View Full Version : Balance, seat and hip problems

Jan. 3, 2008, 05:10 PM
Hello I was hoping everyone here could give me some advice on a problem that's pretty much brought me to a standstill with my riding. I have a very wide horse and regardless of the saddle I ride in it feels like my left hip is being torn out of the socket. When I mount up I have to sit and let the pain pass and then try to stretch out my leg and hip for a few minutes. My two legs are always uneven, one back further than the other and one higher than the other. I always feel unbalanced and as if the saddle is crooked. The stirrups feel like different lengths although they aren't. I feel like I'm always fighting to keep my legs under my body, they want to swing way back. I don't use a trainer and have no long term dressage goals. Just use some basics for suppling and establishing flat work.

When I ride different horses, that are narrower, I have none of these issues. I actually ride bareback quite a bit or with a bareback pad so it's not a matter of different brands of saddles. The same thing happens even with no saddle. So is the problem just that I cannot ride a wide horse due to my own conformation? I saw a physical therapist about ten times for the pain and she said my hips were not necessarily unlevel, rotated, or anything abnormal. I'm doing exercises for core strength, but I'm relatively thin and in shape and she was pretty confused why I would be having these problems. I thought perhaps the dressage experts had dealt with this before and could offer some help? Thank you!

P.S. I'm posting this as an alter. :)

Jan. 3, 2008, 05:20 PM
Funnily enough, I ride a tanky buckskin myself!

I feel your pain. Switching saddles helped a bit for me - my new saddle has a slightly narrower twist than the old one. I also do a lot of stretching - think about work for stretching/loosening the lower back as well as hips and thighs.

A long warm up (for me!) at an active walk w/o stirrups. Warm up includes stretching up and back, airplane twists, that thing where you hold your ankle and drop your knee down. Stuff like that.

Bottom line though - this horse may be just too wide for you to ever really be comfy on - you just need to decide if you will continue to tough it out or find a new horse. The stretching has made it tolerable for me to keep on working with my boy, but there are still days when I think I should sell him and get a narrower pone!

Good luck!


Jan. 3, 2008, 06:13 PM
I have been riding my wide load of a horse in a saddle with a wide twist, and finding that I'm managing to make myself pretty damned uncomfortable trying to open my hips and get my legs to hang correctly. The saddle feels very comfortable to just sit in, but to establish a good position, not so good, and I've been getting hip pains in the night (more on one side than the other) badly enough to have me wandering the house seeking pharmaceuticals.

Oh, and one day a couple of months ago I had to do a really serious half halt/spook deflection, and I got sudden, severe cramping pain through my hips to the extent I thought I'd done myself some serious harm. I was totally helpless, which wasn't too clever under the circumstances (Angry moose on trail, horsie wanted to go home. If I'd have fallen off I would have been toast.)

So a couple of weeks ago I ended up riding in a saddle which not only had a narrower twist but also, and this seemed absolutely key, seemingly much less bulk under my upper thigh--I guess the stirrup bars are more recessed or something, and the leather is much softer and more pliable and conforming. It's an extra wide tree, but the sitting area isn't. The difference was kind of extraordinary--even on my wide horse.

I would have to say that the first time I rode in it my hips wanted to know what the heck I was doing, changing their angle so dramatically! But my position and effectiveness is vastly improved. Now I've ridden in it a couple of times, my body is starting to feel so much less stressed.

Riding bareback or in a bareback pad on this horse would just about tear me in half, BTW. I need that raised, narrower area to sit on! I'm thin and in shape too--my hip sockets just don't open that wide comfortably.

I hadn't really put two and two together before--just assumed I was getting older and needed to suck it up and get over it and learn to be mroe flexible.

So, I've got the saddle fitter coming out on Saturday and I'm going to buy one of my very own. Happy New Year to me.

Jan. 3, 2008, 07:01 PM
I was going to suggest trying a different saddle also. I have serious tightness "issues" in my hip flexors and have often been confronted with that lovely stabbing, charlie-horse type pain in my hip while riding dressage. I find that a narrower twist on the saddle helps me greatly, as well as lots, lots, lots of stretching of the hip flexors.

An easy stretch you can do even sitting in your office: While seated in your chair, cross one leg where the ankle rests on the knee of the other leg and bend forward as far as you can until you feel it really pull--hold for 60 seconds & repeat. I do this several times a day on both sides to keep stretching them.

Jan. 3, 2008, 09:18 PM
Sometimes the horse IS just too wide. But *usually* you can find a saddle that helps.

But yeah, sometimes it's just the horse. :(

medical mike
Jan. 3, 2008, 09:53 PM
You are describing what sounds like arthritis. Quite possibly you have some spurs that impinge when you sit on the wide horse.
And yes, the difference could be only a few mm between pain and no pain.

So I would start with an evaluation by MD.
Keep with the exercises and narrow horse. It is quite possible that you will need to make a permanent change in the width of the horse you will be able to ride.

Medical Mike
equestrian medical researcher
www.fitfocusedforward.us or .com

Jan. 3, 2008, 10:06 PM
If you do not have arthritis...

You may have to have the saddle reajusted to fit both you and the horse.

Upside...WOW...what a difference it will make in comfort

Downside...the saddle will only be suitable for you and this particular horse.

Jan. 3, 2008, 10:16 PM
did not mean to post here!

Jan. 3, 2008, 11:16 PM
So Heather Moffett made a seatbone saver that's built up in the middle for treeless saddles to feel like they have more of a twist.

Have heard of one rider using it on a Balance Saddle to help out w/ the 'uber-wideness'...

I have one of her regular ones on my BC and it helps by molding around the thigh and at least some to the shape of my butt.

Having said which, of course, you still can't show with it!

Jan. 4, 2008, 12:22 AM
Is it possible to take a couple of weeks and just ride the average/ narrower horse? See if that helps?

Funny, the only time I felt excruciatiing pain in my hips after a ride was when I took a lesson on an especially narrow TB school horse. I thought I might have permanent damage.

A few months ago, I went to look at a Halflinger gelding advertised for sale, reason:
said "My health forces sale".....

I asked the owner to walk and trot the horse a little so I could just watch and get a feel for his way of going and personality. She was on for maybe 5 minutes before stopping and saying she wasn't sure if she could continue because she was in such pain in her hips and knees. This was a SUPER wide horse. And a petite rider. She had owned the horse for about a year, and from the sound of it, had been having these problems for the last year. I asked her if she thought it could be from riding such a hunk of horse, and it seemed like a revelation to her.
I got on and rode for about 5 minutes. Just walked. Decided horse was just too green, and not as willing as I would want. So not the horse for me.

In the car on the long drive home, my hips began to ache, and were tight for a day or two after. And that's just from 5 minutes riding time. But that horse was exceptionally wide.

Good luck and best wishes from Kansas.

Jan. 4, 2008, 01:30 AM
My guy is very, very, very wide.

This spring I started having major pain issues, after several years of being almost entirely pain-free. I do have major degeneration in one hip, and arthritis in hips and knees. I was really despondent. I mean, I'd lost a lot of weight, was as fit as I'd ever been, and it just plain hurt to ride. And the pain was carrying over into the night, keeping me from sleeping.

I dont' know why it took me so long, or how I actually eventually figured it out, but it was the saddle. Well, the combo of horse & saddle. The saddle that had actually KEPT me riding for several years after Docs said not to, was now too wide in combination with the 200lbs or so of topline and weight the horse had put on. :cry:

I have found a saddle we can both agree on, but next time things start going south, I'll start trying different fixes FAR sooner.

Jan. 4, 2008, 05:25 PM
So the one w/ the twist is called a 'hip saver'.....and there are several styles. You would want to get the one for 'English Saddles'...there are a couple others for specific types of treeless.

bettersaddles.co.uk sells them...and there is a Phoenix rep in california who has had some in the past...I think she is justequus.com

Jan. 5, 2008, 01:53 AM
Do you do any exercises/ strengthening / weight work NOT horse related?

I have a bad hip (birth defect) and one leg about 1-1/2" shorter as a result. I have ridden everything my whole life from foundation QH to draft x and WBs (jumpers, cow horses, dressage, etc) with no problems BUT I stay in shape with non horse exercises.

It's what saves me, I think. Plus I take glucosamine, keep my weight well under control and never slack off one day on the exercising. At 45, I can't afford to :) I am a competitive runner, too (marathons) and that keeps my joints strong.

My 2 current horses are an Appendix QH, tall and lean, and a Perch x, which I call 'double wide'. Huge ass horse, tall and wide. I can ride both of them easily 4 hours each with no soreness. Bareback, saddle, whatever.

I am a believer in strengthening and stretching, plus the glucosamine.

Hey, if it's good enough for my horses, it's good enough for me! (The QH gets Cosequin)

It may be your saddle / horse combo; I don't know from here. But I am sold on conditioning MY body.

Good luck! PM if you'd like details.

Jan. 5, 2008, 02:19 AM
I think there are quite a few unknown elements here:
a. your age
b. you say you are skinny- but are you long legged, narrow hipped? or different?
c. do you live healthy- are you fit?
d. do you have past injuries to your hips, sacrum, lower back?
e. did you ever do another sport like ballet, ice skating, gymnastics?

just a few that come to mind.

I would suggest to do serious workouts in the gym with a trainer- focussing on hips and rear end muscles...I went thru something similar and am still going thru it - due to a massive sacrum injury. The answers:

nonforce chiropractic treatments (www.nonforce.com)
gymnastic work ( sitting on the ground in a indian seat position, lean back and roll sideways on your back - swinging back from side to side)
swimming regularly (breaststroke with strong leg work)
good supplements..(everyone has a different opinion on that...)

Good luck- it's hard to give up a horse you love- so either way- if you want to make it work...these would be some suggestions.

Kathy Johnson
Jan. 5, 2008, 11:00 AM
Will the wide one drive? Just kidding, sort of.

Definitely, trying different saddles could help.

I also ride a double wide, and had to loosen and open my hips to fit him. Your hips are probably tight, and can be stretched OFF the horse as well as on. Opening the hips is not a one day process and can months to years.

I would not be comfortable posting a bunch of exercises because of any medical history. I would recommend finding either a physical therapist or a pilates coach who is experienced with riders. There are specific exercises that can help this issue.

Jan. 5, 2008, 11:09 PM
All good suggestions but if your hip is degenerating the answer is a resurfacing/ replacement. Mine kept getting worse on my wide Lipizzans till I couldn't sit in the saddle at all. I am back riding them now with a shiny metal capped and socketed left hip. If the right one goes, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. If it is arthiritis, waiting makes it worse and then instead of resurfacing you might need a total hip replacement, a bit more drastic but also effective.

Jan. 5, 2008, 11:28 PM
Your problem suggests that your seatbones are not under you correctly. You are probably riding with a hollow back. The wider the horse, the great the effects of your own body's crookedness will be. Add in an incorrect seat, and you will cause not just pain, but real damage over time. The only way I can be sure of what you are doing wrong is if you want to post a picture.

Jan. 7, 2008, 01:38 AM
There are lots of good suggestions on this thread, but you may also want to consider the possibility that your horse is simply too wide for your conformation.

I spent 5 years on a super-wide horse. I did yoga and pilates, took glucosamine and chondroitin, and underwent physical therapy every two weeks to try and increase the stretch in my hip. I stretched before and after riding, but I still judged whether I was sitting correctly by the amount of pain in my hip. If it hurt, I was sitting well. If it hurt a lot, I was sitting perfectly.

I could never get my horse properly forward because I couldn't swing enough with him. My range of motion stopped before his stride did, and I was basically half-halting him every stride. Eventually, as my hip reached the end of its range of motion, the stretch transferred to my knee and I started to have knee problems. My knee would swell up after a ride and I had to ice it regularly.

When I retired my horse, I bought a narrower horse and my position is totally different. I have no problem aligning my heel, hip, shoulder and ear, and the hip and knee pain have vanished. I thought it might be a coincidence, but I took my retiree out on a half-hour trail ride a couple of months after getting the new horse, and by the time I got back, my knee and hip hurt so badly I had a hard time dismounting.

I don't mean to dissuade you from trying any of the suggestions on this thread, but don't let your determination affect your judgment and possibly cause lasting harm to your joints.

Jan. 7, 2008, 01:33 PM
You might be interested in some of Wendy Murdoch's articles (esp. "loose hips") available on her website:


Her videos are very good and would be helpful. As a Feldenkrais practitioner she has a lot to offer.

Jan. 7, 2008, 05:07 PM
Buckskin- I'm in a similar situation. Last winter I started having hip pain when I'd get off really wide horses, my TB and pony were no problem. In April my trainer fixed my crooked seat (too much on right seat bone) by having me pull my right hip back to let the left seat bone take more weight. It worked, but since then have had tremendous pain in the left hip. It's the worst right when I get on and takes 5-10 minutes to "loosen up." If I've worked really hard (4-5 horses or a clinic) I'm sore for days. As a marathon runner my doctor thought it was a muscle imbalance. After 4 months of PT exercises and no change I had an MRA of the joint (an MRI but they inject the joint with dye-REALLY PAINFULL!!). They found nothing. Next step, Sports Medicine doctor. I'm only 32, so hope it's not arthritis. I'd love to hear hear what yours turns out to be as everyone seems stumped by mine. It makes it really hard to get on the babies and greenies when it hurts so bad.

Jan. 18, 2008, 03:52 PM
I'm short at 5 foot tall and ride a pretty wide dun! :D

atr what saddle was it that you found? I think I need the same one! Between the horse and the wide western saddle I have my problems, my hips don't hurt badly but my position is terrible, major chair seat and I can't seem to get my legs back where they need to be. I thought it was just my own inadequacy until I rode a different horse, our small narrow arab mare and the difference was amazing. My legs went where they were supposed to be, position was vastly improved, I was so much more comfortable! I know I have narrow hips but am somewhat overweight and I know that isn't helping. I'm doing my best to fix what I can... stretching, exercising, ect.

But I love my dun! I don't want to stop riding him... but the saddle isn't working for him (white spots on his sides directly under where the stirrup leathers attach to the tree) or me...

Jan. 19, 2008, 10:04 AM
How do I find the articles on the Murdoch site?