pain in calf after lessons - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 35 Old 02-04-2017, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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pain in calf after lessons

Because the footing hasn't been the greatest and I do want to become a better rider so when I do ride Kodak, I won't be a burden, I decided to take a few lessons with my daughter's coach. She has access to an indoor ring so I don't have to worry about footing, and riding the lesson horses means I can make mistakes and they're more forgiving.

I did sort of jump in with both feet though, and am feeling the pain now! I joined my daughter's group, which is fairly advanced (my daughter's been riding for 6 years) so we did a lot of trotting and some cantering. It's fun, don't get me wrong! And I was able to do everything the coach asked, but after last week's lesson, my outside mid-calf on the right leg only was killing me. It's like there's a big knot there. It got a little better with some rest (ie, no riding) for a few days, but was still hurting when I got on for today's lesson and really made it hard for me to do everything (we're posting with one stirrup, no stirrups, over poles, and cantering over poles). So now I'm in severe pain again after the lesson.

Next week I will be in an all-adult, semi-beginner group, which I feel will be more appropriate. Even though I can canter, I feel I need to work my way up to doing all these physically difficult exercises, even though I think I'm in decent shape (but not great, obviously!).

My question is have any of you experienced this? It's like a searing pain in my calf muscle, halfway up on the outside, towards the back of the calf, and only on the right leg. I think I might be twisting my leg in the stirrup. Do you have suggestions for exercises/stretches to work out this annoying kink?
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post #2 of 35 Old 02-04-2017, 07:48 PM
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Set the ball of your foot against a wall or something immovable and stretch your heel down as far as you can while standing straight-kneed as close as you can to the wall.
This will not only stretch out the calf, but your ankle and foot as well. Sounds like you are really clenching that muscle during riding. Probably due to too much concentration on what you're trying to accomplish and not enough on relaxation/stretching.
You can also try to concentrate more on stretching/lengthening your leg while riding, which will naturally relax the calf muscle.
Good luck!
PS a little extra magnesium can't hurt either ;) researchers estimate over 80% of americans are deficient. We need magnesium especially to relax the muscles.

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post #3 of 35 Old 02-04-2017, 08:00 PM
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Stretching exercises may help your immediate problem. But you should address the cause of the problem which is likely tensing these muscles when riding. Try to relax tension in all of your muscles as you do your warmup exercises. When your instructor tells your to do something, don't overdue it. Try to execute the instructions with as little effort as possible. Think: "Less is More." Use as little effort as possible and release any tension as soon as the horse begins to give any sign it is going to comply with the request -- sometimes, even before. You can always redo the cue if necessary.
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post #4 of 35 Old 02-04-2017, 08:33 PM Thread Starter
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Have been doing those stretches... I'm generally pretty flexible. But I do think you're both right - I have to be clenching those muscles to be ending up with such a big knot.

The magnesium is a great idea - thanks disastercupcake! I also suffer from restless leg syndrome and have been told magnesium might help. Time for me to get some! Funny how my horses get a wide array of minerals twice daily, but I can't even be bothered to take a multivitamin.

That's a good time TXhorseman, about not overdoing it. When I took a pilates class, the instructor had to keep reminding me of that. Because I am flexible at the joints (my physiotherapist classified me as "hyperflexible"), I tend to push as far as possible. However, flexibility at the joints doesn't mean my muscles and tendons are happy about it.

I also feel the stirrups are really short. This instructor trains jumpers so likes to have people riding in very short stirrups. But I think I should probably go a hole or two down for now, until my legs get used to that position. When I trail ride, I tend to have fairly low stirrups so this is an awkward position for me and might be aggravating it.
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post #5 of 35 Old 02-04-2017, 10:29 PM
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My dad runs road races and often had leg cramps during the training season. I started him on a supplement called TripleMag. It's 250mg of 3 types of bioavailable magnesium and it worked so well he told everyone in his running group about it. Now they all take it hahaha.


I also have long legs and short stirrups punish my knees sometimes. But if I get a good workout routine off-horse doing squats and lunges to strengthen the tensile strength for the half-seat, I find that the pain from riding in short stirrups is gone. So I think it is mostly a lack of good tensile strength over the long run, at least for me!
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post #6 of 35 Old 02-04-2017, 11:38 PM
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Your peroneal tendon or muscles can get inflamed if you invert your foot when you ride.


I've had some trouble with this on one of my horses. The way her barrel is shaped made me end up standing on the outside of the foot.

I had to teach myself to think about everting my foot, meaning that I weighted the inside edge rather than the outside edge. On this horse that helped me keep my weight balanced evenly rather than on the outside edge.

I ended up with a chronic peroneal tendonitis that flared up when I rode too much, but it has been better since I learned to pay attention to inversion vs eversion.
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post #7 of 35 Old 02-05-2017, 04:13 AM
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I have similar problem with rolling out on my outside ankle. This position is sometimes actually encouraged by dressage trainers.
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post #8 of 35 Old 02-05-2017, 10:22 AM
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True!
My trainer though is explicit in describing that the outside of the foot bears the weight, and shouldn't be tipped down... Perhaps an unclear explanation or misunderstanding could lead to the sever roll in the ankle as in the diagrams. But its not correct riding even for dressage.
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post #9 of 35 Old 02-05-2017, 01:25 PM
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Would you be able to change your stirrup level without your instructor’s approval? They can’t be helping with your seat, leg position and cramp. If they’re too short, you’ll find it difficult to use your lower leg correctly if you’re not used to it. I know we do things different in my country, but riding schools would probably not suggest you ride so short unless you’re jumping at a more competitive level.
They’d probably have you ride at “general purpose” stirrup length – stirrup bar should hang just on or slightly above the ankle bone when you have your feet out of the stirrups. They had my class doing all of the disciplines at the same stirrup level.
@ Gottatrot thanks for explaining, I’ve also had the problem of rolling ankles and cramps in my right leg for years. I was taught to have my toes in the stirrups with equal pressure on both sides of the foot, legs loosely to the barrel of the horse so that all aids could be given with slight pressure and no excessive movement; but by my teens, my ankles had started to roll out and it was especially noticeable on my right ankle.

Any corrections by a new instructor changed my entire posture in the saddle and made me limp for a week. By my late teens/early twenties I was riding for around five to six hours a day on different barrelled horses but my legs always wrapped around and by night I’d have extremely painful cramps.
I’m now in my 40s and it’s taken years of work on my own to get it (mostly) right; I still have problems when I get tired or I forget, but the cramps have eased. It was starting to affect the strength and flexibility of my right leg and ankle as well as the way I stand, so I knew I had to do something.
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post #10 of 35 Old 02-05-2017, 02:06 PM
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I roll my ankle outwards when I force my toes in. If I don't roll it, my toes stick out. Not a pretty sight. Anyhow, after four years of pain and tension, I gave up on my toes (with my instructors agreement). I'm over 40, I just don't think my body can be moulded that way at my age.
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