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Dressage Position Issues-Age

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  • Dressage Position Issues-Age

    I find myself back in the saddle after years of not riding due to a lame horse. Unfortunately, my hips have stiffened (I'm in my mid-late 50's) and I am having a hard time opening my hips and stretching my thighs down. This arches/jams my lower back. My dilemma is compounded by a ridiculously long thigh. My horse has a flat back, but falls away at her lower body and is not a large horse. I find myself in a chair seat and don't know if this is just how I have to ride, or if anyone here has any suggestions for saddles, etc. I earned my Silver Medal in 2003 and want to ride FEI again. I am currently riding/training my homebred out of my PSG mare. Any words of wisdom would be welcome. I also have rheumatoid arthritis. I have a long history of lower back/SI joint issues too. Posting here as I think it is time to admit that I ain't as young as I used to be...

  • #2
    I think it will take some time to regain flexibility. In the end, it is the effectiveness of your aids which counts, not just a textbook position. I would highly recommend some lessons with a Centered Riding instructor, if you have one in your area.
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    • #3
      I have a lot of your issues and was fighting to get out of a chair seat. I added a couple of martingale stops (rubber rings) on my stirrup bars so that my leathers were positioned further back.

      Strangely, restuffing my saddle (done to fit my horse with no thought to my chair seat) also ended up helping tremendously with the chair seat.

      An instructor also gave me mounted exercises to do: grabbing my foot/ankle with my hand (like a runner's quad stretch but with your palm to the outside) and pulling it up to the back to stretch my hips out and put my seatbones in the right position. The counterstretch was to lean forward over the horse's neck and touch my toes.


      • #4
        I had a similar problem with my VERY flat-backed QH. My hips would ACHE after riding, but looking at my saddle from the ground, I thought it fit well. I happened to have a lesson with a very wise person who immediately had me put a lift pad underneath the back. Voila! No more chair seat, no more sore hips.
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        • #5
          I'll second the Centered Riding instructor. They can do a lot to help you analyze your position and come up with creative ways of overcoming problems. Also, I found that I had a lot of pain in my hips and knees. When I changed to Sprenger hinged stirrups it went away. I also have the lined, stitched leathers. There are a lot of other choices of irons and leathers these days that can help take the torque out of the system, which is often why people have problems with pain or stiffness.
          Providence sometimes takes care of idiots. Agnes Morley Cleaveland in No Life for a Lady.


          • #6
            Great first step Maude in realizing the age factor. I think it is even harder since you are coming back from such a high level of competing/riding. I too used to ride at a high level but due to health issues have had to drop my level of riding and expectations to a more realistic level. I think it is much easier for us to look at a horse and say to ourselves the horse is not comformationally built or due to health issues cant train at that level then it is for us to look at ourselves and admit the same thing. Try to not only be fair to your in your expectations of your horse, but be fair to yourself.


            • #7
              I had to ditch my deep seat, thigh block saddle for a close contact because of bursitis in my hips. I eventually bought another dressage saddle, one that has no blocks and pencil knee rolls.

              You might be more comfortable in a Saddle that has a flatter, less restrictive seat and a forward flap for your long thigh.

              I will never forget the ride during which I realized that the thigh block helping keep my leg long and straight was the reason I was in so much pain after riding. A few weeks later when I tried my friend's close contact saddle, I was like, "Ahhhhhhhh...relief!"
              A helmet saved my life.

              2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


              • #8
                RN chimes in here!

                Bristol Bay speaks the truth!
                A deep seated saddle is bad for a bad/aging back. You may need to go to a shallower seated one like a flat saddle or close contact. Also consider a saddle in a much larger seat. Like if you ride in a 17" then ride in a 19". A deep seat grabs your butt and holds it in position during gaits that is not good for a spinal problem. You need to open up your lower back angle. Straighten the lower lordosis. Bring your pelvis towards your belly button so to speak.

                Been here, done this. Sold the deep seated Seigfried and went to a close contact for hunting after 3 herniated discs etc. AND you will have to forego sitting gaits. Sorry but dressage is not gonna help anybody's back. You lose flexibility normally as we age. Your shock absorption fails with age. To keep riding you'll need to always protect yourself from concussion to your back & seat. There are many ways to do that.


                • #9
                  You'll have to develop a seat that accommodates your aging 'ouchies.'


                  • #10
                    There are quite a few older riders where I ride. I mean women in their 70's and possibly 80's (that's a bit awkward to verify) and some of them still jump. All of them WTC around the ring on a daily basis--in two point. It is your friend. Try riding in an old school Passier GT or Patron, or Stubben Tristan. I think Kent and Masters make a shallow seat saddle with Velcro knee rolls so you can remove them. Get something you can easily get up out of to give yourself a break. Shorten your stirrups a few holes. It's worth it to keep riding.
                    A helmet saved my life.

                    2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


                    • #11
                      You sound like me with hip/back issues and the long thigh, though I have never stopped riding. I have way to much curvature in my lower back, and mostly have ridden smaller, narrower horses that my legs hang way down on.

                      I think the suggestions about a flatter seated saddle are good. I tried the saddles that hold you in for a bit, and always went back to flat, open seat where you can find the right position instead of being held in. I ride in an 18 inch Wintec.

                      I screwed up my back big time when I was younger and rode/ride a lot of hard horse with a lot of movement through GP. I JUST started pilates and yoga a year or so ago, and did not realize how little I could move my back or open my hips and how I was stiffening against pain. With a good masseuse working on the back and pilates I'm almost pain free and can move my back all the way for the first time and I'm just starting to make progress in opening ip my hips. It takes a long time, but it's a good way to go to slowly start working on that.

                      You might also want to take glucosamine, chondriatin and msm like we give our horses.


                      • #12
                        This is a really interesting topic. I agree with the recommendations that a different saddle may be needed. Also, what Draftdriver said about the effectiveness of the seat being more important than the appearance is right-on. Good luck and keep us posted.
                        RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.