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Seatbones are MIA- help! Long story

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  • Seatbones are MIA- help! Long story

    Hi All,
    I have a question for you. I am a long time rider (30+ years), mostly eventing. My one and only horse is semi-retired from jumping so we are dabbling in Dressage (or, trying to). Its probably safe to say (dressage-wise) I am a solid Training level rider, schooling First level.
    I am riding with a new trainer who does all dressage and she is great. Have made many exciting discoveries about my position ) However, it has brought about some interesting awarenesses.
    I am finding at this stage in the game, I cant seem to locate my seat bones. Literally. I cant feel them unless I stick my legs waaay far forward in front of the flaps, light straight out ahead, parallel to the horses neck, in a really unnatural position.

    Small backstory- I did have a severe lower back injury about 11 years ago in which I fractured my entire lumbar section and several ribs when a horse I was riding flipped. It didnt heal all that cleanly. Since then, I have ruptured disc and sciatic issues on and off.

    I have done physical therapy but not of the sportsmedicine variety, so its been hard to transfer what I was doing there, to the saddle. I was born with internal femoral rotation, so my hips are asymmetrical/uneven to start with.

    Its not the saddle, I have a good, solid, fairly hard (not poofy, not overly cushioned) dressage saddle, as well as an assortment of non-padded all purpose and close contact jumping saddles- doesnt matter which saddle I'm in- still cant feel 'em. I frequently ride bareback- cant feel them then, either. I've seemed to have perfected this odd way of sitting.

    I wasn't even aware of this (lack of seatbones), when trainers told me to put more weight in one seatbone, I would just automatically put more weight into that leg/stirrup.

    From what i can tell, the way I sit and ride (without using my seatbones, pelvis tilted, gripping w/thighs) feels totally natural now, but what i am realizing is that I think all this is just what i have learned to do to "protect" my lower back that cant take any sort of jarring anymore.

    Its as if i have learned to lock my lower back, tilt my pelvis, and collapse my abdomen muscles. When i look at myself in the saddle now, I ride more on my crotch then i do from my butt/seatbones.Not a pretty picture, if you know what i mean.
    I have a great instructor who is trying to help me with this. I am doing some lunge lessons to see if that helps, so i can concentrate on my position. I know i need to continue to try and strengthen my abdominal muscles so I dont collapse them. Can anyone suggest what else I can be doing to help restucture my position so it is more correct and effective?
    Any and all suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!
    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying "I will try again tomorrow" -Mary Ann Radmacher

    Wearing a helmet saved my eyesight

  • #2
    Sounds as if you have been posting the trot incorrectly for a very long time. The posting trot is actually where you should begin. You want to rise straight up into the post with no leaning forward. As you rise, you want to feel the weight going into your heels, not your toes. Your legs need to breathe with the horse's side, and not sqeeze. As you rise, your legs should come together slightly, very slightly...just bumping the horse's sides. As you sit to the post, relax your legs away from the horse's sides. Round your buttocks under you as you sit, such that your lower back flattens somewhat. Practise this in front of the mirror after you get out of your shower. Watch your back. Feel the weight fall into your buttocks and down through your heels. Perfect your posting trot before you go back to try the sitting trot again.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Hi Angel! Thanks for your in-depth reply- I appreciate it and will try it!
      I think one of the big challenges will be getting myself to allow my lower back/the small of my back to straighten. Its quite stuck in its "caved in" position.

      Anyone else out there have any other thoughts/suggestions?
      Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying "I will try again tomorrow" -Mary Ann Radmacher

      Wearing a helmet saved my eyesight

      Comment


      • #4
        My dad broke his back a little over a decade ago, and it has been interesting to see how he has settled into different postures in order to protect his back. His back doesn't really need protecting...especially for everyday activities, but his brain thinks it does. While you've undoubtedly experienced quite a bit of pain over the years with your back issues, don't let that "freeze" you into one posture. Off the horse, are you able to tilt your pelvis in various ways? Try standing as though you are riding (legs about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent) and tilt your pelvis forward and back (a mirror helps - and privacy too, since this looks strange to anyone who doesn't know what you're doing!) That instinctive "protect" mechanism may kick in at some point...see if you can keep moving beyond it, slowly and gently.

        While strength may certainly be an issue, flexibility may be just as big an issue. That "protection" mechanism has probably locked up some muscles along the way...in your hips, thighs, lower back and abs and obliques. Yoga or some other gentle stretching may help isolate where that tightness may be. Any kind of muscle tension around your core/seat can prevent you from feeling your seat bones.
        Love the fact that you're doing lunge lessons! Keep at it!!!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Oberon, thank you for your (and your Dad's) perspective, I think you hit the nail on the head. I'm starting to think that if I can get my lower back (muscles, esp.) to relax/unlock, and strengthen my abs to help hold everything together, and incorporate stretching to make those areas more supple and mobile, that may be the key to turning this whole thing around.
          THANK YOU!! You bet I'm going to keep trying! Its just another chapter in this lifetime of riding, and its not going to get me down- just need a good plan!
          Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying "I will try again tomorrow" -Mary Ann Radmacher

          Wearing a helmet saved my eyesight

          Comment


          • #6
            what I did

            I had been using my muscles incorrectly for a long time and my muscles became very contracted. I recommend a 12 week course of myofascial (sp?) release massage. I had before and after pictures taken and the difference was amazing. No matter how many times my instructor told me to do something or how hard I tried, I was unable to do what she was asking. As the therapy neared the end, I was finally able to do what I needed to do. You may not be in this bad of a situation, but I highly recommend the MT.

            Good luck,
            PKN

            Comment


            • #7
              I think Oberon DID hit the nail on the head. For years I misunderstood the use of seatbones/seat in riding and would tighten my buttocks & thighs when trying to influence a horse via my seat. All I did was irritate the horse and make him go inverted.

              Mary Wanless gave me one piece of advice that was worthwhile in my clinic session with her, and that was to relax those muscles and allow the seatbones to come into contact with the saddle. I'd been "hiding" my seatbones within my muscles for ages. It was hard at first to relax the seat muscles, but eventually it all came together.

              You may also find it useful to do exercises for your core. Given your history, I'd suggest a good physical therapist to help you.

              Comment


              • #8
                I would suggest medical help, including a skilled massage therapist. It sounds as if as far as riding you're getting great instruction!

                I injured my back jumping a freight train of a Dutch Warmblood in '97, and didn't realize how limited mobility was in my lower back until August of '11.

                I was stuck in full-on duck butt, and couldn't do anything about it - I was very frustrated in my riding, didn't understand why I couldn't move with my horse properly... and it was physical, not that I was a lousy rider. I was getting massage to help loosen myself up, and woke up one morning in August in MASSIVE SI pain. Turns out everything was frozen, and I was supposed to have several more inches of movement along my back than I did. Lots of massage and lots of chiropractic later, I'm working on building up atrophied abdominal muscles and doing way better, though I still have far to go! In your case, because of the previous trauma you've had, the solution may be less simple, and I would definitely think of going to a specialist to discuss what treatments will help you.


                The before position I was stuck in:
                http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4010/4...20a59b7ac8.jpg

                About a month ago, I consider this mid-recovery from duck butt given I have quite a ways still to go:
                http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7148/6...845a0ae0d1.jpg

                (Note: He had just had a nice leap into the air and was about to do more - this was my position I was able to hold and ride through the naughtiness - just a couple months earlier, I couldn't have. You WILL see quick improvement if you can figure out your back.)

                Just a note on this - I always thought riding hurt your back. The improvement in my position and strength has actually made it so riding helps loosen stiff muscles and never hurts, even on the very naughty days.
                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Holy Smokes, you all are the best!!! So many good ideas, and a lot that are along the same lines/themes. This is great!! I have a much clearer plan and things to try.

                  And yes, I am grateful to have good/solid instruction available and thankful to have a horse that humors me (well, most of the time) and my attempts to be a better rider- and very happy to have access to a great resource like COTH forums!

                  THANK YOU ALL for taking the time to share your replies!
                  Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying "I will try again tomorrow" -Mary Ann Radmacher

                  Wearing a helmet saved my eyesight

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    BTW, Netg, your horse is gorgeous and you can definitely see a difference in the pics. Thanks for sharing!
                    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying "I will try again tomorrow" -Mary Ann Radmacher

                    Wearing a helmet saved my eyesight

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I had a terrible SI problem a few years ago, I started Pilates, which strengthened my core muscles AND, increased my flexibility. I have much less pain in the saddle than I did prior to starting the classes. Good luck..

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by OhMissLibrarian View Post
                        Hi Angel! Thanks for your in-depth reply- I appreciate it and will try it!
                        I think one of the big challenges will be getting myself to allow my lower back/the small of my back to straighten. Its quite stuck in its "caved in" position.

                        Anyone else out there have any other thoughts/suggestions?
                        Please consider doing yoga. It has changed my back, which was exactly as you described about 6 years ago. My back now no longer caves because I've managed to elongate those muscles. It really, really helps with riding.
                        In general, yoga is a great way for becoming body conscious and being able to implement the trainer's suggestions more effectively. I teach yoga for equestrians in the Portland, OR area from time to time and have heard that it really helps.

                        Forward folds are a great start and I would love to point you at other yoga exercises, but without a trained instructor, the potential for injury is there...

                        Good luck with your back!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by netg View Post
                          I would suggest medical help, including a skilled massage therapist. It sounds as if as far as riding you're getting great instruction!

                          I injured my back jumping a freight train of a Dutch Warmblood in '97, and didn't realize how limited mobility was in my lower back until August of '11.

                          I was stuck in full-on duck butt, and couldn't do anything about it - I was very frustrated in my riding, didn't understand why I couldn't move with my horse properly... and it was physical, not that I was a lousy rider. I was getting massage to help loosen myself up, and woke up one morning in August in MASSIVE SI pain. Turns out everything was frozen, and I was supposed to have several more inches of movement along my back than I did. Lots of massage and lots of chiropractic later, I'm working on building up atrophied abdominal muscles and doing way better, though I still have far to go! In your case, because of the previous trauma you've had, the solution may be less simple, and I would definitely think of going to a specialist to discuss what treatments will help you.


                          The before position I was stuck in:
                          http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4010/4...20a59b7ac8.jpg

                          About a month ago, I consider this mid-recovery from duck butt given I have quite a ways still to go:
                          http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7148/6...845a0ae0d1.jpg

                          (Note: He had just had a nice leap into the air and was about to do more - this was my position I was able to hold and ride through the naughtiness - just a couple months earlier, I couldn't have. You WILL see quick improvement if you can figure out your back.)

                          Just a note on this - I always thought riding hurt your back. The improvement in my position and strength has actually made it so riding helps loosen stiff muscles and never hurts, even on the very naughty days.

                          Netg, all of the things you said are so true. I've been receiving massage therapy for a few months, too, after injuring my back several years ago in a horse-related fall, and it's important. That, yoga and other core workout have saved me from constant pain.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It sounds like both seatbones are MIA, but if one disappears more than the other, ask someone if you're scrunched up in your ribcage on the side of the MIA seatbone... and if you are, shove your seat sideways toward the MIA side by an inch or two.

                            My right seatbone has a tendency to go missing, and this has been helpful. It's not a matter of un-scrunching the ribcage, but of shifting my seat in the saddle.

                            (I also have medical issues -- pelvic neuropathy -- worse on the right than on the left, so some of it's a perceptual problem.)
                            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                            1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by OhMissLibrarian View Post
                              Hi All,

                              I am finding at this stage in the game, I cant seem to locate my seat bones. Literally. I cant feel them unless I stick my legs waaay far forward in front of the flaps, light straight out ahead, parallel to the horses neck, in a really unnatural position.

                              Small backstory- I did have a severe lower back injury about 11 years ago in which I fractured my entire lumbar section and several ribs when a horse I was riding flipped. It didnt heal all that cleanly. Since then, I have ruptured disc and sciatic issues on and off.


                              From what i can tell, the way I sit and ride (without using my seatbones, pelvis tilted, gripping w/thighs) feels totally natural now, but what i am realizing is that I think all this is just what i have learned to do to "protect" my lower back that cant take any sort of jarring anymore.

                              Its as if i have learned to lock my lower back, tilt my pelvis, and collapse my abdomen muscles. When i look at myself in the saddle now, I ride more on my crotch then i do from my butt/seatbones.Not a pretty picture, if you know what i mean.
                              Hi there,
                              thank you for sharing your story with us!
                              I had a very similar experience - never feeling my seatbones at all, and therefore not knowing what I was supposed to be feeling... and the extremely hollow back too, so I can relate

                              I can hopefully help you with that: read and try this

                              http://www.ridebetter.ca/articles.php


                              Few more notes on your particular problem:
                              keep working while sitting on a hard chair.

                              The reason you can't feel your seatbones is most likely because you are holding the muscles in your butt too tense. So first make sure your underneath is very very relaxed and “let go". You may have to work on relaxing, relaxing and breathing,to get through to this part of your body.

                              Sometimes it is helpful to purposely tighten an area you are trying to relax - you may get a better release after you briefly tighten those muscles. To tighten - you can think of “clenching your butt cheeks together". Can’t feel the seatbones yet? Experiment with the positioning of your pelvis - use your lower back as your guide. (instructions on this in the article in the link)
                              Still no luck? Lift your feet off the ground while making sure you are absolutely relaxed in your underneath and with a straight lower back. If all of that fails, I have had to use pressure with my fingers in the approximate location of the seatbones with some students - to help them become aware of them. It is absolutely crucial that you can feel them!

                              The trick to being able to feel your seatbones is:

                              a) the correct alignment of your pelvis - look at anatomy pictures, or better yet get your hands on a skeletal model, especially one of those flexible ones. It makes sense that the seatbones disappear under your flesh with any extreme tilt of the pelvis.

                              b) correct amount of muscle tone in your underneath - too much tension will make those muscles move under the seatbones

                              c) figuring out how to move into the correct position from the place where you are able to feel your seatbones - with legs in front of the saddle
                              To do that, move very slowly, at the point you start losing your seatbones - stop - is the alignment of your pelvis changing? or are you tensing your underneath? breathe, relax, more slowly. Sit on your hands to gain a better understanding of what happens.

                              Know that it will take time to feel your seatbones always. You will lose them periodically, likely in the faster gaits. Don't worry, just keep putting your awareness there and keep finding them again. Lots of opportunity to practice this away from the horse, too - driving etc. basically anytime you are sitting gives you a chance to practice this skill!

                              It will be up to you to stay within the limits of your previous injuries - don't do any drastic changes too fast! Consult your health care provider, common sense, right?

                              As far as protecting your back - it is this hollow backed position that locks things up most often. Most people who live/ride in this position have sore backs!
                              So work on changing your posture from the seatbones up. Look for that filled in/straight position of your lower back. (your physio may be able to help with this - ask for help with finding neutral spine)

                              In this position, it will not hurt to move the pelvis with the horse.
                              For that is what riding is. The ability to stick to the saddle in harmony with the horse's movement lies in the controlled mobility of the pelvis.

                              Just to give you a simple overview:
                              in walk/trot the saddle moves one side at a time. maybe make a point of walking beside your horse with your hands on the saddle where your seatbones would be - and feel the motion of the saddle.
                              You pelvis/seatbones have to mirror that motion. Remember that unless your pelvis/spine are aligned correctly, it will either be impossible, or it will hurt...

                              This is another thing that you are able to practice away from your horse (in front of a mirror is good).

                              Stand with knees bent, feet at least a shoulder width apart. Find your "seatbones down, straight lower back" position. Then see how much mobility you have in your pelvis.

                              Remember what the saddle was doing at the walk, and try to emulate that movement. To simplify, move your hips first to one side, then forward, one side at a time. (if you start with your right side, move your right hip to the right and forward, then bring it back to the middle. Repeat with the other side) - the actual movement in the saddle isn't likely to have the phase where you are bringing the seatbone/hip backwards - it's just a way to practice the movement at a standstill, if you know what I mean?

                              Use your imagination. It does not matter whether or not you are doing the exact movement the horse requires from you - what matters is the proper posture and the mobility.

                              Once you are comfortable with that, add the challenge that none of this movement carries over to above your belly button. Check in front of the mirror, and/or with your hand on your abdomen. The torso remains still, while the pelvis moves.

                              Have fun!
                              Zuzana

                              http://www.ridebetter.ca

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If you have a Centered Riding instructor in your area, you might consider taking some CR lessons. They really focus on seat bones, as well as making you aware of what parts of your body are out of balance, tensed up and stiff, etc., and what you can do to overcome your problems.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Wow Zuzana

                                  Hi Zuzana,
                                  Thank you for your lengthly reply! I did print out the article, too. Lots of things for me to try!

                                  Thanks also to Walktrot, Quietann, Lamissv & Islgrl for taking the time to reply and share your experiences and suggestions!!

                                  I'm learning through a lot of your replies that I apparently dont have that good of an awareness of my body- or at least that part of it where my seat bones are! ) I had never given much thought to doing pilates or yoga, but thats something else to explore that a lot of people are finding success with, as with the Centered Riding techniques.

                                  Great stuff!! Thank you!!!
                                  Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying "I will try again tomorrow" -Mary Ann Radmacher

                                  Wearing a helmet saved my eyesight

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    You know there's a sense called "proprioception" ... which is simply knowing where your body is in space. Like any sense, it varies from person to person, and a lot of us (ahem, cough cough) don't have as much as we'd like. If you're always bumping into things (/raises hand) you're probably on the lower end. (As a rider, the thing that saves me is that I have good balance.)

                                    OT, but worst case of lack of proprioception I've ever head of was from a therapist. A wife came in with a chief complaint that her very sweet hubby was bruising her during s*x and even if they just tried to walk hand in hand. Therapist looked at her -- she was covered in bruises -- and wasn't convinced the guy wasn't abusing her deliberately, so he asked her to bring hubby in the next time. The therapist had this giant rubber plant in a pot in his office -- seriously, the thing was probably 6-7 feet around. When the hubby came in... he saw that plant in front of him and walked right into it.
                                    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

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