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Women and Horses Newsletter, January 2002
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~~~~~~~From Mary D. Midkiff~~~~~~~
Newsletter, January 2002
I recently went through a learning experience involving saddle
fit I thought might be of interest and education to you and your
I bought my new horse, Anna, on October 6 and was delighted to
find that my two old saddles, one for dressage and one for jump-
ing, fit her just fine. I began riding her regularly in the
dressage saddle and was so glad that she was comfortable. A few
weeks into our new partnership my right hip began to hurt. From
the connection of the adductor muscle to the hip joint to the
lower lumbar region on the right, everything was inflamed. I
continued riding but tried to stretch more, take anti-inflam-
matory drugs on occasion and soak in a hot tub. These techniques
helped but the issue persisted.
I was puzzled because Anna was a much more comfortable ride than
Theo. Even though her gaits were more comfortable to sit my body
was telling me something wasn't right.
Finally, I went to see my chiropractor who practices holistic
sports medicine. We had already worked together for several
years while I was competing Theo in eventing and, through that
experience, he became aware of the complex injury issues
associated with riding. Between my chiropractor and my massage
specialist, we began to discuss and try to determine what was
causing my hip problems. We knew it had to be riding related
because for a couple of weeks in November I was traveling and not
riding and the problem seemed to subside. When I returned I
began riding again and all of the issues resurfaced.
My health care providers and I agreed it was time for X-rays. I
am in my late forties and have been an athlete all of my life,
perhaps I was having joint deterioration or arthritis. We had to
know what was going on. The X-rays showed wear and tear that is
typical to equestrians but nothing that would be causing the
pain I was having.
Between my chiropractor, my masseuse and myself we had a meeting
and went back to the beginning. We talked about my former horse
and how I sat on her and where she put my body as opposed to my
new horse. I re-enacted rising trot and canter on each of my
horses in the doctor's office trying to identify any dif-
ferences. We finally determined that even though the saddle was
fitting Anna it was not fitting me anymore.
Anna is wider than Theo and the saddle was flatter in the seat
to accommodate for her body. Therefore, my seat bones (ischial
tuberosities) were contacting the seat of the saddle in a new
place. This new place was not supportive and not allowing my hip
joint and my thigh to move. Also, we discovered that the thigh
blocks built into my dressage saddle were now prohibiting move-
ment instead of being supportive as they had when I rode in this
saddle on Theo, who is narrower and higher in the withers. The
angle down from the hip joint to my knee had changed and my
joints (hinges) could not function in this profile.
The way to confirm our hypothesis was for me to ride Anna in my
jumping saddle, which is narrower and has less padding than my
dressage saddle. Riding in my jumping saddle proved our theory
to be correct. I hadn't ridden in this saddle for about a year
but from the first day I rode in it on Anna I could tell
improper saddle fit for me had been the source of the hip issue.
In the jumping saddle, my seat bones were supported correctly
and my upper leg and hip joint were free to move. The correct
angle to achieve comfortable function and mobility had returned.
Now I am in the process of having my dressage saddle re-
evaluated for me and Anna. I am talking to my saddler about
options. But at least now I know where the pain originated and
can solve my problem.
In the meantime, Anna and I are both comfortable working with my
jumping saddle. My plans are to compete her in Dressage later
this year, but for now the jumping saddle works for both of us
and will have to do. This event just proved to me once again how
important the saddle fit is not only to the horse but also to my
body. It has to be just right for both of us. Every time I work
through a problem I always wonder how many girls and women out
there have experienced something similar and didn't have any
answers or gave up on riding? I continue to pass along what I
learn in hopes it will help many horsewomen become more aware
and conscious of their options and resources when a problem
Women have a special magic with horses...
Equestrian Resources, Inc.
PO Box 20187
Boulder, CO 80308
Phone 303-544-0333 | Fax 303-544-0331
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