat with other knee.
Flexion stretch B
Starting on all fours, bring buttocks down to heels. Hold for several seconds and repeat.
Starting on all fours, stretch out right arm and left leg simultaneously, keeping back and neck straight. Hold for several seconds and repeat with opposite limbs.
Lie on back, knees bent up with head on a small pillow and arms out to the side in a crucifix position. Hold for two minutes (avoid arching the lower back).
Core muscle tension
Sitting on a chair, focus on the core muscle group, which you tense when entering a cold sea. This forms a corset of muscle around your tummy. Tense these muscles and hold for 10 seconds, maintaining natural breathing throughout.