Applied Posture Riding - horseback riding back pain

  • A Disc Herniation And What Not To Do As A Horse Rider

    Do You Have A Disc Hernia In Your Lower Back?

    Is Back Pain Affecting Your Riding?

    Have You Been Told To Give Up Riding?

    Doctors and medical professionals will always err on the conservative side and the uninformed will always view horse riding as a high-risk sport, especially with a back injury.

    leanne liftingWell, I have written extensively on this topic, I have suffered a  disc prolapse myself and was told to never ride a horse again. I was also given many stretches by my treating therapist that increased my pain and pressure on my spinal nerves.

    Many horse riders suffer from a lower back injury of some description. The disc is the most common structure injured. The advice and rehab programs that are given to many horse riders do not come from a therapist who knows about horse riding. This is devastating for those who are told to give it away.

    Time to heal is very important and understanding the biomechanics of the injury and movement patterns used in riding is essential.

    If you want more information in this area then look at my Applied Posture Riding program

    Stretches You Need To Avoid With A  Disc Hernia Injury.

    You must avoid any stretch or exercise that pushes the lower spine into flexion.

    Lumbar flexion will increase the pressure through the disc and cause it to bulge or herniate further into the spinal structures.

    This increases the risk of a full-blown prolapse.

    Never stretch toward the floor with a disc injury. Sitting increases the pressure through the discs. Stretching your head towards your knees puts enormous pressure on the disc. Stretches that increase the disc pressure are very dangerous, especially in the early stages of recovery.

    All stretches for a disc hernia must be carefully set up and the patient must know what structure they are stretching and at what level do you push it. No pain No gain is only good if you know what the pain is.

     Be safe, learn about your injury, and return to riding with good healing, good strength, and confidence you are recovering well.

     Certain stretches may well be increasing the injury or increasing the nerve aware!  

    Twisting and Sitting is extremely stressful on your disc. Avoid this type of stretching.

    All stretches for a disc hernia must be carefully set up and the patient must know what structure they are stretching and how much pain can be induced. No pain, No gain is only good if you know what the pain is.

    Back bending is a great stretch if done correctly.

    If you want more information, contact me, and if you wish to purchase my Applied Posture Riding Program.



  • Core Exercises and Horse Riding

    Core Exercises have become the latest craze for horse riders, and rightly so.

    The core muscles are the key to good posture, good horse riding, good balance, and absolutely for back pain control. Core training exercises are taught by gym trainers, personal trainers, and of course Physiotherapists.  The core muscle is the key to any exercise program. A strong core will give you a Flat Stomach a strong stable back and more energy.

    As a Physiotherapist, I design exercise programs for all of my patients.  Having a strong core is great but how to use it in the saddle requires specific exercises and movement patterns. Many riders have a strong core but don't engage it when riding. Pain is also an inhibitor of the core. If you suffer back pain your core switches off and slowly weakens with time.

    before and after APR

    The core muscle provides stability so all the postural and working muscles, with stability, the body can work, and burn more energy, more efficiently. Stability through the lower back and pelvis puts the body in a better alignment, therefore minimizing stress on the joints. Trauma and injury during or after exercise are less likely to happen.

    Core Exercises

    If pain occurs then the workouts need to be modified, this interrupts the exercise program, pain is most often caused by over-exercising and or exercising in bad postures. A huge number of my patients present with injuries related to exercising and their sport.

    Very few are injured due to a trauma or an accident, most pain results from poor movement patterns during exercising.

     Abdominal exercises for women do not need to be heavy and hard. Women want a flat stomach and a toned small waistline. The old fashion abdominal exercises, like sit-ups, have been proven to be ineffective, too hard, and unsafe, causing stress and strain on the lower back joints. This why women give up and then find it difficult to get back into an exercise regime. I believe it is important to teach women more so than men about the transverse abdominal muscle and how to engage it, then test it, then train it, then use it. 

    Core Exercises for Horse Riders

    All instructors are now recommending their riders strengthen their core to improve their riding. 46There are many Pilates exercises available to everybody and certainly doing any exercises as well as core exercises will help your riding. Any exercises that will increase your general tone and fitness are of value. Many horse riders think they are fit and toned just by riding, in fact, horse riding without doing any other exercises will give you stiffness and usually lower back pain. The least a horse rider should do is stretch.

     However, core exercises are the be all end all for horse riders. A strong core when riding gives the rider stability, control, strength, and precision to perform aids with skill and clarity to the horse. A rider with a weak core is usually bouncing in the saddle has a wobbly lower leg and uses the reins to balance. A weak core causes a rider to stoop forward and be unbalanced. As a rider coach, my specialty is teaching horse riders to ride. I focus on the horse riding muscles and especially the core.

    My programs teach riders everything about the horse riding posture and the core. If you have a passion for your riding I have a passion for teaching you.

    Have a look at my Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

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    Good luck and enjoy your riding. If you have any questions or need some advice about core exercises or back pain or posture then contact me.

    Annette Willson

  • Lower Back Pain...How To Manage It As A Horse Rider


    4820068 spine I think lower back pain is the single most inhibiting factor for horse riders. It certainly seems to be the most common problem horses riders suffer. It also seems to be the problem not well managed by the medical profession as far as horse riders are concerned. Every horse rider who has emailed me has been told to quit riding and find another sport. 

      I was told the same at 18 years old to never ride a horse again. I recovered and went on to ride at an international level, I still manage my lower back pain and live life as I want, not by a doctor's standard.

    The most common causes of low back pain are:

    • Overuse of muscles, ligaments, and joints
    • Repetitive movements
    • lifting and twisting
    • jarring eg. machinery
    • osteoarthritis
    • the trauma of various kinds

    Leg pain (nerve pain) can be caused by pressure from the disc, swelling, inflammation of the joint.

    When osteoarthritis affects the small joints in the spine, it can lead to back pain. Osteoarthritis in other joints, such as the hips, can cause you to limp or to change the way you walk. This can also lead to back pain.

    Spondylolisthesis, a defect that allows one vertebra to slide over another. Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, which is usually caused by getting older.Fractures of the vertebrae caused by a lot of force, such as from an auto or bicycle accident, a direct blow to the spine, or compressing the spine by falling onto the buttocks or head. 

    Lower Back Pain and Horse Riders

    The most common injury in horse riders is a disc herniation or a disc prolapse. This comes fromrepetitive loading and vibration. 

    4870095 ruptured diskAlthough this injury is serious and very painful it does not mean the end of your riding career or your dreams, 95% of people suffer the same, and many recover to live normal lives. The disc is the shock-absorbing structure between the vertebrae. It is the cushion that allows us to bounce and jump and run and ride and absorb the impact through our bodies.

    The disc is under pressure from all our activities in life, not just horse riding. Lifting, bending, twisting, coughing, sneezing, sitting, running riding, and many more life activities put the disc under pressure. The disc is damaged from these micro repeated pressures and eventually bulges into the spinal space, this is called a disc herniation.

    This often progresses to a disc prolapse, this is when the disc cracks and the pulpis (center structure) ooze out into the spinal space.

     The level of the prolapse determines the symptoms presenting. The symptoms depend on the position the prolapse occurs, sometimes the nerves are involved and in others, they are not. In my case, it completely squashed the L 5 nerve root and I had complete numbness and muscle weakness of that nerve root.

    I was lucky  I did not get leg pain I only had lower back pain and the tilted posture. The management of disc prolapse is determined by the level of the prolapse and the symptoms presenting. A person with a lot of pain needs to take pain medication prescribed by their doctor. Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error with drugs.

    Treatment on the spine is so useful to treat pain, muscle spasm, and joint movement. Everybody needs advice on posture, daily activities, and how to do what they do. The disc will heal over time and it needs to be protected as it does. The body recognizes the prolapse as a foreign body and the cells will slowly eat the prolapse away and the nerve root will recover to a point and the pain settles.

    Management For a Disc Injury. Lower Back Pain and Horse Riders.

    I prescribe a back bracein nearly all my back pain patients. Absolutely core exercises are started immediately and functional core training is started. Pain medication must be taken as necessary and heat is also very useful. Not everybody improves with heat, some respond to ice, so try both if you are not sure which is correct for you.

    Avoid sitting for long periods and also standing. Lifting, bending twisting, running, coughing, sneezing all increase the disc pressure and increase pain.

    Rest from loading is absolutely necessary. Rest from riding is necessary too. Rest is a word horse ridersdon't like to hear and all ask how long. Well, it is just a fact it takes a split second to be injured and months to heal...a fact of life riders!!! We are all prepared to allow our horses to rest the maximum time required, so do the same for yourself.

    Back Brace jpgAs a physiotherapist, I also treat my back pain patients. I use acupuncture, mobilization, and of course advice on lifting and work and exercises. A back brace or taping are also adjuncts to treatments.

    Some patients need to be referred for a prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs, but many just take over the counter medications.

    Controlling back spasms is primary. Time and knowledge are important. It is important to get your body back to a posture that it can heal in. Regaining muscle length, joint position, and flexibility and not aggravating it is important.

    As far as returning to riding, the core strength and the jarring need to be managed. Lower Back pain stops the core working so overriding the mechanism is important. I teach my patients the core crunch and how to use the back brace to improve their core. I advise you to ride in a back brace and certainly have it on while around the horse yard.

    To finish off, each person is different but the injury is the same. It affects your whole life, not just your riding. It is important to get and follow professional advice. I do allow my patients to ride early because riding is not bad for your back...putting the saddle, on, though, IS.

    If you are returning to riding after an injury and want to follow my program then join my

    Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

    . Good luck and enjoy your riding 

  • Pilates For Horse Riders Published Article Part 2

    Pilates for Horse Riders

    This is Part 2 of an article written by myself for the hoof beats magazine.

    If you have not read part 1 then I suggest you start there and come back to this article for it all the make sense.

    Part 1 is here.

    Pilates For Horse Riders Part 2

    What makes a Good Horse Rider?

    rider competing dressage competition classic estepona malaga province andalusia spain 34936377A good rider has a natural feel for the movement of the horse through their seat. They also move with their horse so well. They are one unit. If you want to learn then observe and study the posture of a good rider when they’re out of the saddle. Watch how they stand, how they walk, how they move. Many are naturally straight in the back and flexible in their movement patterns.

    If they were tested for strength and stability the results would most likely be good. Having strong core stability allows these riders to move their limbs independently. This equates to the ability to apply precise, independent aids. These riders would also be generally fit and have good muscle endurance. A good rider has endurance and strength in all their posture muscles.

    A Horse Rider Can Learn to Ride Better? How?

    If a rider is having performance problems, they need to look at themselves before they blame the horse. It does not take a huge effort to do some self-testing of one’s postural muscles, joint flexibility, and specific riding muscle strength. Knowledge of how and when each of the major riding muscles is used is a great advantage to a rider. Applied Posture Riding teaches riders about their riding muscles; how to test them, what their function is, and how to train them individually.

    56 CopyMy techniques teach specific movement patterns to riders, and how to use the deep core muscles for riding. There are many skills a rider can learn while off the horse. The Applied Posture training program is unique in many ways. A rider will do some self-testing and identify their own faults. Once identified a rider can focus on certain exercises, to retrain their muscles.

    The absolute, most important muscle to train and learn how to engage in the deep core abdominal muscle. A rider can then be taught how to use this power in the saddle. This cannot be taught by a gym trainer or aerobics teacher. Learning and understanding one’s horse’s footfalls and the beat will also give insight into one’s riding.

    The absolute, most important muscle to train and learn how to engage is the deep core abdominal muscle. A rider can then be taught how to use this power in the saddle. This cannot be taught by a gym trainer or aerobics teacher. Learning and understanding one’s horse’s footfalls and the beat will also give insight into one’s riding. A simple test for Core Strength.

    This is a test I use in my Physiotherapy practice and on my riding pupils.

    Many of my patients report the instructions given in most Pilates classes are not clear enough and the instructor assumes the core is engaged already. It is not enough for most sportspeople and especially not enough for horse riders. You must know when your core is engaged and when it is not. The ability to hold the core strong while performing a movement pattern will increase strength and protect the back. This can be learned and used in riding. The rider should move in tune with the horse but appear still. You are never still when riding. This should be the case in all paces.

    Learn to feel movement by understanding the beat of each pace.

    There are many more specific tests and movement patterns to learn, to improve one’s riding. In the Applied Posture Riding program, a large gym or Physioball is recommended. This is the ideal tool to train horse riders specific movement patterns, and core stability. Once a movement pattern has been established, it will become natural.

    The trot, both sitting and rising can be trained on the ball if the trainer knows the correct movement patterns. The sitting trot can be taught by learning how to engage the deep core muscles and coordinate the breathing pattern with the two-beat footfall pattern; once learned, the breathing pattern can be dropped because the sitting trot is established. The canter can be simulated, with certain exercises, just as easily.

    Pilates for Horse Riders

    Pilates is simply the learning of HOW to initiate, test, train, and function with core stability. The use of core stability in horse riding is more complicated than just doing Pilates-based exercises. If you want more information or just want to ask questions then contact me. Fill in the subscribe form and follow Applied Posture Riding on Facebook, share your story, and read of others love this topic and I love seeing horse riders become the best they can be. 

    Pilates For Horse Riders Applied Posture Riding

  • Unmounted Rider Training

    Training out of the saddle is slowly becoming popular with the Horse Rider. Pilates for Horse Riders, Core Strength Training for Horse riders are the type courses popping up all over the world. Many of these courses seem to be very successful ( I have not done them, therefore I do not comment on content). My course "Applied Posture Riding" is also very successful. 

    So Why Train The Rider Unmounted?

    Let us look at the paces of the horse and examine what is required of the rider. The walk and the trot are what I call symmetrical paces. The canter is an asymmetrical pace.

    DSC 0005websizeThe walk is four-beat and the horse's footfall is even and equal in stride length and at push-off. The horse will also have a head nod to assist balance and power through the hindquarters.  The riders will have equal weight on both seat bones, equal weight through both heels, and as the rider's hips move with the horse's hindquarters stepping, the rider's shoulders have a counter-movement to stay in rhythm with the horses' movement. Therefore it is a symmetrical pace. 

     The trot is a two-beat pace. The diagonal footfalls also strike the ground opposite but equalclinics in stride length and push off. The rider can count one-two, one-two in time with the footfalls. The rider will have equal weight through their seat bones, have equal weight through their heels, and have a centered line of vertical balance.

    The rider will rise with symmetrical weight and movement and do the same in the sitting trot. The rider needs to be balanced through their lower leg and not through their hands. The unbalanced rider will swing through the lower leg and or use their hands for stability. The trot is a symmetrical pace.

    photo canter 2The canter is a three-beat pace. The footfall is asymmetrical. The three-beat movement is not symmetrical, the footfall has a diagonal component and therefore requires the rider to control a rotational movement that is not symmetrical. The canter is a very comfortable pace to ride and the rider should maintain equal weight through the seat bones and the heels, but because the horse has more elevation through the hindquarters than at the walk or the trot the rider is often pushed forward and hence loses contact in the saddle.

    Galloping and jumping are not addressed in this article, but the same principles apply.

     So Why Train The Rider Unmounted?

    Every sports person will train away from the competition arena. Riders certainly do the same. But, riders tend to do hours of the same. Dressage training in circles on an arena, having riding lessons over and over again. I even know of riders who only ride when an instructor is in their area once every two months. Progress can be slow when the focus is only on the horse and not on the rider.

    Dressage training starts with the basics, forward movement, equal stepping, pushing through from the hindquarters and balanced. The horse is trained to be flexible both laterally and longitudinally. The horse is trained to use his hindquarters and be soft and balanced in front. The horse is trained to move away from pressure and be sharp with their response. The horse is trained in the basics before advanced training starts.  So why doesn't it happen as easily as it sounds?

    212The rider is the team player that needs to train themselves first. The rider often neglects to train themselves in the basics. The rider needs to be flexible in all body parts but especially through the pelvis and lower back. The rider needs to have a strong core to maintain stability through the spine so the can apply aids with independent isolation. The rider needs to have ambidextrous skills in strength and efficiency. The rider needs endurance, coordination, synchronization in all postural as well as dynamic muscles. The rider needs to manage pain from injury or muscle soreness.

     When a rider is strong through the core and understands functional core stability they will be a better rider. Add flexibility, endurance, postural awareness, and strength then the rider will have much more success training their horse. Learning independent isolation of riding movements will allow a rider to apply correct movement patterns in both their training and competition riding. The horse responds to repeat aids, so it is up to the rider to apply the aid the same every time. The unbalanced rider will not do this.

    Training unmounted has huge advantages over just training mounted. My Applied Posture Riding Membership Programwill train you to train yourself. If you want to chat about your riding, contact me, I love this topic.

    Blame yourself before you blame your horse.

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  • What Is Stiffitis?

     The most common problem in the world!
    You won't find this in any medical book or website, this is the name I give to problems that have no cause other than living!.
    People present with pain and stiffness, pain is usually worse at night and these people are very stiff in the morning. This is inflammatory pain and is very common. It can affect many areas at the same time, or just be nagging away in one muscle or joint.
    stock photo 20606409 businessman with backache isolatedPatients have a common history. Many have a job that is busy and repetitive. People complain of a mild soreness that goes away and comes back. The soreness may spread to other areas or just increase to become chronic in one area. The neck and lower back are the most common. The most common complaint is "I have not done anything" !. Yes, you have every day of your life that has contributed to this.
    The first point of help is often the Doctor. If you are over 60yo you will most likely be told you have arthritis, even without an assessment?  Your only symptom is the pain, your range of movement will be fine (or appear fine). Your Dr. will most likely just treat the pain and prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and say come back if it continues. shoulder impingementThe next round of money will go on x-rays, CT scan, US scan, and or an MRI, in some cases this will reveal a problem but in so many, it just shows minor joint changes that are normal. Some Drs. go further and prescribe a cortisone injection into the inflamed area. I am not a fan of this being the first choice of treatment. 
    So what is wrong with you? You have Stiffitis!
    So What Causes Stiffitis?
     This is my diagnosis after a full assessment of the cause! Sadly some patients do have major problems. A heavy fall in the past often comes back to haunt you, but still may well be due to poor postures that are repetitive.
    falls 1Your repetitive lifestyle over the years shortens your muscles, this causes the joints to become stiff and inflexible, the joint may have some swelling as a result. The swelling and loss of movement may impinge the nerve giving you nerve pain.
    The nerve pain may be the final pain that causes you to seek help.  A massage therapist will treat the site of pain and not follow it back to the cause of pain, they are not trained in clinical assessment.  A Physiotherapist will treat the cause of the pain, at the joint level in many cases.
    " Stiffitis" is the most common problem I treat.
     It occurs in young athletes and as well as old athletes. It may come on months after an injury, due to poor rehabilitation. It occurs in every person who has a repetitive job.
    Poor BalanceThis is killing your horsequote websize Sadly it tends to send patients crazy with pain and worry about something being serious. It results in a lot of money being spent on unnecessary investigations. Some people suffer for years because nobody bothered to do a full assessment. Even worse, is Horse Riders tend to inflict their own problems onto their horse. Strangely enough, these people spend a lot of money on treating their horse for pain and stiffness, never looking at the cause, the rider!
    Computer Stiffitis, sore neck, headache, arm pain, elbow pain.
    Driving Stiffitis,  all of the above as well as lower back pain.
    Running Stiffitis, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain, and the rest!
    Horse Riding Stiffitis, well this can be every pain in your body but most common is lower back pain
    So if you have pain that is nagging away and is now giving you night pain and you have no reason you can find then you may well be suffering "Stiffitis".
    I suggest you see a good Physiotherapist and change your habits.
     "It is not what you do It is how you do what you do".
    I love this topic, contact me if you have suffered "Stiffitis" it is easy to fix and manage.
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