When we think of horseback rider injuries, we typically think of a fall or some other traumatic event. What we often don’t think about is the concussive damage that horseback riding can produce to the rider’s spine.
While you’ll see hundreds of products, from helmets to safety stirrups to air vests, that were designed to help prevent or minimize the damage from a fall, you won’t see many products focusing on the rider’s health while still in the saddle (a place where most riders like to stay). ThinLine products, however, are focusing on both the rider and the horse.
What Makes Our Backs Hurt?
Every fitness venue has a component of long-term wear someplace in the body. For example, running is typically hard on the tendons and knees. For riders, it is the compression of the spine over time. In order to minimize these injuries, we must first look at what causes them.
Research suggests that how you ride and your level of fitness can contribute to lower back pain injuries in horseback riders. For instance, ridings in shorter stirrups, as well as a lack of core strength, are associated with lower back pain. Horseback riding is an excellent way to stay fit- for mind, body, and soul – but like any sport, too much too fast can cause injuries.
The challenge lies in discovering how to stabilize a rider enough to allow him/her to really work on their strength and stretch issues while in the saddle. This is part of why ThinLine developed the Seat Saver, which greatly reduces rider’s movement in the saddle. When you reduce movement, you will increase a rider’s ability to exercise and work the correct muscles needed for maintaining a proper riding position, which in turn can reduce the effects on the lower back. Now add to this the shock absorption that the Seat Saver provides, and you can also minimize the concussive effects to the rider’s spine. While riders can feel and receive benefits from a ThinLine saddle pad, where the horse is the focus of the comfort, the Seat Saver delivers more protection directly to the rider’s spine.
Shock absorption equates to long-term safety benefits for riders.
People are living and staying fit longer, meaning they are riding longer, too. “The Seat Saver will, if used as a safety product for the spine, extend and improve rider back health, keeping them in the saddle for years to come,” said Dr. James Warson, author of The Riders Pain-Free Back, Trafalgar Square Publishing.
Improper Saddle Fit Can Cause Back Pain
Many times, an ill-fitting saddle can also be the culprit for horse and rider back pain. A recent study found ill-fitting saddles are not only associated with back muscle asymmetry, a stilted gait and back pain in the horse, but they are also associated with back pain in the rider.
The results of the study, which was conducted by Dr. Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust, strongly suggest that saddle fit should be checked regularly and that riders and trainers should be encouraged to learn how to identify ill-fitting saddles. In addition, the study, highlights the importance of being able to recognize lameness, saddle slip and rider crookedness.
In the study of 205 riders, ill-fitting saddles were identified in 43% of the horses. Saddle slip was observed in 14.6% of horses, which was significantly associated with hind limb lameness or gait abnormalities. However, only two riders had linked saddle slip and lameness despite strong associations between a history of lameness, history of ‘back problems’ and history of saddle slip. Additionally, 38% of riders in the study had back pain that was associated with ill-fitting saddles. The study showed that rider back pain was also associated with rider crookedness.
“Ideally saddle fit should be checked more often than once a year to reduce the instances of ill-fitting saddles,” said Line Greve, a researcher involved with the study. “Yet this isn’t the whole solution because worryingly, 30% of horses that had their saddles checked at least once yearly still had an ill-fitting saddle. What is unknown is whether these saddles had ever fit correctly or whether a properly qualified saddle fitter was responsible for the fitting. It can only be of benefit for riders, trainers and other associated professionals to become more educated about the complexity of the links between lameness, saddle slip, ill-fitting saddles and rider crookedness.”
Saddle fit also is critical in alleviating back pain when riding. “You don’t want to use a saddle made for a Thoroughbred on a Quarter Horse,” said James Warson, M.D., a horseman and now-retired physician who spent 20 years as a neurosurgeon and medical director at a Fort Collins, Colorado, clinic.
To help make you and your horse comfortable, Warson recommends buying a custom saddle made to fit you and the horse. However, this can be expensive and even out of reach especially for riders who own multiple horses. As an alternative, he recommended getting a saddle fitter to fit the pad to the horse with shims, preferable ThinLine. ThinLine pads such as the Basic Pad can also reduce slippage, which has been proven to cause back problems in horses and riders.
Thicker Isn’t Always Better
People just assumed the thickness would make their horses comfortable and reduce concussion. But that wasn’t the case. Those pads allowed the saddle to shift unnecessarily.
ThinLine’s saddle pads are made with shock-absorbing, breathable foam, which not only enhances riding, but also improves saddle fit. Properties of the foam create harmony between rider and horse. ThinLine is the only product endorsed by Spinal Surgeons.
ThinLine products have a money back guarantee that you and your horse will see improved performance and communication. As with all ThinLine tack, our mission is to improve your riding pleasure, skill and performance.