I teach a lovely girl who seems to twist/tweak/strain her ankles more often than normal. Sometimes this happens off horse, sometimes on horse.
Her family and family physician are definitely studying the issue, but I'm trying to brainstorm for my own education and in case there are any horse specific exercises or cautions I should know about. Left to herself the kid is more likely weight the outside of her stirrup, under her little toe, than the inside of her stirrup. She also still needs to think about relaxing her ankles to let the weight sink down her leg rather than bracing her ankle and foot.
She has been riding in jodphur boots and half chaps. Wondering if tall boots might help limit unwanted lateral movement in her ankle?? Is taping the ankles still done in some running sports like basketball? Anyone here ride in an ankle brace? Interested in any stories or ideas, thanks!
My daughter used to sprain her ankles easily. Most kids don't sprain easily. They are more likely to break an ankle or injure a growth plate than to sprain. My daughter eventually stopped gymnastics and vaulting, and the ankles finally healed. We always tried to buy good quality paddock boots/Ariats as those seemed to give her the most ankle support.
I have very damaged ankles due to spraining them many times (running/orienteering in terrain) and they turn over or sprain easily (side to side motion) as well as having some limits in flexibility (forward and back). I can wear riding shoes with decent ankle support and be okay (Ariat Terrains) but when I wear tall boots I wear braces like these inside of them. My tall boots have zippers, otherwise I can't bend my ankle right to get my foot down into them. (I also wear the braces with running or orienteering shoes when doing those sports.) The flexibility problem does inhibit my ability to keep my heels down. If they are level that's usually as good as it gets.
Rather the family doctor I suggest they contact a pediatric orthopedics surgeon as they most likely will have a clear insight as to what is happening.
Our youngest daughter had her right foot crushed in a horse fall accident, the original doctors want to amputate her foot; needless to say we looked for second opinion. Luckily we located a highly regarded pediatric orthopedic surgeon near by who rebuilt her foot in an eight plus hour surgery..... our daughter runs marathons these days and sends a photo her former doctor every time she crosses the finish line after 26 miles
I have horribly weak ankles from spraining them multiple times during my adolescent/teenage years. My right one is definitely worse than my left (sprained it so bad once that I was on crutches for a week). If I'm not careful, I can just roll my foot/ankle. I have the braces that fulong47 mentioned. I don't have to wear them all the time, but I will if I've aggravated my ankle. I also have the same flexibility issue as well (can't put my right heel down without quite a bit of discomfort).
Not sure what to suggest, but the braces should help with lateral stability.
i'd ask her parents to ask her doctor or PT your specific question, and have them give advice on how the rider should wrap her ankle (which I bet would help). Look into Devonshire stirrups-- increases the safety factor of not having heels down, and can gives more stability. I think i'd def consider at least switching to peacock-type safety stirrups. Might go without saying, but no-stirrup work seems especially important for her, so she develops her stability and balance from her core rather than the stirrups. From my work in therapeutic riding, it took me a little while to really internalize the fact that some students' bodies just don't move in certain ways / can't flex no matter how much you ask them to relax / sink into their heels, or bring their leg back, etc. So, it's a good question for her doctor or PT-- exactly how much range of motion does she currently have? If she's consistently protecting her ankles, there's prob a reason. You just want to take care that you're not getting after her to do something her body is saying "Don't do this".
As someone with a weak/inflexible ankle, I think it's important to get her to stop balancing on her stirrups. I feel at risk of turning on my ankle if I'm getting physically tired and carrying my weight in my stirrups. When I have my entire leg against the horse, it's less an issue.
Another idea: I have the same problem, and got myself a pair of wedge pads for my stirrups, putting the tall side on the outside. It is much more comfortable to ride now, and my ankles are getting stronger. (And, my trainer, who doesn't have ankle problems, loves riding with my wedge pads, too!)
I have horrible horrible ankles. My growth plates fused early due to frequent injuries as a child. I only ride in well fitted tallboots that are of the pull on variety and I have these pads on my stirrups that prevent me from slipping out if them. It took me a while to improve my base enough were i wasnt loosing sturrips because my ankle would just give way.
--Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity--
I was born 100% crippled in one ankle and about 30% in the other, the left foot and ankle were nearly backwards. I had physical therapy as a baby which miraculously fixed it (my cousin wasn't nearly as lucky, no physio and 30 some odd surgeries later he can finally walk).
Anywho, my ankles are weak and easy to sprain, and being on my feet a lot causes extreme pain, hopping down from the saddle always results in me collapsing unless I've got ahold of horsey neck. I do a lot of ankle and lower leg stretches, and stretch a lot when I'm in the saddle(trying to drop my weight into my heels). I'm slowly building up to not losing my left stirrup every time I canter because my foot just kind of becomes "not there".
I have issues with weak ankles and have most of my life. When I was growing up I sprained my ankles regularly and got to the point of often wearing braces while riding or playing sports. Even now it is still pretty common for me to roll an ankle while doing normal everyday things like walking Due to my ankles I also tend to put more weight on the outside of my stirrup versus the inside. No stirrup work is the most helpful thing for me in strengthen the leg which in turn helps the ankle.
A decent brace worn under a boot can help a lot. I seem to do better in either tall boots or laceup paddock boots. But the thing that makes the biggest difference for me is finding the right stirrups. If I ride in something non-jointed I literally cannot walk after even a short ride. But some stirrups like the HS jointed ones are too flexible and cause strain as well. For me the right stirrups ended up being MDC jointed stirrups with the runner up being just a generic pair of basic jointed stirrups. So as well as looking for exercises for her it might be a good idea to also try some basic jointed stirrups.
When I was a kid, I had really, really weak ankles. Frequently, I would just be standing still and one of my ankles would spontaneously give out and I would actually fall down. It was quite strange. I did (and still do) tend to ride with my weight more to toward the outside of my foot towards my little toe, which kind of causes me to toe in when riding.
As I haved aged (32 now), my ankles no longer spontaneously give out. I do still have to ride in lace up paddock boots, otherwise my ankles get sore. My feet also sometimes fall asleep when riding. When I was a kid and having issues with my ankles giving out, I did wear those elastic brace things on my ankles a lot - for sports, and sometimes just for regular life. I want to say they stopped giving out by about age 14 or so.
I really don't notice issues riding so much now. I mean, other than tending to toe in a little while riding, but that hasn't ever really been a problem and I still have a very tight and effective leg. I just adapted, I guess. Incidentally, I also have very flexible wrists, so perhaps that is related. I can comfortably touch my thumb to the inner part of my arm with no resistance at all, and often find myself sleeping with the palm of my hand practically flat against the inside of my arm. This makes my hands completely numb, and is probably causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
I was born with bilateral clubbed feet, so had to do lots of surgeries and casting when I was a baby. I'm able to walk/run/ride just fine, but I have VERY limited flexibilty front to back. As a result, I couldn't excercise them right, and they have always been weak. I used to sprain them all. the. time. As I aged, they got better, but I still try to take care of them, so I'm not crippled when I get older. When I know I'm going to in the saddle all day, I'll wrap them with vet wrap. It's thin and stretchy enough that it fits under my boots, and doesn't compromise my motion, but it's just enough support that I don't my poor ankles after jarring them down for hours on end.
I'm *supposed* to wear an ankle brace on a daily basis due to a very bad sprain 2 years ago that still affects me (never healed, also don't think I was given proper diagnosis/treatment, but that's another story!). When I do wear/ride in a brace, it's an Ace bandage type of brace - not actually a bandage.
I would think that tall boots would help her. Even wearing an ankle brace under her boots as well. I know I certainly can tell the difference between wearing my brace under my boots, vs without!
I have been battling weak ankles for about 2 years now that were brought on by really bad tendinosis in my legs. I tried braces and did PT with a doc that knew nothing about riding for 6 months (which is how I was diagnosed with teninosis) and in the end, there were two things that helped the most and I'm sure they sound a little crazy:
The eliptical trainer & kinesio tape
If I do the eliptical for 30 minutes 3 times a week the strectch it gives my lower leg and ankle area really keeps the pain in my ankles down during the ride. This alone has been better than 3 times a week at PT. The kinesio tape helps if I have to do a hard ride and need extra support. Taping can be tricky, but ankle taping is probably the easiest taping to learn.
Most of the women in my family have some variation on it, and it causes frequently sprained ankles and, over time, scar tissue buildup from over-extending joints.
Catching it early makes treatment much easier. Basically, you have to spend your life being VERY careful about alignment and doing yoga, pilates and regular chiro work to keep everything in place. If you lose muscle tone, everything starts to fall apart.
Her family should take her to an orthropedic dr. I was having an issue with my foot bothering me for a year. I finally went to one. The right combo of physical therapy etc fixed it. Granted I still can't wear 5" heels..but I can at least walk.
OTTB - Hurricane Denton - Kane AKA Bubble boy
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I second the Hypermobility/Ehlers-Danlos suggestion, especially if she's had any other joint issues. I have HMS and I've always had problems with my ankles rolling out when I ride.
It seems to be a strength thing for me; the more often I ride, the better my leg muscles learn to compensate and hold it together. If she's only riding once or twice a week, maybe try to get her out more often & see if it helps.
It also seems to get worse when my legs are tired; try to give her a few breaks to take her feet out of the stirrups and roll them around a bit.