The Magazine September 2019

Pain-free riding

Posted 18th July 2019

Pain is an issue we all face at some point in our riding careers, but when’s it time to say enough is enough? Physiotherapist Nikki Robinson explains the causes and treatments of rider pain, as well as prevention


Many of us live with pain – accepting it as a fact of life and simply getting on with the jobs that need doing. At the same time, we’ve probably been regularly paying to get our horses’ backs treated. However, did you know that if you’re in pain, the tension and restriction in your body can cause your horse to compensate, resulting in pain and restriction somewhere in his body? So, not only could looking after your body have a positive effect on you, but it could help to keep your horse comfortable as well.

Why do riders experience pain?

Riders are vulnerable to various sources of pain. Some of these may be seen as an occupational hazard – a bruised or broken foot from being trodden on, a sprained or dislocated finger from leading, or the numerous injuries that can come from a fall. However, there are some that you can do something about, often making an immediate difference.

Lower back pain

The most common pain in riders, stiffness in the lower back, often comes from your psoas muscles. These muscles run from the front of your hips through your pelvis, and attach to the front of your lower spine. When they tighten up in response to trauma they pull your spine from the front. This is what makes it difficult to straighten up from a bent position.

To be able to follow the rhythm of your horse’s body when you’re riding, your psoas muscles need to be able to easily lengthen and shorten. So, if they’re in a constantly shortened state they’ll jar your horse’s back as well.

Prevention is better than cure

While it can be tempting to ignore your symptoms until they start causing you real trouble, the more aware you are of your body, the better. Pain means your body’s trying to tell you something – so don’t ignore it. Work in a way that keeps you comfortable and helps prevent discomfort, rather than leaving it until it’s too late.

Pick up a copy of September Horse&Rider, on sale 25 July, for more information on how to help reduce and prevent pain from setting in.

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