Lower back pain after riding in english saddles?
I was just wondering if anyone has experienced lower back pain after riding in english saddles, but fine in western.
My store - I always rode English and even after months off I'd get back in a dressage saddle and feel totally comfortable. Then I had a bad fall and cracked my sacrum (part of spine near pelvis) and stopped riding for ages. I bought a stock saddle for security but whenever I rode in it I got a backache about 20 minutes after getting off (even when sitting in saddles in stores). I sold the saddle and started riding my friends horse in a western and did not have a problem.
Then I bought a different horse who is currently too narrow for a western so I pulled out my dressage saddle, and after I ride I get bad lower back pain. Did it again today - same result. I think it's the curved seat (rather than the flatter middle bit of the western) and the tilt to the pelvis. I still ride "dressage" in western saddles, but for some reason I am fine.
I am feeling a bit sad - worried I will never be able to ride dressage properly again. And that I'll never get a saddle to fit my mare.
Love to hear your experiences!
I hate to say the word... But this is why western dressage might end up being a good thing! I know a few people who have similar issues, or are simply more secure in a western saddle, but who still do dressage. They compete in WD at normal dressage shows.
You might want to go try saddles.. I am 5'3 and fit, but still ride in a 17.5" saddle because my back prefers it - because it is then more flat area than curved.
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Try adding a thinline pad under your dressage saddle. It will help mask the concussion on your lower back.
Part of the problem may be that you do not feel secure in the saddle and as such are tensing up. You took a bad fall while riding in it, so you may be subconsciously tensing up when riding in it. Not ruling out any issues with the saddle itself, but it's worth considering that the issues could have started within!
Western has a somewhat different approach to following the motion of the horse's back than dressage does. The non-dressage person in me, who watches videos sometimes and reads books about dressage, thinks dressage rewards making the difficult look easy. The dressage position expect you to move with the horse by flexing in your lower back while keeping your feet positioned for lots of subtle cueing.
Traditional western riding is more like this:
Your feet are more forward - perhaps not as much as this guy's was, but some western saddles will force a chair seat - and you use the hinge of your waist to go with the motion of the horse's back. My personal experience is that a bit of a chair seat makes it easier for someone with a stiff back to move with the horse.
My only fall from a horse was shortly after I started, in Jan 2009. The injury to my lower back was all soft tissue, but I spent over 4 years riding like someone with a 2x4 stuck in his jeans. My lower back is finally getting a little looser, but it still doesn't have the flexibility and strength to make the dressage position work. However, if I adopt a position like the guy above, I can move in synch with the horse. It is not subtle, but it works for me & my horse.
This is a long way of saying that your western saddle may make it easier to move with the horse either because of the position it puts you in, or possibly because psychologically you are willing to relax more in a western saddle.
BTW - my experience trying to ride in a position like the above cowboy's is that it is surprisingly stable and easy in terms of distributing weight and following the horse, but that it sucks for giving cues with your heel or even your calf. Also, I didn't realize I was tending to lock my lower back. It was a subconscious decision, made to prevent pain and swelling. Like many subconscious decisions, it didn't work out the way my subconscious expected it to...
Good luck to you! Keep riding & keep positive!
Thank you for all your replies!
I don't think it's the concussion, I'm fine riding bareback and such too. Thinking about it more, I think it's just the english tips your pelvis a bit (curve of saddle seems to require you to really bring your pelvis under), where as in my western I can just sit flat. If it was mental I think I would have been fine in my old australian stock saddle, as they are rather secure.
I think I'm going to give up on dressage for now and try to find a western to fit my TB.
My thighs ache more in English than Western, but I think that's because of the stirrup length.
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