Is Horse Riding Bad For Your Body?


Horse riding is a hugely popular pastime. As you do this, you can feel a real connection with the animal. But this can come with some downsides, including impacting your health. So, is riding a horse bad for your body?

Riding a horse can lead to a few long-term problems. Some riders have lasting back, hip, and knee pain. This is often caused by poor technique. The biggest risk is falling off the horse. This can cause broken bones or concussions.

Before you hop onto a horse, you want to think about this decision. You don’t want to be inadvertently hurting yourself. Keep reading to learn more about some of the potential problems that riding a horse can cause.

How Riding a Horse Impacts Your Back

Riding a horse can have both positive and negative effects on your back. Let’s start by looking at some of the bad impacts.

When you are riding a horse, you will be jostled up and down. This shock is even larger if you are jumping the horse. This repeated impact on the spine has the potential to do a lot of damage. Sometimes, this can be so bad that every step the horse takes causes you pain.

Another area that can be impacted is the neck. Some riders will find themselves looking down at the horse. As a result, their neck muscles can become tight, which can cause them to feel pain.

Sadly, these problems are fairly widespread in the equestrian community. Horse riders are 50 percent more likely to experience some pain.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be a problem. Most of these issues are caused by the way that they are riding the horse. If you are experiencing back pain, it’s a sign that you aren’t using the right posture.

You should aim to keep centered in the saddle. This will ensure that you aren’t slouching over. It will also give you more control over the horse. If you do this, you can work on building your core strength while you are riding.

How it Impacts the Knees

Another common issue is that riding a horse can start to cause knee pain. This is often a sign that you haven’t got the right setup. There are a few things that you should check. These are:

  • Gripping with the knees. If you are gripping the horse with the knees, you’ll feel every bump it has. It also limits the horse’s movement, making for a bumpier ride.
  • Stirrup on the ball of the foot. When this happens, it can make your ankle less flexible. As a result, your leg will be rigid, sliding around every time the horse moves.

Once you fix up these problems, you shouldn’t have to worry about experiencing any more knee pain. In fact, riding a horse can be good for the knees. It can be effective to help those who have knee osteoarthritis.

How Horse Riding Impacts Your Hips and Pelvis

A third common problem is a hip pain. This occurs because of the way that you are sitting on the horse. When you are doing this, you will need to spread your legs wide, so they fit around the body of the horse. However, this can force the muscles in the hips to harden, becoming inflexible. When this happens, you’ll start to experience some pain.

This will occur to most riders. But it will be an especially big issue if you are riding a wider horse. The longer you spend in the saddle, the more likely it is. The good news is that there is a simple way to limit the amount of hip pain you experience. You can stretch before you ride. This helps prepare your muscles.

There are plenty of stretches you can do. Some of the best include:

  • Crunches
  • Bridge poses
  • Butterfly stretch
  • Hamstring stretch

If you are still struggling with hip pain, it might be best for you to visit a chiropractor. They will be able to give you a massage to try and remove some of the muscle tension.

Can Horse Riding Make You Bow Legged?

One of the most common concerns is that riding a horse can cause you to become bow-legged. But this is an urban legend. While it does force you to sit with your knees apart, it doesn’t actually change the knee joint. Because of this, people can be riding for years without any sign of bow-leggedness.

Typically, bow legs occur early in a child’s development, within their first year of growth. Sometimes, there will be no known cause. At other times, it will be rickets, which are caused by a lack of Vitamin D.

Can a Horse Break Your Foot by Stepping on It?

Even if you aren’t riding a horse, there is a chance that you could be injured. These are big animals, weighing hundreds of kilograms. If they step on your foot, they can do a lot of damage. If you are lucky, it will just be heavy bruising. While you might struggle to walk for a few days, the swelling and pain will eventually go down. Thankfully, this is most common.

In some cases, a horse can weigh enough to break your foot if they step on it. In this case, you will need to go to the hospital and get a cast placed on the foot.  After this, you’ll need to wait for the bones to heal. It will usually take a few months for your foot to heal itself again.

Dangers of Falling Off a Horse

The riskiest situation that you will face is falling off a horse. This could happen in several ways. Sometimes, you will slip from the saddle. At other times, you can be bucked from the horse. This is the most dangerous scenario, as you will be hit the ground with more force. 

There are many injuries you can face if you fall from a horse. These can include:

  • Broken arm. Often when we fall, we put our hands out in front of us. This is designed to stop the momentum of your fall. However, hitting the ground at force means that a lot of pressure will be applied to the arm. There is a risk that this can result in a broken bone.
  • Hip injury. Depending on how you land, there is a chance that you can damage your hip. Most of the time, this will be a soft tissue injury. While it will hurt, the bruising will soon go down. In some cases, though, an awkward fall can lead to spinal damage. This might leave you permanently disabled. Thankfully, this is a rare outcome.
  • Concussion. This is the most serious riding injury. Falling on your head has the potential to lead to lasting effects, including memory loss.  In very rare circumstances, a blow to the head can cause bleeding in the brain. This can be fatal.

After a minor fall, you might be a little stiff and sore. But you should be able to get back on the horse fairly quickly. If it is a serious fall, though, you should get checked out by a doctor. Depending on how severe the injuries are, it might be a few months before you can start riding again.

Final Thoughts

Riding a horse can be a dangerous hobby. If you aren’t careful, you might end up hurting your body. The best way to prevent this is to pay attention to your body position. Having good posture in the saddle can save you a lot of pain in the future. It’s also important to wear all the safety gear, particularly helmets. This will protect you from a fall. If you take these precautions, you should only experience some minor aches and pains. 

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