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Back Exercises

By: Galadriel Billington

10:32AM Apr 8, 2004

Strengthening and Evening Out the [Rider's] Back Muscles

I developed bursitus in both my hips. After a lot of physical therapy, it is in remission (celebration time). My physical therapy involved a lot of back strengthening exercises, for two purposes:
  1. Strengthening my back would take strain off the hips, and relieve the over-stress that had influenced the bursitus.
  2. I was very unevenly muscled across the back, due to being right handed, doing several things only with my right hand/right side, and so on. I did these exercises in order to even out my back muscles by working them.

We use our backs so much in riding; we brace, bend, flex, absorb, "go with the flow"... Having a strong back can help your riding a great deal, as being strong and being even can help you ride with better balance and greater control. If you are unevenly muscled across your back, you could be inadvertantly giving stronger signals from that side--most horses learn to compensate, but it's still nice to be able to give just the signal that we intend to give.

I've listed several of the exercises here so that other riders may also benefit:

  1. Lie on stomach (I grab one of the horse blankets to put on the floor first), bend one knee so your lower leg is standing vertical (90 degrees to the ground). Rotate leg left & right, from the hip. In doing this, you will move your ankle toward the ground on the left side, and toward the ground on the right side, without changing the bend in your knee. This loosens up the hips something incredible. I do this one for 10 repetitions per leg.
  2. Lie on your stomach (the pony's blanket gets a lot of use), and alternately lift and hold your diagonal limbs (left arm/right leg, right arm/left leg) a few inches off the floor. 10 repetitions. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but the strength you need will surprise you.
  3. Lie on your back, and flatten your back against the floor--may be difficult for someone with much of a bend in your back. Hold with your tummy muscles (remember to breathe). Lift your leg a few inches off the ground, then raise it to a few feet off the ground, lower to a few inches, raise to a few feet. 10 repetitions on each side. This one I can feel through my back and hips. If it makes you really sore, until it gets more comfortable, lower your foot all the way down to the ground between repetitions--makes it much easier.

You can do as many sets of these exercises as are comfortable. As you proceed, you will get stronger; you will be able to do more.

Caveat: I'm not a doctor or anything, just sharing some back strengthening exercises I've been taught. The PT said they ought to be safe for anyone to use in moderation. She did warn that I ought to do no more than 10 repetitions 3 times daily at first; more would strain or tear, not strengthen, muscle.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.