How has riding changed your body? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 02:05 PM Thread Starter
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How has riding changed your body?

I know a LOT has changed for me since I started riding again, just over five years ago, after my 15 year hiatus.

Some positives:
About three years in, I actually developed CORE STRENGTH for the first time in my entire life, and finally found out what the fuss was all about!
Way better posture
More symmetry in my strength and movements
Much greater flexibility in areas where I have always been stiff
Better balance
Better awareness and reaction time doing other tasks, like driving

Some negatives:
My left knee is now crunchy. Not painful, but definitely crunches when I come up from a squat. This started last summer after I tweaked my knee real good while, apparently, trying to fix my leg position ALL AT ONCE during a ride. Oops. Took a couple weeks off riding after that, and wore a knee brace for a bit, and it recovered well but... crunch.
Occasional back pain and spasms if I really overdo the riding and then follow it up with long periods of sitting, like driving or flying on long trips (not that that's a thing these days, yikes).
Pretty constant muscle pains as my body recovers from whatever new torture I've devised for it in recent rides. Though it's that GOOD post-workout kind of pain. But still pain.

And on the NEUTRAL front, man... Has anyone else really BEEFED OUT from riding?? I've gained about 20 pounds in the last few years but very little of that is pure squish. I've gotten thick in my legs and butt, but man, if I flex, you could bounce quarters off of there. Do wish some of my favourite clothes still fit though!! How do all those stick-thin pro riders not look totally jacked??

How about you?
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post #2 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 02:25 PM
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I haven't been riding long enough to get any long-term wear and tear. I do find that even now I'm still often sore in my inner thighs after a particularly demanding ride on Pony. And that's WITH the saddle -- without the saddle I find myself walking bow-legged for a couple of days.

Definitely my core is stronger. I LOVE that. And yes I have also noticed that my posture is better. And I finally have a butt, almost.

As a neutral -- I have muscles in weird places. You really do need some specific muscles to ride, and those muscles don't seem to do a lot of other stuff. Also my right forearm is disproportionate to the left, I think from picking hooves with only one hand. It's only going to get worse as I transition into doing hoof care. I'm trying to use both hands when I trim and rasp, but it's hard.
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post #3 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 02:30 PM
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Steadyon, Have you looked at the Tucker Ergo stirrups that are sold on I have read a lot about them as the reviews tell that the angle of the stirrup reduces ankle and knee strain a lot. I ordered a pair, and they have not come in yet as it has been a few days.
I cannot wait to try them and see if they make as big of a difference as the customers say they do.
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post #4 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 02:55 PM
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Oh, and it's made my hiking better. I do a lot of hiking on slopes that have a lot of scree, and since I've been riding I find I slip a LOT less, and when I do slip I recover within a few inches. I think it's a combination of better balance and improved core strength. Definitely I feel my core "kicking in" when I slip. It's pretty cool to feel that. I guess I had really neglected my core before this.
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post #5 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 03:13 PM
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I'm the opposite. I'd been riding for years, sometimes doing twelve hours in the saddle over weekends and one or two hours a day during the week. Over the past five years I'd to cut down to the occasional ride, gradually reducing until I had to give-up completely. I haven't ridden for a year or so and I really feel the difference.

Riding gave me great core strength, balance, endurance, flexibility and posture, although yoga and fitness required for my job also helped. However, before i stopped riding my knees were crunching and aching, I'd sharp and aching pains in my right hip and my Achilles tendons were sore, which I blame on years of being told to keep my heels down.

It also helped to strengthen muscles in my shoulder and back which were damaged taking part in another sport and I've notice that that injury is starting to affect my posture.

I was planning to return to riding in the next few weeks and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to struggle and bounce around like a beginner.
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post #6 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 04:21 PM
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If your knee is not painful, I wonder if it is a crunch you are hearing or more of a dry, crackling sound?

My dh went to an ortho doc in his late 40s and told him his knees were making a grating sound. The doc listened and said if the cartilage is worn down like bone on bone it is very painful and you know because the pain limits you going down stairs and such.
The dry sound dh was hearing was because the ligaments get a bit drier with age and make crackling and popping sounds as they move and stretch.

Now that I am in my 40s, mine are making that grating sound too, but they feel great and I don't worry about it.

If I gallop a lot my trapezius muscles get very strong. But also all the barn chores give me upper body strength I would never have without horses.
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post #7 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post

If I gallop a lot my trapezius muscles get very strong. But also all the barn chores give me upper body strength I would never have without horses.
Yes! Last year I was proud of myself because I stacked 50-pound hay bales three bales high. It was hard, but I did it. This year, I stacked three-string alfalfa bales (supposedly 100 pounds but realistically I think more like 80) three bales high, and it was EASY! Barn chores are the best for building muscle.

The hard part for me has been --honestly just like the hard part for Pony being ridden-- using my body correctly. It's been hard to train myself to use all of my muscles correctly, and not just try to use my back when lifting.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #8 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 05:56 PM
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I am not sure if its my brain or muscle memory but I've started to "lead" my husband by his hand like I would lead a horse by it's lead line. As you can imagine, he does not appreciate it but I didn't even notice I was doing it.

I also started to move/herd people with my body language and it works amazingly well - people respond rapidly to pressure. Likewise, I didn't notice I was doing it until my husband pointed it out and (rightfully) said I was being rude.

And my tongue always gets itself in position to cluck at people who aren't moving fast enough for my liking. I almost always catch myself but the few times I did cluck at strangers it worked much better than a polite "Excuse me". People respond faster to horse cues than human cues.
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post #9 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 06:42 PM
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I don't think it has changed my body directly because I do not ride often enough, but it has definitely made me aware of the areas I am lacking in flexibility or strength, and I have added to my off-horse workout routine to accommodate that.

I don't cluck at people to make them move faster, but I did start doing it with my dog, who responded pretty well to it. I also find myself saying "woah" and "halt" to my kids when I want them to stop moving.
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post #10 of 26 Old 10-07-2020, 06:45 PM
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Excellent core muscles. Arms are strong. Super flexible (better than co-workers 30 years my junior).
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