26 October, 2011
Horseback Riding & Sore Hip Flexors
Horseback riders must work constantly to keep their balance as they ride. To maintain stability on a moving mount, riders must have excellent core strength. If they don't, they often compensate by gripping with their inner thighs. This excessive tightness leaves them with sore hip flexors, fatigued thighs and strained lower backs.
Riders can avoid developing sore hip flexors by strengthening their core muscles, which include the abdominals, obliques, lower-back muscles, hips and glutes. A well-trained core allows a rider to balance on her mount without gripping her horse with her thighs. Traditional core exercises include crunches, plank positions, oblique twists holding a medicine ball, hip lifts and bridge poses. Performing crunches over a fitness ball adds an extra challenge and increases the intensity of the exercise. Riders should train their cores regularly to avoid straining their hips.
Riders can work their cores and elongate tight hip muscles by taking a Pilates class. Pilates exercises focus mostly on the core and target all the muscle groups that promote stability and stamina. Unlike traditional crunches and situps, which primarily work the outer abdominal muscles, Pilates exercises work the core from deep inside. This provides a complete strengthening workout that can help horseback riders develop the abs they need to avoid gripping with their thighs and hips.
Riders who develop sore hip flexors can relieve their pain and prepare themselves for their next riding session by thoroughly stretching the area. A basic runner's stretch is designed to loosen the hip flexors. A rider should kneel on one knee and then slide his other foot forward gently until he feels a stretch in his hip. To intensify the stretch, he can press his hips forward slightly. A stretch should never be painful; the rider should deepen the stretch to the point of sensation, not pain.
Many poses in yoga strengthen and lengthen the hip flexors, thighs and lower back. All these exercises are beneficial for horseback riders who need to relieve soreness in their hips. The poses in the warrior series stretch this area, along with other poses that involve opening the legs and hips to the sides, such as trikonasana, or triangle pose. Riders who do yoga will not only stretch their hip flexors, but they will also develop their core muscles. If their pain persists, they may have a pulled or torn muscle and should see a doctor.
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