Dressage riding is a highly physical sport for both you and your horse. It’s extremely fun and thrilling in the moment, but sometimes riding can leave you sore — because of either pushing yourself too hard or falling off your horse. You’re bound to develop aches and pains along the way. But it shouldn’t be something that’s too much for you to handle. A little stretch here and a little Bengay there should do the trick. You’ll be back on your horse in no time!
1. Stretch before and after every ride
If there’s one takeaway you should have from this article, it’s to warm up and cool down. Your muscles aren’t static like your bones. They need to be prepped and primed for strenuous activity. Failing to do so could result in accidents or injuries. Always remember to prepare yourself before a ride because if your body isn’t in the right condition, your mind won’t be in the right head space.
Stretching your muscles before and after every ride is a wonderful way to keep your muscles at a comfortable tension. For the best results, give yourself at least half an hour to stretch before you even mount up. Stretching will prepare your muscles for the work they must endure during your ride.
The same principle applies for when you dismount. If you’ve been riding for an unusually long time, your muscles develop tension and your blood starts to lactate — which will eventually turn into soreness the next day. Do your cool down exercises for a smoother dismounting recovery. And be sure to stretch out the major muscle groups in your back, arms, legs and neck. Please note that you shouldn’t push yourself beyond what you can handle, because over stretching may result in injury.
2. Get a massage
We’d suggest that you consult with your local healthcare provider or physical therapist for this method of pain relief. Getting a massage is a great and highly relaxing way to relieve the pain in your body and assist in faster muscle recovery. If possible, schedule your massage therapy session after a long week of training or after a big event.
However, if the pain you experience doesn’t go away after getting a massage, it’s time to seek professional help. You may have developed an injury you don’t know about while training for an event.
3. Take pain relievers
Before you start buying over-the-counter pain medication, consult with your doctor first. You need to find out if you have any underlying drug allergies or if it will counteract with your other medication. But once you get the go signal, then you should be good. Sometimes, we need the extra help with soothing our aching muscles. Especially if you have a big competition coming up and you need the extra hours of training. But if oral medication isn’t something that sits well with you, you can always purchase topical pain relief medication such as arnica gel or Bengay.
4. Ice your muscles
All athletes, dancers, gymnasts, skaters, and dressage riders know that if you want your legs to work properly the next day, you need to ice your muscles. Applying ice to the ‘working’ groups reduces swelling and aids in faster recovery. But remember never to place ice directly on your skin, always wrap it in a towel or use a gel pack so you don’t damage the epidermis. Keeping the ice on the affected area for twenty minutes at a time will significantly reduce the risk of inflammation and swelling. Repeat the icing process every two hours if necessary.
5. Stretches to ease lower back pain
Your lower back takes most of the abuse while you're on a ride. It's essential to do these stretches before and after a ride to prevent injury and keep your lower lumbar supple:
The supine or reclining twist gives the rider a chance to feel the intensity of wringing out the body's tension from its core. The supine twist can enhance breathing, alleviate back and neck strain, and soothe frazzled nerves. Its laid position lets the rider linger in the posture's curves and spirals, inviting the twist to penetrate deep into the lower lumbar and spinal curvature.
The Sphinx Pose is a gentle back-bend suitable for most riders. The pose provides minimal discomfort, and it lengthens the abdominal muscles and strengthens the spine. Also, it firms the buttocks, which is very much needed to improve the rider's seat. The sphinx pose also stretches and opens the chest, lungs, and shoulders. It invigorates the body, soothes the nervous system, and is also therapeutic for fatigue.
The thread the needle pose stretches and opens the upper back, shoulders, neck, and arms. It releases tension that is commonly held in the upper back and between the shoulder blades. This pose also provides a mild twist to the spine, which further reduces pressure.
The cat and cow pose improves a rider's posture and overall balance. It strengthens and stretches the spine and neck, giving the rider more flexibility. Aside from that, it stretches your hips and opens your pelvic muscles.
As both a stretching and strengthening pose, the downward dog provides an incredible balance for the back and abdomen. It also targets your upper back and lower body at the same time. So you'll feel the stretch in your hands, arms, shoulders, back, calves, hamstrings, and even the arches of your feet (if you can lower your heels enough).
7. Check your gear
Sometimes, muscle aches and body pains can be the result of poorly fitted gear. Invest in high quality rider gear to ensure a smooth and comfortable ride.
Typically, a poorly fitted saddle will move around and be unstable to ride on. Imagine what it’s like riding a car with a loose seat and wheels? Wouldn’t it be more difficult to drive? The same concept applies to your saddle.
A saddle that’s too wide will tip the rider forward while a saddle that’s too narrow will tip the rider's center of gravity forward. Both of which will cause unnecessary strain and tension to either the rider's back or abdomen. You need to find a saddle with just the right width to ensure that you stay centered.
You know what they say: no pain, no gain. Muscles soreness is to be expected from such a high intensity sport. To top it all off, even if you’re in pain, you need to look the part. Dressage riding is like the ballet of the equestrian world, you need to work your way through the pain to give the audience and the judges an unforgettable performance.