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Hypermobility Syndrome and Saddle Fit for the Rider

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  • Hypermobility Syndrome and Saddle Fit for the Rider

    I know there's lots on EDS and Hypermobility Syndrome talk on the forum, but I can't find a chat that focuses on choosing a saddle.

    Backstory on my latest issues:

    I've got a tentative diagnosis of Hypermobility Syndrome. I've suspected it for several years now, but it was always manageable, until recently. I was unable to ride for about a year (horse injury) and I think the major muscle loss associated with slacking off started a downward spiral. (Or maybe it was just time, my symptoms in general have been worsening.) It's always been normal for my hips to subluxate and at times to even totally luxate (nothing like your hip clunking in and out as you try to climb into bed), but now my shoulders subluxate all day long. My life is endless clicking.

    A couple months ago I rode my horse, nothing intense, and by the time I dismounted my back was so painful and spasmy I could barely stand. Long story short, to the doctor, we tested for Lyme, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, etc. All negative. The massage therapist got me to the point where I could stand upright again, while I waited to get in to PT. (Still seeing the massage therapist, only reason I'm able to stand on a regular bases.) The PT is the one who mentioned joint hypermobility syndrome. She took some pictures from behind and at rest my shoulders are constantly subluxated - you can see the space between the ball of the humerus and the cup of the scapula. It's great. (Sarcasm, such sarcasm.) I also look like an EPM horse. I'm missing massive chunks of muscle out of the areas that support my shoulder - literally visible divots and craters where a muscle group is just wasted to nothing. So, lots of PT exercises, all day long. The medical side is covered and likely to include genetic testing in 2020.

    Here's my horse related question:

    I can ride in my dressage saddle, have an intense lesson and be a little muscle sore (what I would consider normal for having a good ass kicking lesson), and be pretty darn good the next day. I can hack my horse out in my jump saddle. Mostly walking, a little bit of trotting and cantering, and I'm in agony. Yesterday I rode my horse for a couple of laps around the ring, maybe 7-10 minutes tops of WTC and I feel like I was toting bricks all day. Pain, pain, pain.

    When my horse was injured, I sold my old jump saddle (Butet) because it was too small for me, not a great fit for my horse and even hacking in it at a walk made my back very painful. I assumed the issue was that the saddle was too small and jamming me up. I bought a new saddle (Prestige) and can now mostly hack at a walk without pain, but trotting and cantering, especially in any kind of half seat, results in severe back pain in minutes. Let's not even get into how jumping makes me feel.

    I want to believe that if I can build core muscle back up, this will get fixed, but I'm starting to wonder, with the long history of pain in jump saddles, if jumping is done for me. Plus anywhere but the jump saddle, it's my shoulders that make me cranky, not my back. The difficulty is, while I'm very comfortable in my dressage saddle, it's not the best hacking saddle. Any kind of serious activity and those long stirrups and very flat panels (old, old saddle, not one of those fancy, padded things that's so popular today) make me feel very insecure and unsafe. Seeing as my horse is an OTTB, it's great to canter my horse in the dressage saddle in the ring, but it's not nearly as much fun on the trail or at anything above a collected canter in which I can have a deep seat. Quick, bouncy canters and gallops make me feel like I'm being tossed into the sky.

    I don't want to have to stop cantering and galloping on the trail, so even if jump saddles aren't for me, I'd like to find some kind of short-stirruped, safe saddle that won't make me feel like I'm dying. Admittedly, some days (today) I feel like I'm dying and my limbs are literally going to shoot out of joints while sitting on the couch. So, I don't expect any saddle to make me perfect.

    So, anyone else with EDS of HS have similar issues with short stirrups and jump saddles? I did drop the stirrups two holes. That relieved some knee pain, maybe a tiny bit of back pain, but of course, riding in too long a stirrup puts me in a chair seat and that's not helping things. Is there some type of jump saddle that'll get the job done for me and cut down on my pain? My saddle's a narrow twist, my horse is narrow, that spares me tons of hip pain, but my back is just so angry. Also, my stirrups are MDC Ultimates - the beds flex, you can change the leather angle so there's no resistance to turning the stirrup out. I'm going to add one of those wrap cushions (rather than buy a whole new set of stirrups with a wider foot bed - already buying to much horse stuff), just to see if that helps.

    Is it just a mix of deep seat and long stirrups mean I can use my seat as the shock absorber instead of my muscles and my sh**ty joints which is all I have to depend on in the short stirruped, flatter jump saddles? If so, I guess that answers that. Hope PT helps or be done with any type of riding that's not controlled and slow, all dressage, all the time from now until my joints finally leave me earth bound.

    Anyone have spare joints they'll let me have? I'm not picky. I just need them not to clunk in and out of the joint every two minutes. I sound like I'm smuggling Rice Krispies in my pockets.

  • #2
    Gosh what a mess, so sorry for your suffering. I hear you on the being able to ride more comfortably in a dressage saddle and the clicking all day. My PT calls it my rice krispies too. My advice is to try to find a jump saddle that has a deepish seat and knee and thigh blocks. I have an old school Bates from before they started making them out of leather that feels like plastic and it is very comfortable and secure.
    PS, a forum filled with horsewoman is probably not the best place to search for extra body parts. Not a one of us would pass a PPE!
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home

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    • #3
      I’m hyper mobile, but it sounds like much less so than you. My shoulders are a problem, and subluxation has happened countless times.

      i ride in the best dressage saddle I can find, and don’t skimp on quality or fit. If you have a good dressage saddle, you should absolutely be able to hike the stirrups up a little, and have a fun time tooling around the countryside.

      I was was recently diagnosed with lupus, and you should RETEST! There are several different types of tests, and my first one was a negative.

      For me, what makes the biggest difference is fitness. You cannot rely on the ligaments to hold your joints stable. You must have fit muscles. Find someone who can help you develop a fitness program and do muscle building work. I do stalls, even though I don’t really need to, because when I keep my shoulders strong I don’t have subluxation episodes nearly so often. Same thing with sweeping.

      you need a super strong core to save your back. I have a 40% Mal- alignment in my low back, at L-5, And I currently have pretty much zero back pain. I do have hella strong core muscles however. Possibly TMI, but during a pelvic exam, my new gynecologist popped her head up over the drape to ask what I did for a living… And then remarked that I had a remarkable pelvic floor for a woman my age! Um, thanks...

      Comment


      • #4
        It could just be a matter of having to try a lot of different saddles. My body flat out won't let me do short stirrups after multiple knee, back, hip and ankle injuries on top of hEDS. I had to try a ton of dressage saddles to find one that wouldn't cripple me when I rode. I went to a couple tack shops with large collections of new and used saddles that I could sit in, I'm aware enough of my body that just sitting in a saddle gave me an idea of how comfortable it would be. Herm Sprenger made stirrups that hinged which helped. I wound up with one of Heather Moffet's Fhoenix Vogue dressage saddles, and I'm pretty sure they come in other versions.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
          My advice is to try to find a jump that has a deepish seat and knee and thigh blocks. I have an old school Bates from before they started making them out of leather that feels like plastic and it is very comfortable and secure.

          Is your Bates a jumping saddle? I'm also wondering if All Purpose is better than Close Contact or any of the other fancy versions of saddles meant purely for jumping and keeping your seat out of the saddle all day.

          PS, a forum filled with horsewoman is probably not the best place to search for extra body parts. Not a one of us would pass a PPE!

          I used to joke I'd never pass a PPE. Now I really wouldn't!

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by Arlomine View Post
            i ride in the best dressage saddle I can find, and don’t skimp on quality or fit. If you have a good dressage saddle, you should absolutely be able to hike the stirrups up a little, and have a fun time tooling around the countryside.

            Unfortunately, my dressage saddle has very straight flaps and no knee or thigh rolls, so shortening my stirrups much results in my knee going off the front of the flap pretty quickly. Since this is the only saddle I for sure own that my horse and I are both comfortable in, it's not going anywhere for now. If I reach a point where I have to really admit I don't need a second jump saddle because our jumping days are done, I'll look into getting a second dressage saddle that's got more security.

            I was was recently diagnosed with lupus, and you should RETEST! There are several different types of tests, and my first one was a negative.

            My PCP wants to retest in the future. The idea is that antibodies can take time to build up to a level that measures as abnormal. I'm also wondering if I should be directing some of the my brain that's not taken up by brain fog and be looking into a geneticist as well as an immunologist, just in case. On the one hand, it seems like one bout of pain sent me from perfectly normal to still struggling months later. That said, I've always known I lose muscle fast and after 3 weeks of bad pain and then only slightly more manageable pain, it doesn't feel absurd to think I really could hit a wall that fast.

            For me, what makes the biggest difference is fitness. You cannot rely on the ligaments to hold your joints stable. You must have fit muscles. Find someone who can help you develop a fitness program and do muscle building work. I do stalls, even though I don’t really need to, because when I keep my shoulders strong I don’t have subluxation episodes nearly so often. Same thing with sweeping.

            Doing PT now. Exercises all day long. My PT is well versed in my issues so we've talked extensively about getting me fit. Funnily enough, literally weeks prior to this hitting I started looking for a gym to join. At this point, I'm so bad I don't want anybody but a professional touching me, but if I can get out of the worst of this, I'll be adding real weight training to my life. I hear Pilates is good and was looking into starting that too. I did videos at home but felt like a pro was the way to go. All started too late too head this off, unfortunately.

            you need a super strong core to save your back. I have a 40% Mal- alignment in my low back, at L-5, And I currently have pretty much zero back pain. I do have hella strong core muscles however. Possibly TMI, but during a pelvic exam, my new gynecologist popped her head up over the drape to ask what I did for a living… And then remarked that I had a remarkable pelvic floor for a woman my age! Um, thanks...

            LOL, gotta love it. I've always been very long backed and really have to work at my core strength. Its definitely better than most, but I think we all learn with JHS that you have to be better than everyone, not just most, or it all goes to pot. My hope is that I'll get the core fitness and muscling back up and the back pain will subside. In the grand scheme of things, not that much time has passed, I've had all of 2 PT appointments and a vacation in between, but living with pain for several months is wearing on me mentally. Hard not to think this is as good as it gets sometimes, and that's an unpleasant prospect.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by ABDR4 View Post
              It could just be a matter of having to try a lot of different saddles. My body flat out won't let me do short stirrups after multiple knee, back, hip and ankle injuries on top of hEDS. I had to try a ton of dressage saddles to find one that wouldn't cripple me when I rode. I went to a couple tack shops with large collections of new and used saddles that I could sit in, I'm aware enough of my body that just sitting in a saddle gave me an idea of how comfortable it would be. Herm Sprenger made stirrups that hinged which helped. I wound up with one of Heather Moffet's Fhoenix Vogue dressage saddles, and I'm pretty sure they come in other versions.
              I spent a year looking before I bought this saddle, so the idea of starting over again after owning this one for a couple of months makes me want to curl in a ball and cry. I must have tried 40 saddles in that time and here we are again. I know it's probably what I have to do, but I have an incredibly hard to fit horse, and then you add me in, not to mention the wallet only stretches so far and is now covering my health issues too, not to mention a horse who's as needy as my joints. -Sigh- Back to the drawing board is right, I think.

              Unfortunately sitting in a jump saddle isn't enough. It's getting up out of the saddle and still managing his downhill canter that's killing me. It may really just come down to I need to be dressage only, because your right, I can just sit in a dressage saddle and know if I'm good to go. My seat isn't the issue. My half seat is. I can't really comfortably half seat in my dressage saddle either, but because that's so ludicrous with the saddle design, I don't do it, I just open my hip and keep my shoulders out of his way to move him out in the dressage saddle. Fine, until I'm on terrain or I want to go beyond a collected gait.

              Sorry, not trying to shoot anyone down or be boo hoo. Mostly I think I'm just trying to wrap my head around the reality that I'm probably done jumping and should just be happy I can sit in a dressage saddle, especially because even grooming hurts these days.


              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Horse Rider View Post
                It’s a close contact. Generally speaking I am very much not a fan of an all purpose aka no purpose saddle but in your case it may not be a terrible idea. If you are anywhere near me in MD you are welcome to give mine a try.
                McDowell Racing Stables

                Home Away From Home

                Comment


                • #9
                  I can't help you except to reassure you that there is a life without jumping that isn't horrible.

                  I have MS. I cannot jump because my balance, coordination and strength are truly pathetic. I tried to get my body strong enough for a decade, I got stronger but my lack of balance and coordination defeated me.

                  Unlike you I have to ride in a jumping saddle even though all I do right now is walk and trot. I find it extremely hard to dismount from a dressage saddle and I need outside help to do so. To get out of the saddle I have to lean with my hand on the top/front of the knee roll to even get my seat out of the saddle enough to swing my right leg over.

                  In a jumping saddle my knees do NOT fill the knee rolls, but for me it is a so what since I have an easier time dismounting from a jumping saddle.

                  I no longer jump, it has been years since I cantered much. I do not care too much because at least I am still riding horses.

                  Life without riding horses at all is truly miserable and I just deteriorate. Keep riding any way possible even if you have to give up some dreams (like jumping).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm going to echo the suggestion for more of an AP saddle, and bigger blocks.

                    A friend of mine has joint hypermobility (apparently common in people on the autism spectrum, especially women, as I have learned through my time at a therapeutic riding center. Just a nifty sidenote) and she gave up on finding a close contact that is comfortable for her. The extra forward flaps and more forward stirrup bar placement was making her knees and hips pop out every ride. A longer flap with a more middle of the road angle and a slightly longer than usual jumping stirrup length has made a world of difference. She cannot have jointed stirrups or her ankles give her grief too.

                    I don't have hypermobility but I do have chronic nerve pain and a chronically displacing SI from an old injury that I need to baby a bit. I also have no feeling in my left leg from the hip down (except for my pinky toe) from another injury 6 years ago, and that ankle is looser than it should be after extensive reconstruction when I ripped it off (tore ALL the connective tissue in a freak fall. Only thing holding my foot on my leg once my chap/boot came off was my skin) and since I can't feel it I have to be super careful with it. I also have joint issues on the right side from compensating for the wrecked left side, so need some give to my stirrups, but I cannot use jointed irons due to the risk of hyperflexing the left ankle and damaging the connective tissue. So I use Reflex irons by Compositi. They are wide tread with a shock absorbing mechanism in the tread, but the actual arms of the stirrup are solid so there is no risk of hyperflexing while still staying kind to my joints. The wider base of support also helps immensely. I wear a back on track back support pulled down low over my SI to keep things supported but elastic. And I also ride in an AP saddle with stirrups a touch longer than typical jumping length. But I prefer zero blocks and a pancake seat because blocks never seem to do anything but force me into weird positions, and deep seats hurt my SI and pubic bone.

                    My friend schools to 3' in her AP and does Entry level eventing. She's ouchy afterwards, but not much moreso than before her ride. Her big thing is making sure she warms up before even catching the horse, and then doing a longer slower warmup once mounted, plus a "warm down" afterwards of half mounted half handwalking.

                    I also take an unmounted warmup and warm down myself, and I try not to go be a lump right after my pony is put away or I hurt a lot more. Compression is my friend when my nerve pain is bad, so I actually do better in the colder weather when I can wear layers and tight clothes without overheating.

                    Hope isn't lost. Keep an open mind, try different things til you find what works for you. Be willing to adapt to whatever your body throws at you. But above all, be kind to yourself ❤
                    Curious about Trans* issues? Feel free to ask!
                    Saving Pennies To Get My Own Canoe
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                    • #11
                      What about an English style endurance saddle?
                      A couple examples. http://www.blackcountrysaddles.com/product-category/endurance-trail-range/

                      Several companies have them. Tend to have deeper seats than jump saddles and more dressage saddle like blocks.

                      Good luck in the search.

                      Susan

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks Laurierace - I'm not far from you (if you are in Baltimore like it says?), so I may take you up on that someday.

                        Jackie Cochran - I hear you, and I think I'm less worried that I won't jump again or canter again (which would suck, but meh), and more worried that if this is one acute backslide put me here, will the next one knock me off horses completely? I hear you on the mounting. Luckily my left hip is the one that likes to sublux, and my right shoulder, so my horse is trained to stand perfectly still and with a solid mounting block I can perfectly line up my left leg in the stirrup and swing over my right leg (that one that doesn't enjoy subluxing) and use my left arm (again, the one that doesn't enjoying subluxing) to steady me across the withers and I'm pretty good. When I started riding my horse again it wasn't pretty but I've got those muscles back so I no longer have to psych myself up before mounting.

                        Ceylon Star - thanks for the info on your friend. That's what I'm thinking too - something that just stabilizes me a little more upright, so I can do a galloping seat, but it's not require the way I find it in a CC. Unlike your friend, I do find flexi stirrups help, but my issues are mostly confined to larger joints - shoulders, hips, knees, vs ankles and wrists. I'll look at those Compositi stirrups. Thanks for the rec.

                        Kyrabee - if I have to turn my back on the jumping saddle, I think an endurance or trail saddle would definitely be the way to go. Unfortunately my horse is 100% not built like an endurance horse so that might be a tough road to go down! Still, I think it would provide that comfortable seat with added security.

                        Saw PT again today, was reassured that having good days followed by bad days full of pain was totally expected. At the very least I can say my shoulders are clicking less - less rice krispies! That's been nice. Have a long list of exercises to get all those muscles hypertrophied into place. The PT brought up again just how bad my shoulders are... Apparently the view of them constantly subluxated is disturbing to the pros. Nothing like being the "special" kid!

                        Can I just say, pony is being absolutely fantastic and making this all so much easier. A year ago he was a raging nut case after coming off stall rest, and I spent all winter essentially re-breaking him like a rogue weanling: lots of in hand work, teaching him to settle himself after a spook, heck, even how to spend more than 2 minutes in the indoor before descending into a shivering wreck, not to mention the neat bolting reaction to anything even slightly scary. I could curb it within a couple strides but no peaceful trails for us. I even wondered if he had an undetected TBI to go along with his injured leg or a progressive neurologic issue. Thankfully by spring he started showing real improvement. Today we hacked out in the twilight, scaring up three separate herds of deer and a lone buck who flushed out into the field instead of the woods (dammit) and stared us down with some menacing antler gestures. Pony trekked right along, glad to be out and solid as, well, a Thoroughbred (there's nothing rock-like about his big marshmallow self.) We even managed some canters and I focused absolutely everything on holding through my core and my back muscles are a little tired but no screaming agony, so fingers crossed it really is just a matter of getting a core of steel. Only possible because pony was being a trooper and I could trust him to canter up the hill without distracting me from my totally internal focus.

                        Lots of tears last year, but I'm glad pony left the falling apart to me this year. Far easier in so many ways!

                        Thanks for letting me whine!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Bel Air so not exactly Baltimore anymore but close enough
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home

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                          • #14
                            Horse Rider. I am sure the English saddles like the Black Country I linked are very adjustable for fit like any English saddle. The Equinox is very like the Vinici dressage model and that is a sweet saddle. Thoroughgood has a couple endurance models that have a changeable gullet.

                            Congrats on the good ride. I myself am coming off years of being able to minimally ride. It is certainly a work in progress.

                            Susan

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                              Bel Air so not exactly Baltimore anymore but close enough
                              Thansk, Laurierace - I might take you up on that some time.

                              Kyrabee - I'll have to keep it in mind. I have tried a Thorowgood on my horse. That was the worst fitting of all the saddles that I tried, which really shocked me after the rave reviews for tough to fit OTTBs. Something about it just would not let it rest on his back (regardless of gullet) without rocking like a ship at sea. He's a tough fit and I won't/can't shell out for a custom build on a partially retired horse for a gimpy rider so time will have to tell as to what route I need to go.

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                              • #16
                                Horse Rider...I totally understand. I was just throwing out examples. Lots of English saddle companies make endurance type saddles. I am currently riding in a nice treeless saddle [it looks very traditional (saddle like)] but have found a couple treed saddles that I like (said Black Country Vinici and I tried a nice Prestige that was alas a bit too small for my big butt--wish they made more sizes) but with all my maladies, I just can't justify shelling out $$$ for a new saddle. Luckily, she isn't a hard fit. She seems to go well in the treeless so, for now, we will go with it. My riding sessions are pretty short. If I get to where I can "really" ride, I may have to find a treed saddle.

                                Susan

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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Kyrabee - good luck if you have to start the saddle hunt! My year + search left me with some riding PTSD. Hopefully you find something perfect quickly!

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                                  • #18
                                    What twist widths are used to? How forward and high are your flaps? Have your jump saddles had knee blocks in similar positions and sizes?

                                    Opting for a wider twist, lower or less forward flap might shift your hip angle to one that works better for you now, or vice versa. Block size and placement could also skew how your hips sit in the joint and make them more prone to wiggling.

                                    Have you tried those wide, ugly stability leathers. Ovation makes a pair now that run about $100 less than the rest, which is nice. I would strongly suggest against flexible irons, and nudge you towards plain old fillis irons with grippy pads or wide tread irons. Extra movement will wear you out fast, even if you can't feel it.

                                    I found this book helpful for isolating and strengthening certain segments of my body (yoga bad + pilates bad = I was desperate for ideas). It works for all hyper hypermobility syndromes, not just EDS, since the symptoms are the same.
                                    Living Life to the Fullest with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome book. Read 5 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Kevin Muldowney, MsPT has bee...

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