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Pain in the Knee

Joint pain doesn’t have to put your riding dreams to pasture.
By Megan Brincks

Maybe it started with a tiny twinge in your right knee—no big deal. It went away after a few laps around the arena. But it came back during your next ride. A few weeks later, it’s become a sharper pain that you couldn’t ignore. In what felt like no time at all, your hips and knees were stiff and achy, both in and out of the saddle. Was it time to hang up your spurs? Is this just the reality of what horseback riding feels like, especially as you get older?

Riders of all ages can suffer from joint pain, particularly in the knees, but a few simple coping strategies can keep you comfortable in the saddle and allow you continue enjoying the sport you love with your Paint Horse.

Rule Out the Obvious

If you’re suffering from chronic knee pain, make an appointment with a qualified physician, orthopedic specialist, chiropractor or physical therapist to diagnosis the problem. Joint pain from arthritis, an injury or misalignment should be clearly understood and taken into account before trying a new treatment. Your doctor can help you decide the best course of action or refer you to a specialist.

Now, let’s talk knees.

Bridget Braden, dressage trainer and developer of Biorider Fitness, had been training horses professionally for about five years before she took a dive into personal training. Tired of working with fitness trainers who didn’t understand the mechanics of horseback riding, Bridget began researching how the body works, particularly how it relates to the physical communication between horse and rider; this research culminated in her becoming a certified physical trainer and launching Biorider Fitness, based in Vista, California.

“In the beginning, I was just trying to show why you need to do some cross training and conditioning,” Bridget said. “Now, people are so much more aware that they have to be fit. It’s mostly about hitting all the areas as an endurance-training athlete.”

For William Parravano, four consecutive knee dislocations proved to be a pretty obvious diagnosis, but the aftereffects, including long-term pain and giving up his sport of judo, led him to research solutions to knee pain. He started attending seminars including ones by the Society of Ortho-Bionomy International, and for the past 18 years, he has practiced body work with a focus on knee pain. With the coined title “The Knee Pain Guru,” William helps clients create comfort in their joints.

Diagnosing the Cause

After ruling out injury or arthritis, horseback riders’ knee pain can often be boiled down to the way we use our muscles and joints when riding.

“The inner thigh and calf muscles are often the problem, because we work so much against the horse. When we first learn to sit on a horse, we’re told to hold on with our legs. No other sport really shortens the inner thigh the way that riding does,” Bridget explained. “When your inner thigh is shortened, it causes rotational issues in the leg and in the femur. Some people will feel a pull in their hips. Some people will feel it in their knees.”

William, who works with clients from many sports and physical backgrounds, says the pain itself is just a symptom of these imbalances.

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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