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Leg cramps while riding

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  • Leg cramps while riding

    Lately I've been getting the worst cramp in my right calf when I ride. Generally, it develops at the canter while I'm in half seat, but will occasionally happen while I'm posting, too. It's bad enough that I almost always need to stop and walk for awhile and allow it to dissipate. If I don't (I've experimented, much to my detriment!) then it gets worse and worse. At some points it's bad enough that I'm sore and have trouble walking around for a couple of days after, but that usually only happens if I don't stop and take a break. I will, much more rarely, get a cramp in the left calf as well.

    I have tried taking a potassium supplement, and that actually helps - if I don't take it for a couple of days I notice a difference.

    Any ideas on what the heck is causing this, or what else I can do to help it? It is seriously annoying and painful.

  • #2
    Add magnesium to your regimine for sure! I would also do a basic b complex vitamin as well (make sure it has plenty of b1).

    From there, check the fit of your boots when your heel is down with all your weight on you toe (standing on the stairs can help you with this).

    If the calf is tight enough to block some blood flow it can cause some major pain and cramping (and put you at risk for clots). If you are wearing tall boots, try half champs or bare (be careful of loose pants that may increase pinching and rubbing).

    I hope you get some relief! Also, take a few days off to allow the muscle to calm down and heal up.


    • #3
      I was getting leg cramps when I drank too much caffeine. Drinking more water really helped keep them away. Your body is more prone to cramping if you are dehydrated. As flyracing said adding mag of a comp vite should help too.
      Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.


      • #4
        Do you do anything to warm up your legs before riding? Try hand walking your horse before mounting and incorporating some calf stretches before you get on and while you warm up your horse. After warming up, stretch periodically during your ride.

        Hope this helps!


        • #5
          Do you ride in tall boots? If my calf muscle goes into my (pull on) tall boots wonky, I get a nasty localized cramp mid-ride. Before I get on it feels like a tight band around the thickest part of the calf. Only way to fix it is take the boot off and start over.

          Also check that you're evenly distributing your weight across the ball of your foot. I have a tendency to brace my feet so the inside edge of my foot carries most of my weight, and that can really cause some pain on the outside of my calf muscle. Good stretch for that is take your feet out of your stirrups and point your toe down, maybe do a few ankle rolls if that feels good.
          "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

          Phoenix Animal Rescue


          • Original Poster

            In order,

            I do take magnesium every night. So useful! Love it. This started after I'd been taking magnesium for quite awhile, though. I also take an all-vitamin, but will add in some vitamin B.

            I ride in half chaps with a stretchy panel. I've tried two different sizes of half chap (one is loose enough that it slips from side to side) and it didn't seem to make any difference.

            I will definitely add more water in to my daily life... I typically inhale coffee before going to the barn, so maybe that's a factor.

            I don't really warm up before getting on, but "stretch" on the horse... incidentally I cramp *less* if I don't stretch. But I will start doing some stuff on the ground and wandering around a bit first.

            The toe down and roll thing is one of the few things that helps dissipate the cramp! Feels fantastic as well.

            I kind of wonder if it's related to my stirrups. I ride in the MDC Ultimate and they are the "flexy" kind. Unfortunately, they really help my knee out, but I might have to try regular fillis again and see what happens. Hmm.

            Thanks for all the responses!
            Last edited by Across Sicily; Mar. 10, 2012, 10:06 PM. Reason: grammar is tricky


            • #7
              Ditto the magnesium supplement. Calf cramps were the first symptom I developed when I was diagnosed with a deficiency.

              Also be sure you're well hydrated, as mild dehydration will also cause muscle cramps.
              Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
              Witherun Farm


              • #8
                This might be random, but I know I used to get the worst cramps with a very tight pair of socks. I completely didn't realize until I looked at my leg after taking them off and I'd clearly been cutting off some circulation. Sometimes one calf is bigger so only one is affected. If possible also try riding in someone else's boots just to see if yours may be a tad bit tight.

                Since its one leg might also be worth having someone watch to see if youre putting more weight in the one leg since you say its happening when you go into two point.


                • #9
                  It sounds like you are heading for a torn calf muscle ( or calf pull) I know because I just went through this. Left calf was a bit sore after riding the other day and I didn't work out the stiffness. Next thing you know I am walking across a parking lot and I feel a pop in my leg and down I go.

                  Do some reading on calf muscle pulls/tears. It has been quite eye opening to me. I just spent three days unable to walk w/o crutches.