Soothing and avoiding aches and pains after a ride

October 24, 2019

Soothing and avoiding aches and pains after a ride


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 

 A massage session

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

Taking Pain Medication

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

Cold Compress

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:


  • Supine twist

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. 

  1. Gently recline your back onto the yoga mat.
  2. Inhale and engage your core, pull your navel to your spine and slowly exhale while keeping your abdominal muscles in. 
  3. As you exhale, pull your right knee up and across the left side of your body. 
  4. Inhale deeply and extend your right arm at shoulder height, out to your side. With your palm facing up, use your free arm to pull and deepen the stretch.
  5. Draw your gaze to the open arm to further stretch out your lower back.


  • Sphinx Pose

    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.

    1. Lie flat on your abdomen with your legs parallel to the floor.
    2. Now set your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms on the floor parallel to each other.
    3. Actively reach for the ceiling by pushing your body upwards, lengthening to your toes.
    4. Curve your back ever so slightly to deepen the stretch.
    5. Slowly lower yourself on to the mat and repeat the process.


    • Thread the needle pose

    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.

    1. Start in a neutral tabletop pose with your hands and knees parallel to each other on your mat.
    2. Inhale and reach your right arm out and up to prepare, then exhale to reach your right arm under your left arm.
    3. Lower your right shoulder and ear to the ground.
    4. Keep equal weight in your knees, feet straight out behind you.
    5. Hold this position for five to ten breaths and release back to tabletop pose, then repeat on the other side.


    • Cat and cow pose

    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. 

    1. Begin this pose in a tabletop position. 
    2. Move into Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat and gaze at the ceiling.
    3.  Allow your shoulder blades to touch slightly and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
    4. Next, move into Cat Pose: Slowly draw in your stomach and curve your spine outwards as you exhale slowly. 
    5. Release the top of your head toward the floor, but don't let your chin touch your chest.
    6. Repeat the process.


    • Downward phasing dog pose

    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). 

    1. Begin in tabletop position — with your hands and knees on the yoga mat. 
    2. Stretch your elbows out and relax your upper back.
    3. Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
    4. Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sit bones toward the wall behind you. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an "A." Imagine your hips and thighs being pulled back from the top of your legs. Do not walk your feet closer to your hands — keep the extension of your whole body.
    5. Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Now press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands.
    6. Firm the outer muscles of your arms and press your index fingers into the floor. Lift from the inner muscles of your arms to the top of both shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and toward your tailbone. Broaden across your collarbones.
    7. Rotate your arms externally, so your elbow creases face your thumbs.
    8. Draw your chest toward your thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing your spine.
    9. Engage your quadriceps. Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your sit bones high. Sink your heels toward the floor.
    10. Align your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head, but do not let it dangle — gaze between your legs or toward your navel.


    7. Check your gear

    Check your horse riding 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.


    • Saddle

    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.



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