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hypermobility/EDS: avoiding joint pain

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  • hypermobility/EDS: avoiding joint pain

    I was diagnosed with benign joint hypermobility syndrome after several years with chronic joint pain and other issues that BJHS may explain. My spine (especially neck), shoulders, hips, and knees are the problem areas affected by it. I'm in good physical condition and am changing my workouts to help strengthen my problem joints. The doctor told me that I should be changing my riding habits and also riding horses that "fit me" so I don't aggrevate my joint pain further.

    I'm not doing much jumping now, but I am hunting regularly and doing long (5-8 mile) hacks several times a week to keep horses in hunting shape. My knees and hips are achy after hunts and I'm pretty sure it's worse on the very wide horses. Right now I'm riding a variety of greenies on hunts, but I'm in the market for a horse to be strictly a fieldhunter if I find the right one. I'm hoping to go with an Irish horse, but with this recent development I'm wondering what type of horse would be the easiest on my joints for long rides.

    Also, are any kinds of saddles better for people with joint pain? Any helpful advice in general? I'm still young (21) and hoping to keep riding and hunting for a long time. I'm also hoping to get back into jumping once my youngster is old enough. Maybe going back to dressage lessons with a focus on perfect posture would help. Thanks!

  • #2
    I have EDS and and I ride. I am not a serious competitor, but I do understand making modifications. I used to ride english exclusively, but my hips forbade that. Talk about pain and subluxations! My L ankle has been tightened via tendon/ligament transfer. My right shoulder has been traumatized beyond words.

    My hips subluxing due to english saddles forced me to ride western with really long stirrups, or so I thought.

    Long story short:

    My mustang was getting wider as he matured. My hips were starting to bother me despite different styles of western saddles. English was a no go...no stability/security. He was injured late spring. I bought a new mare. She is similar size, albeit narrower. We have gone through a progression of saddles. Now we are in an a/p english saddle that fits both of us well. I have never been more comfortable or secure in a saddle.

    I find that a narrower horse/twist saddle feels more comfortable to me. I can only imagine what I would be doing in regards to riding if I had discovered this years ago.

    Good Luck. Narrow horse/narrow twist works for me. Work with an instructor/trainer that will work with you, not against you. Find one that understands phyiscal limitations. Riding is hard enough, even with physical limitations. Oh, I did also find that flex stirrups take all motion out of my leg. Less motion is transferred up to my hips.

    Life is too short to argue with a mare! Just don't engage! It is much easier that way!

    Have fun, be safe, and let the mare think it is her idea!


    • #3
      I also have EDS, and so far I'm finding physical therapy to be a huge help.

      As far as saddles go, I haven't really had any epiphanies about what works fo me, since I ride my current mare in an older County Competitor dressage saddle that fits her perfectly. I suspect I could find something that worked a little better for me, but it's not bad, and she loves it, so I haven't felt brave enough to make a change.

      It's been ages since I tried the flex stirrups, but I felt completely unstable and wet-noodley with them. Many people seem to have great results with them, and it's definitely worth trying, but didn't do it for me.

      For me, jumping seems to be harder on my knees, and dressage seems harder on my lower back. So trading disciplines might help, or you might trade one problem area for another. Try new things, you might like them, and they might help, but I don't think you have to throw in the towel on jumping just yet.
      "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
      -Edward Hoagland


      • #4
        Life can be much better

        I have hypermobility in all of my pelvic ligaments and some of more other joints, especially feet.

        PT is enormously helpful in developing adaptions to keep riding safely and well. I am so hypermobile that I needed to switch back to solid stirrups with a deep foot piece so I have a stable base. I am currently using the ontyte stirrup as I don't have enough feel to keep my stirrups if I have an up slip.

        The thing that has helped me the most is autonomous stem cell prolotherapy, platelet rich plasma.
        You can check it out at Dr. Mayo Friedlis's site, wwww.treatingpain.com.
        It regenerates the ligaments and they tighten up and become stronger than they were originally. It can be used in many areas of the body, including the ones you mentioned. It is also comparatively inexpensive and mine is covered by insurance. Please pm me if you want to talk about it. Since you are young enough, it shouldn't take much to radically improve. It does last many years, too. One of my world champion friends had it done before she won her first world championship...in endurance. It lasted over 15 years until she was kicked by a horse she was working on as a vet.
        Intermediate Riding Skills


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the replies! I'm going to be starting PT up again at the start of the year.

          I don't find too much of a difference between flex and non-flex stirrups pain-wise. I don't have ankle problems though. A friend had the super comfort stirrup pads on her saddle and I felt a difference in my knees using them. I don't think they'd be too great for hunting though once they got packed with mud, but they'd be perfect for jumping and dressage.

          I've never felt comfortable while riding in a wide twist saddle, so I guess I'm on the right track there. I like riding wider barrelled horses, but the really wide (draft X) horses kill my knees, so I'm guessing I'll search for a happy medium. My almost 3 year old Irish Draught is going to be on the wider side, but he still has quite a bit of growing to do before I ride him. He's a very laid back, smart, and people pleasing horse, so I think I can deal with any extra pain in order to have a safe and athletic horse.

          whicker, I'm going to call my doctors after the holidays and get their opinions on prolotherapy. I'll definitely PM you with any questions after I talk to them.

          I guess this makes me able to empathize with my DSLD horse more.


          • #6
            Hypermobility, SI pain, bulging disk

            Whicker please check your PMs and email me if you can find the time; I'm seeing Dr. Friedlis next week!

            If I knew how to make a poll I would ask:
            Does allowing or causing your body to hyper-extend disintergrate the progress made by PT/body awareness/careful management? Y/N/Other??

            In other words: Does allowing the hyper-mobility exacerbate the problem?

            I too have hypermobility and did PT for 6 weeks before it was discontinued due to lack of progress. My pain is around my SI joint but bulging disks and degeneration are higher up than my pain. Ugh! Hypermobility exists in about every joint from my neck to my toes and I have a close family history of EDS. I'm in my mid-20s.

            I stopped riding in November because I would be crippled for the next couple days, then ride again, cripple again, rinse repeat. I was unable to make any riding progress and knew I could do better, but physically was doing worse. I am unable to sleep for usually two days after riding due to pain.

            Two-point definitely causes my lower back to hyper-extend. Girthing forces me to extend my lower back (maybe I should stick to ponies so the girth is lower than my center of gravity and hoof picking strains it but I don't think the bent over motion causes more damage -it just bloody hurts.

            So do you horsey folks just deal with the pain? Find modified methods to avoid certain motions that you know will cause hyper-extension?

            I know I've asked a lot of questions! Last one: Are the EDS folks seeing rheumatologists? PTs? Orthos? Other?

            Thanks for any info/insights/experiences!!


            • #7
              Bicoastal congrats!

              Congrats that you are going to see Dr. Friedlis! He is a horseman, so he understands horsefolk and our language. He understands our passion.

              I can tell you about my experiences with hypermobility and PRP. Yes, I do notice a major difference difference and improvement after almost every treatment. It is a roller coaster experience, though. I do have times when I wonder if I have hit a plateau.

              My normal reaction has a side effect of euphoria. probably all the endorphins released in the healing cascade. After the first treatment, the next day I was so giddy from not hurting that I danced in the sand arena for joy. It isn't always the reaction, but I was on major painkillers before PRP and all I have needed after the first treatment has been tylenol at night to sleep.

              It does take time to regenerate the tissue, so I have a PRP treatment every 6 weeks and prolotherapy in between at 3 weeks. This is as fast as I can go with my insurance. I do have a severe problem, so other people would probably not need nearly as much as me.

              You asked if allowing hypermobility and going beyond end range makes a difference. My experience is yes, you create more shredding or damage. I know when I ride one of my greenies and there is a spook or a slam dance, I am going to have more pain during the treatment itself, because I have done something to the healing tissue. But the amount of the set back is less each time. I have kept riding during the whole time I have been doing PRP. I don't have made horses at this time, so I have a number of adaptions that I have created to keep going.

              You mentioned about the girth. I changed the billet straps to long ones and a short dressage girth to put the girth at a more ergonomic spot for me on the ground.

              I also had a much taller and wider mounting block made so that my feet are close to the level of the stirrups and then worked with my P.T. for an adaption of better way to mount within my range of motion.

              I do clicker training and treats to reward the horses for standing still and opening and closing gates and picking things up for me. I haven't yet taught them to kneel for mounting, since some riders tell me that their horses will do it in the show ring at the wrong time.

              I wrote on the para saddle thread about the saddle that I am working on. It gives the rider a narrower twist and more shock absorbtion for the back, and is wide for the horse.

              It would be better if I had found a narrower, small horse. I went from 17h to 15.2h but my mares are wide.

              Sainthood is critical for success. an older saint with smooth gaits is a wonderful treasure. We have one that is a 25 y.o. crabbet arabian, retired from endurance. We maintain him and he is key to my survival on the trail or new situations with my green mares. They learn from him and stay calmer.

              I haven't given up 2 point or leaping up banks or jumping 18" logs or caveletti. I love to gallop. I still have the love of cross country from years of upper level eventing and foxhunting.

              My P.T. is a rider and worked on my 2 point position so I don't hyper extend it. I don't jump down hill or drops. There is more shock on landing, and my back doesn't go behind the vertical any more.

              I hope this gives you a feel for what I am working on. I am getting classified for para-equestrian, but I may have improved too much from the PRP to appear as injuried as I am. Quite a conundrum!
              Intermediate Riding Skills


              • #8
                Whicker- Thank you!!

                Thank you for Whicker who just donated her time to share a wealth of info and experience about hypermobility, treatments, and modifications to keep going in the saddle!

                I really feel much, much more optimistic about my potential quality of life. Thank you again Whicker for the boost: with the right management, I can ride!

                If you want more info or resources for ehlers-danlos, check out: http://www.ednf.org.


                • #9
                  Sorry for my english but I´m swedish

                  I wish I could give you a good answer to help you keep jumping. I really hope that you can

                  I hade to give up ridning and jumping and thought I never could ride more than walks again. For me the bigger gaited horses hurts really bad if I did more than walks for more then 10m.

                  But after 2 years I tried Icelandic horses and was sold. I was so happy that I cried after my first try because I could ride almost as a healthy person. Of course it depends on the horse and my shape for the day.

                  So after a year I bought my own a black mare with a firely temper . She wasn't the perfect horse for a person with a bad body but I could afford her. She had gone in a pasture for almost 2 years and had a foal.

                  She ran off, bad breaks (hard to stop on rides), tried to ran over me, had piggypace and a very fast galopp as her only gaits. But in hindsight she was just what I needed and now I couldn't sell here for all the money in the world.

                  She has a to wide back for my hips but I did changes on my saddle so It works most days.

                  I have trouble with my skin and get easily sores from saddles and had to jus gelpads and sheepskin to seat on. Until I start ridning with a soft treeless saddle. My body is much softer than before.

                  I still cant have shorter stirrups