OK, I totally get it now. Many of my equestrian clients have tightness in their legs, backs and issues with their knees. After a 2-hour pony trek while on our recent vacation, I felt first-hand what my equestrian clients must feel after a long ride!
Even though I love horses and also do Equine Hanna Somatics, I don’t ride often. So, it was a great surprise as I dismounted to find that my knees were sore, really sore. My sister, who used to take riding lessons when she was younger, temporarily lost control of her legs as she dismounted and actually fell onto her knees! All four of us felt discomfort in our knees in varying degrees. This post-riding experience really got my attention and helped me realize, perhaps, what my equestrian clients might need help with.
What really surprised me though was the way my knees were hurting. They were sore in a complete circle around the top of them. I thought that was odd, as I’ve never experienced that with mountain biking, even after several hour rides. Although when you think about it, it makes sense, as riding a horse is completely different.
To sit on a horse, first you must drape your legs around that wide back of the horse, which can really stretch your adductors (the muscles that pull your legs together) while at the same time tightening your abductors (the muscles that pull your legs apart from one another). Then, you hold your feet in the stirrups, heels down, and hug the side-belly of the horse with your lower legs. Imagine the pressure that puts on your hips and knees from all of that pulling, stretching and contracting! If you ride several times a week for many years, all that tension builds up.
Luckily for me, the discomfort was only temporary. Just walking back to the office to get a few of my things, helped a bit. And, then when I got into the car, I quickly got to business, releasing all those tight muscles and holding patterns I know so well after having worked with so many equestrians.
Interestingly, I felt no knee pain during the ride. And, that’s a good thing, it would have been terrible to be distracted by pain and miss all that was happening around me and all the amazing views of the forest, Loch, etc. Part of our trek was an uphill climb which offered some of the most spectacular views of the highlands and the water below. It was a great somatic learning experience for me and it was one of the highlights of my entire trip.