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SS for riders with back problems

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  • SS for riders with back problems

    What are the pros and cons of sidesaddle riding for those with back injuries/trouble?

    Does it depend on the type of back trouble and can an off side ss work for certain problems better than a near side ss?

    I'm interested in the body mechanics, what physical challenges a sound rider faces versus one that has soundness problems. For those that ride ss as well as astride, do you find you ride differently or have to "get used" to riding astride again?

    For jumping, it seems that the position over fences is much different than astride. No doubt some of that is due to the design of the saddle, right? Is the rider supporting herself a little by virtue of the leg being over the leaping horn? (I don't know if I'm explaining that correctly)

    All perspectives and thoughts are appreciated. Thanks!
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling

  • #2
    What are the pros and cons of sidesaddle riding for those with back injuries/trouble?

    I have a terrible back (lots of chiro work needed). The cons of sidesaddle is that it can put more stress on your lower back, as you have to absorb the trot (one doesn't usually post aside). If, however, you have a very smooth horse, then you can just sit there and glide along. If you jump aside, and you have horse that cracks his back, or you get left behind, it's going to really affect you in your back as you'll be "snapped" on taking off as you're behind the motion. You do have to make sure that you build up your back/leg muscles when starting aside, as if you try to do too much too soon you'll really be hurting. Even still, if I'm out hunting for 3+ hours with lots of jumping, I desperately need some Advil when I get home.

    Does it depend on the type of back trouble and can an off side ss work for certain problems better than a near side ss?

    I would think so. I have lower back issues. If you have upper back/neck issues, I don't think it will be as bad, unless you get "snapped" jumping. An offside was typically used for those with limb or hip issues (such as amputees after the Wars). I don't think it would really work for back issues, as you are sitting square with your hips on the sidesaddle, and facing forward (just like astride), its just that your right/left thigh crosses the horse's spine. That being said, Mrs. Fletcher Harper, who rode on an off-side, started doing so as a teenager when her doctor was afraid she would "become crooked" from always riding to the left, and recommended that she take up an off-side. I personally have never sat on an off-side (although I've been trying my darndest to find an old-name one), so I just don't know if it would have any impact.

    I'm interested in the body mechanics, what physical challenges a sound rider faces versus one that has soundness problems. For those that ride ss as well as astride, do you find you ride differently or have to "get used" to riding astride again?

    I've never found this to be an issue. Once you figure it out, you don't really forget what you're supposed to be doing. And most of the time, the women I've taught become much more secure riding aside than astride, but still have no problem schooling/showing/hunting astride.

    For jumping, it seems that the position over fences is much different than astride. No doubt some of that is due to the design of the saddle, right? Is the rider supporting herself a little by virtue of the leg being over the leaping horn? (I don't know if I'm explaining that correctly)

    Yes, you are sitting further back on the horse when aside as opposed to astride. Our 2-pt position is simply folding at the hips to close the angle between thigh and chest, putting your left shoulder slightly towards your horse's right ear, looking ahead, and doing either an auto or crest release. You are not putting weight into the stirrup (you actually don't need it except as something to rest your foot in), your weight is centered on your right thigh (in the middle of the horse). When you take off, all the pressure will be along the right thigh, and your left leg will come up into the leaping head to help position you (so you don't twist).
    Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

    Comment


    • #3
      Well, you use totally different muscles riding aside than you do astride. At least I do. I just recently rode my horse aside after more than a year of only riding astride. This was due to injuries my horse was recovering from. Anyhow, I can tell you that I rode for about 45 minutes w/t/c and the next day I was hurtin'! Back muscles, stomach muscles, leg muscles. I have a OTTB who has a lot of action in her trot, so my stomach muscles have to absorb a lot of the shock. Apparently my back did too, although I don't know that is technically correct when riding aside.

      I guess my point in sharing this is that if your horse has a lot of natural movement and suspension and is hard to sit when astride, it probably isn't going to be any better for your back when you ride aside. So, yes, I think it does depend on the type of back problem the rider has.

      Now, I do know a few riders who ride/rode SS because of their hips and knees. In fact, Walter Zettl rode SS for a number of years (quite a long time ago) after originally injuring his hips in a riding accident. It was the only way he could comfortably sit on a horse.

      I don't jump SS, so hopefully someone else will share their experiences with that. But just so that the terms are correct, the leaping head is actually the one that curves OVER the left leg. The upright pommel is the one that is located behind the knee of the inside of the right leg. This picture shows the pommels very well. The rider has her hand on the leaping head. http://www.sidesaddleinfo.com/Images/november3.jpg
      www.LatkaPhoto.com

      Comment


      • #4
        jmho!

        I gotta think it's ill advised for anyone who's sustained disc problems or herniations and expecially those who've had any kinda of back surgery. It's a matter of concussion & compression and weight/force on the length of your spine during sitting trots. Anytime you jolt, snap, jerk or twist your spine you risk injury. Repeated injury over time is problematic. Bouncing on your butt sends concussion all the way to your neck.

        But....I think there's a reason a lot of fine hunting ladies ride long legged, long pasterned, long backed, smooth jumping, long strided tb's or the like. Clearly a smooth ride is preferred with time in the saddle. I think that's why a really good ss horse is priceless and awesome. I think it's also why good ss lady riders are slim, good riders, fit and able to compensate for the bouncing. I bow low in hommage to them; not the least of which is our own SidesaddleRider.

        I learned a lot about it when I hunted with a friend who whipped ss. She took it up because of a bad knee and was totally awesome. I don't wanna ride ss.....I want the horse!!!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by wateryglen View Post
          I think it's also why good ss lady riders are slim, good riders, fit and able to compensate for the bouncing. I bow low in hommage to them; not the least of which is our own SidesaddleRider.

          I learned a lot about it when I hunted with a friend who whipped ss. She took it up because of a bad knee and was totally awesome. I don't wanna ride ss.....I want the horse!!!!
          Haha, I wish I fit the "slim" part of your description! (although that's my goal for this year)

          You'd LOVE to ride Quest then. He totally fits your description. And yes, aside riders absolutely DON'T want the picture perfect, back-cracking, knees to their eyeballs hunter. Flat jumpers that keep a consistent pace are SO much more pleasant.
          Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

          Comment


          • #6
            One of my hunting buddies just offered to let me try her sidesaddle!

            So, I have a touch of sciatica from falling on my left hip/SI joint, which means my right side is much stronger and I tend to get sore on my left side easier. I'm assuming that my friend's saddle is a normal (or not "offside") sidesaddle. Does that mean significantly more than 50% of my weight will be on the left seatbone? I'd imagine that might hurt in my case, especially at the trot. I'm dying to try sidesaddle, but I don't want to DIE trying it!
            Snobbington Hunt clique - Whoopee Wagon Fieldmaster
            Bostonians, join us at- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Boston_Equestrian
            NYC Equestrians- http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/urbanequestrian/

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by wateryglen View Post
              I think it's also why good ss lady riders are slim, good riders, fit and able to compensate for the bouncing. I bow low in hommage to them; not the least of which is our own SidesaddleRider.
              So if I ride sidesaddle I'll be slim?????????? Where do I sign up?

              Seriously though - about the back trouble. According to zee docteurs it's a bad idea to ride at all. But I think they say that to all their patients.

              I think what I'm getting from these posts is that taking it up would probably result in soreness or possible exacerbating of existing injuries, particularly in the lower back.

              That's a normal day for me.

              Thanks for the explanations of terminology and the information. I'm still enthralled.
              Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
              Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
              -Rudyard Kipling

              Comment


              • #8
                JSwan,
                Why not just give it a try, and then determine whether your back will hold up to it or not?


                linquest, yes, your friend's saddle is a "normal" sidesaddle. Offsides are VERY rare. When riding, you should have about equal pressure on your seatbones, or 60/40 in favor of the right seatbone.
                Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by SidesaddleRider View Post
                  JSwan,
                  Why not just give it a try, and then determine whether your back will hold up to it or not?


                  l
                  I think I will.

                  I've got several horsey irons in the fire for this spring and summer but I don't see why I can't fit in a series of ss lessons. Especially if they make me slim.

                  Question on sitting the trot. In dressage, sitting the trot is normal, but the riders body is relaxed and sitting into it, rather than "bouncing". How does riding ss differ in that regard, or does it differ at all? Certainly the horse is a factor but that just makes it more difficult or easier for the rider to sit the trot - the effort and equitation is the same.

                  Thanks.
                  Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                  Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                  -Rudyard Kipling

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Lets ALL give it a try!

                    I agree, give it a try! Maybe the slimming aspects will rub off on you.....so.....can I come?!!! And SSR, you seriously over estimate your slimness.....personally, I hate you!
                    And I agree that sitting trots are sometimes done in dressage sitting into it and that's gotta be the secret to absorbing the jolting. A strong set of core muscles and abs of steel has gotta help. As well as a good moving horsie. Many western riders ride into their trots too. It's always envious to me. But boy, when it's bad, it's bad!!

                    But......we at the Snobbington want more ss riders to join us so all ya'll come!!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I ride a Western sidesaddle because of my low back problems.
                      I can not sit in a regular astride saddle any more because it causes pain in my low back.
                      I can't let the S curve get into my back or I pay for it for a long time.
                      I can sit flat like on a chair and let my left leg drop to the stirrup.
                      I like to ride on trails and light riding in the ring. And yes it pulls muscles one never uses for anything else. I last rode in October. I know when I ride again in the Spring I will hurt again. I have soft muscles. I have not been doing anything this Winter to tone up.
                      I used to ride in a deep seated Crosby 3 Day Event saddle 20 years ago. It was a semi-dressage saddle. I could not ride it today. My back will not take it.
                      So I ride in my Western sidesaddle when I can. Most Western Horses have a slow jog trot. So it doesn't jar my liver loose from my insides.
                      I ride only for pleasure now so it is important to be comfortable. The sidesaddle fills the bill for me.
                      Now I have the hip problems too so I can't even think about astride riding any more.
                      Not all sidesaddle riders are slim and trim. It sure helps though. I am never going to be as slim and fit as I was 35 years ago. So just getting to ride is a joy. Sidesaddle is the only way I can keep riding.
                      Try out a ride on a sidesaddle. But get one that fits well. They have to be long enough for your leg length. One lady tried to ride an old Victorian that was only n 18 inch long seat. She was way to big for it. No wonder it was a horrid ride for her. I love to put the newbies on my Old Name sidesaddle after they ride an Asian import and watch their faces after they get settled in the seat of the real sidesaddle.
                      Our Grandmothers were not stupid. They rode sidesaddle for good reasons. Comfort was one main reason. The other was security. It is hard to fall off a sidesaddle.
                      When I was young I rode some very bad horses in sidesaddle. I have never been thrown from a sidesaddle. I did bail out and jump off one time. That was long ago.
                      I hope I have encouraged you to try out sidesaddle.
                      Many ladies are riding all over the nation in sidesaddles now because they can't ride any other way.
                      It is good that they can keep riding.
                      Regards,
                      sadlmakr

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Totally not trying to hijack here, but I'm also curious about the horse itself. SSR mentioned that it's more comfy to have a horse who jumps flatter rather than what one would typically look for in the hunter ring. What I'm wondering is, when choosing a side saddle horse, does the horse need to be built a certain way? I'm asking because I've been told that some horses' backs just don't fit most sidesaddles very well. I don't know enough about them to know how much or how well they can be flocked or fitted to individual horses to know how true that is. (She has a horse that another friend of hers would love to buy for a SS horse, but she doesn't want to sell him for that purpose because she's afraid that his back wouldn't handle it well.)
                        "I was not expecting the park rangers to lead the resistance, none of the dystopian novels I read prepared me for this but cool."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A sidesaddle horse MUST have a good wither. It's what helps keep the saddle from shifting. The wider/flatter the withers, the harder it is to find a saddle to fit, and the more likely it is to shift left. The horse must also have a back long enough for the sidesaddle that fits you (this can be a problem for taller riders with horses such as Arabs, as their saddle will be too long), but you also do not want a back too long as it will be weak, and sidesaddles are rather heavy and you are sitting back further and for longer periods than astride. A good mover with a good sloping shoulder is more comfortable than a bad mover, as is a horse that rounds easily through their back.

                          Look at my horse "Quest" for a conformation picture of an exceptional sidesaddle horse: http://www.cherryblossomfarm.net/quest.html
                          Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SidesaddleRider View Post
                            A sidesaddle horse MUST have a good wither. It's what helps keep the saddle from shifting. The wider/flatter the withers, the harder it is to find a saddle to fit, and the more likely it is to shift left. The horse must also have a back long enough for the sidesaddle that fits you (this can be a problem for taller riders with horses such as Arabs, as their saddle will be too long), but you also do not want a back too long as it will be weak, and sidesaddles are rather heavy and you are sitting back further and for longer periods than astride. A good mover with a good sloping shoulder is more comfortable than a bad mover, as is a horse that rounds easily through their back.

                            Look at my horse "Quest" for a conformation picture of an exceptional sidesaddle horse: http://www.cherryblossomfarm.net/quest.html
                            Thank you!!! This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. I understand much better now, and the pictures certainly help. Quest is very handsome and sounds like a dream to ride. I love his happy, willing, and expressive face.
                            "I was not expecting the park rangers to lead the resistance, none of the dystopian novels I read prepared me for this but cool."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I agree with "Sidesaddle Rider". It makes a big difference what kind of horse you use.
                              A qualified saddler who understands how to balance a sidesaddle is absolutely essential to reflock one. But a horse with a good withers is prefered over a flat backed, mutton withered horse any time. Most of the Old Name sidesaddles were made for Thoroughbreds.

                              I have seen some terrific Anglo- Arabs who were so lovely under sidesaddle. They had the best of both breeds and had wonderful backs for holding the sidesaddle.
                              If you are serious about getting into sidesaddle, you need to get a mentor who can guide you from obtaining a good sidesaddle to getting the rght habit. And getting qualified instruction.
                              Wish you the very best in your adventure into sidesaddle.
                              Kind regards, Sadlmakr

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Don't mean to hijack, but I've been struggling with jumping my horse aside because he has a real "back cracker" style. I've gotten bruises on my chest from jumping astride! He's great on the flat; even has his laterals aside, but anything over a crossrail is like whiplash. Any tips? I got a rear riser pad to get my saddle more "forward" but is there anything I can do with my position over fences?
                                As for back problems I can say that all the extra muscles I have from all the sitting trot (astride and aside) have really helped stabilize my spine- just remember to stretch!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  You can *try* to see if you can make him leave a foot or so long, which will force him to jump a bit flatter over the fence.

                                  What type of sidesaddle are you using? The flatter the seat (such as with Owens), the easier it is to get forward, whereas saddles with even a mild dip in the seat can compound your problem.

                                  Are you trotting or cantering fences? Trotting is more difficult. I'd be interested in seeing a picture of your position over a jump, as I could give you more feedback if I knew exactly what you (and he!) were doing.

                                  In the end though, unfortunately, if he cracks his back that much, there isn't a whole lot you can do. I showed a horse in 2004 who was a stunning mover and outrageous jumper. When I showed him aside, though, I would ONLY jump 11 fences on him--1 warm-up fence, 2 in the hunter hack, and 8 in the o/f class--because he cracked his back so much, and that was all I could stand!
                                  Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

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