What are your fitness challenges and what types of injuries have you had?

What are your biggest fitness challenges as a rider? Which areas of your body give you the most trouble and which do you wish you could improve?


What types of injuries do you have now or have you had in the past? What types of injuries do you think riders struggle with most?


If you could ask any fitness or injury-related questions to a top-notch osteopath and athletic therapist, what would you ask?


Thanks for your input!

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I think my biggest fitness challenges as a rider have to do with trying to keep myself straight and work symmetrically in the saddle. My back definitely gies me the most trouble. With regard to improvment I guess I'd have to say I wish I had a shorter back and longer legs! However, I've got what I've got, and overall it works pretty well, so I'll stick with that.

I have fractured: my lumbar spine (3 vertebra), tiba/fibula; wrist (twice), face (mandible/maxilla crushed), shoulder, skull (with a blood clot in my brain which took 3 months to resolve), ribs, hand (spiral fractures of metacarpals), all in different accidents. I broke my back skiing, and one wrist fracture was a skiing injury, all the rest have been with horses. I think that for most riders the psychological issues arising out of the physical injuries are the hardest ones to overcome. That hasn't happened to me, but I don't know why. I am a strong person psychologically, but I sometimes think I'm missing a link somewhere, because fear doesn't seem to be a logical consequence of injury for me, at least around horses. For some very odd reason I lost my joy in skiing after the spinal injury, but have never lost my joy in riding, despite all the other injuries.

I have asked my various surgeons about why I have had so many fractures, and their response has been that I have very small bones (I'm 5'2" and weigh 110 lbs) and I work with very large horses, and that I should expect to break when push comes to shove. To date I have no arthritis in spite of several of the fractures having been intra-articular (shoulder, wrist, jaws), for which I'm enormously grateful, but I think that's mostly due to genetics, as there's no arthritis in my family. I have lost some range of motion in the shoulder, which causes me difficulty only when backing up my truck/trailer, but compared to the loss of the use of the arm, which is what I was told I'd be left with, I'm pretty happy with what I've got. The right wrist still has stiff moments, and aches when I overwork it, but again, considering the mess it was it works very well. I was lucky to get an orthopedic surgeon whose wife rides GP jumpers, so he knew what I needed to have in terms of use afterwards.

Following the wrist fracture in early March of last year, and my return, or attempt to return, to serious training, I suffered major spasms in my piriformis muscles in my back, mostly due to a loss of fitness while the wrist healed, and I think the overall compensation for the wrist, which made me quite unbalanced. I approached Heahter Sanson, of EquiFitt, who has a blog on this site, about sorting out that issue and straightening me out. Heather's program has been a godsend, easy to do, and truly amazing in its results. While I have never bothered with physiotherapy after my various injuries there's no question that I would go to someone like Heather again, or perhaps an athletic physiotherapist. I absolutely think that the osteopath and therapist have to have either an athletic background in other sports themselves or be riders in order to truly understand what we need, and the degree to which we need it. When I broke my wrist this last time, the ER doctor who first looked at the x-rays told me that most of the time they would simply cast the wrist for someone my age (I'm 52) as function is not their first concern. Fortunately, she too is a rider, and recognized that I needed quite a lot more than just a connection to my hand, and sent me to a super surgeon.

I hope this helps!
Wow Jan, you've had quite a past with injuries!
I'm so glad you've touched base with Heather, as I've heard nothing but good things about her and think she is a wonderful part of this website (Go Heather Go!)
I don't know what type of program Heather has put you on, but from my point of view as an Athletic Therapist and Osteopath, it would seem that an overall core stability program would be a great adjunct to your riding routine.
Although I am not fortunate enough to have a a lot of riding experience, I've had the pleasure to work with many riders and know how passionate they are about getting back in the saddle (no pun intended!). Firstly, an overall scan of your body would indicate which areas would require more strength than others. It would seem that a pelvic core stability program would be indicated (I'll put together a video for that) as well as an incorporation with your upper body and lower body within those exercises.
In addition, a good diet rich in vitamin D, Calcium, and Vitamin E would be great to keep your bones, ligaments, muscle fibers and joints as strong as possible.

Please let me know if there is anything specific that you would like me to include in the fitness series and if you have any other questions regarding Osteopathic treatment.

Hi, Claire!

Thanks for this! Heather has put me on a core strength and balancing program. A lot of my issues stemmed not so much from a lack of core strength as from an imbalance in core strength, and correcting that and stretching some of my overused muscles has made a tremendous difference. The injuries have resulted in compensatory movements, I think not so much in the saddle but in every day life, and in particular when I'm doing barn work, so I've gradually become weaker/stronger in a very unbalanced way.

I am diabetic, and work really hard to manage my blood sugar with diet and exercise, so I'm something of a diet fanatic. I do take Vitamin D, Calcium, Vitamin E, and a B complex as well as a multivitamin daily.

I think that Heather's emphasis on strong but flexible hip flexors, quads, glutes and hamstrings is really important for riders. As an ex-downhill ski coach, I was horrified to discover how much work those areas needed in my body, and what a difference working on them made to my riding. I would never have thought that mine were so tight, or so weak, but Heather hit the nail on the head with that diagnosis, and the work she has me doing on those areas has really helped. I think her riding background gives her insights which are harder for non-riders to access.
Gee Jan, you do have quite a few challenges. Thank you for sharing them.

Yes, your reply does help, because Osteopath and Athletic therapist Claire Biafore is a Barnmice member and also does our Healthy Rider videos. She is about to put together a new series and we want to be able to give her some ideas of the types of physical challenges and injuries that our riders are struggling with.

Fortunately, Claire is a world class athlete in her own right and also works with riders in her practice. By the way, isn't Heather fantastic? It's no surprise she's helped you!
My biggest fitness problem is indurance. I have quit smoking and am in the process of working out. To try to build my indurance.
So that is main issue, the other issue is that I collapse to the left. Working on that.
Hi Jackie,
Endurance is such a huge part of any training program, especially riding. I'm so happy that you've decided to quit smoking and start working out on a regular process. What type of exercise regimen are you doing? How many times per week? What exercises are you doing to try not to collapse to your left?

Thanks for replying!
My biggest challenge in the past has been recovering from dislocating my hip and tearing the muscles in the floor of pelvis and groin. You don't realize that those are the muscles required to pull and push open doors, never mind what else they do. Getting back to riding after that injury (coming off a bucking green horse) was not the issue as I was back on another horse, sidesaddle as I couldn't split my hips, by day 4 (yep, idiot!) but being able to effectively use those muscle groups was the challenge.

It took 6 months to heal, all the while keeping the muscles stretched and functioning despite head shaking from chiropractor and physio therapist. In the end, I was congratulated as I was more mobile than expected but it wasn't enough. I then took some pilates and wow, I got back probably 95-98% of my mobility.

I would like to know how to keep my belly muscles taut (not paunchy) when I ride. As I am currently doing more endurance riding than show ring my equitation has gone to heck in a hand basket. Are there simple exercises that I can do while cleaning the barn, sitting in my car, ..... I currently don't have time for ab crunches and the rest of the pilates workout that works so well.

I also agree with the previous poster about loosing nerve. While I can get on ponies that were bascially untouched until 2 weeks before I back them, I have problems (hyperventilating and extreme nervousness) when mounting siblings of the gelding that bucked me off doing the hip damage. This is even though these horses have never done anything wrong and were solidly broke by a professional trainer. Every time I work them I get better but each year it is the same old hyperventilating at the beginning of the season.
Hi Diana,
I'm so happy and impressed that you've made such a great recovery back to riding..I think it's our athletic mentality that keeps us coming back!

I would be more than happy to include some core stability into the series and see if I can make it mesh with your daily life activities.

Are you currently incorporating a stretching regimen as well before or after you ride?

Thanks and I look forward to your response!
I have Scoliosis and a bit of a weak back, headaches and back pain..... I just go easy on myself and work on things I can do with my horses.... I don't even ride yet... but I do yoga, breathing exercises, get regular adjustments and walk walk walk..... even with my horses I take laps in my arena till they join up and follow me.... I just am recovering from a) my horse running me down last year resulting in a neck injury and now this past December I got into a car crash.... so again, I feel like junk about every day, but I find a way to play and spend time with my horses anyway..... eventually, I am gonna ride darnit!! :)
I am training my horse Oliver to be gentle and sweet with me, almost like a therapy horse and he is trying so hard.... :) I don't think I'll ever be a barrel racer, or be able to be an endurance rider, but the joy I get from him trying so hard to be gentle is really really rewarding to me as a first time horse owner and trainer... :)
Hi Jennifer,
there are two types of Scoliosis: Functional and Structural. Functional Scoliosis is one that everyone has as they being one hand dominant will cause an imbalance in the muscles of the body. Osteopathically, this is easy to correct as by keeping your body in a proper alignment will aid in your recovery (after each exercise routine) and complimenting it with a stretching program will keep the muscles supple and ready to go. Structural scoliosis is a bit more difficult to correct as it is something that you are born with and is irreversible. This type of scoliosis although difficult to treat, can be managed better with a good exercise regimen to correct any muscular imbalances. Do you know what type you have?

It sounds like your neck may be your biggest enemy at this point, so I'll try and incorporate some postural exercises for you to keep your neck as strong as possible.

Thanks again for your response and please make sure that your adjustments are also complimented with an exercise program specifically for your muscular needs. Let me know if you have any questions about that.

Hello, I have the born with it kind where when you see an exray, it does NOT look good..... I was diagnosed when I was 15.. anyway, I look forward to your stretches and stuff!! I have been living with this for a long time and compared to other people I feel blessed to even be able to have horses and I don't mind working on my physical challenges... :) thanks for asking us!!
Hmmmmmm ~ Ok Sorry for the men out there as I'm gong to have a feminine respsonse to this question. But I find keeping my shoulders back, while being light in the seat the hardest challenge. Why you ask ~ ? Well I have upper frontal weight ~ approximately 15 pounds that pulls me forward. And I have a chronic shoulder injury (rotator cuff) which makes it quite difficult to do strengthening exercises ... So I tend to really fight collapsing forward.

So I've started lots of core work. I have noticed a huge difference since I've begin training with weights and elastics. I can work my back ~ but I can't yet isolate my shoulder (R) and work on it, as my range of motion is not great ~ without pain.

And ideas?
Surgery is not an option ~ Already saw the Sports Doc


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