Saddle to Help With Human Back Pain?

Long time no post!

I am just now getting back into riding after a year long battle with my back (though I’ve been in pain for 10 years). I have two torn discs in my L4 and L5, and I’ve got an old fracture between my shoulder blades. 3 weeks ago, I finished the rhizotomies on both my left and right side of my L4 and L5, because there is nothing else they can really do for the pain besides a muscle relaxer and NSAIDs. I finally rode on Saturday, and it was my first real ride on my boy since last year, including my first flying lead change on him :sparkling_heart:. My abs and my thighs sure are sore but it was worth it!

Foreigner has been in training this whole time, and is now showing PSG with my trainer. He is on track for Grand Prix next year. I am going to start taking weekly lessons on him, increasing the amount over time so that I will be able to show him myself in 2023. I enjoy watching him learn and develop, and I’m not in a huge hurry. It’s amazing to see him continue to grow.

My trainer and I discussed as I start taking over the rides more often, we might consider finding me a new saddle that fits him and I better. Right now I ride in her Custom Wolfgang; and while it is comfortable, the thighblocks don’t hit me right and it doesn’t help much. I have a Black Country at home but not only does it need to be reflocked (the last time I did it was in 2019), it really doesn’t do me any favors either. I do like to trail ride my mountain horse in it though.

I am going to add in yoga and do ab work and cardio so I can get stronger, now that I am not stuck on the couch in pain. But, I want to stack the deck in my favor. Any of you that have back problems, do you have a suggestion?

I don’t have a budget. I can save as long as necessary because I can keep riding in my trainer’s saddle until I get my own, and my back is worth it, quite honestly. I do want wool flocked because I need it to be able to be reflocked and adjusted. I do like the Customs, but I’m willing to look at other brands.

I appreciate it!

Nothing about saddles, but how wonderful that you have been able to ride again!

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When a disc slipped completely out and my spine rotated and collapsed i thought i’d never ride again. After seeing a couple of surgeons …both of which said there was nothing they could do to improve me, i sought help in yoga. After about a year i was back aboard, and now, two years later i FEEL fit as a fiddle. …able to leap tall buildings in a single-bound sort of thing. Yoga and Tai Chi has changed my life. I can ride bareback…or in any saddle. I.can.ride.!!!

Here is hoping you continuing and eventual complete recovery~!

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It’s all a matter of what design allows you to sit “stacked” in alignment. A lot depends on your pelvic conformation, and the natural curve of your back. A good independent saddle fitter should be able to help you with that. Where are you? Someone might know one. If you’re in the NC area I know a great County rep who, while affiliated with County, is also VERY body-aware and wouldn’t hesitate to tell you if a County didn’t fit you or your horse. She knows full well that selling the wrong saddle just because it’s her brand doesn’t do her reputation any service.

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Thank you all so much!

I’m so glad to hear yoga and Tai chi helped and that you can ride, eightpondfarm. It is awful not feeling like you’ll be able to ride again. I know yoga helped me in the past so I’m really looking forward to starting classes soon.

That does make sense about finding something that fits me right and in the right position. I am in Lexington, KY, and that would be great to find an independent saddle fitter.

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Agree with those who have said it’s all about the saddle putting you in alignment. I had a huge spinal fusion in high school and have been stable/relatively pain-free since. I have ridden almost entirely other people’s horses in other people’s saddles, and while I have had favorites, I can comfortably ride in pretty much anything that doesn’t have blocks interfering with my long legs.

With my particular set of biomechanical differences, I don’t mind/somewhat prefer an uphill/pommel-high balance, but will end up with discomfort if I have to ride in a saddle with a downhill/cantle-high balance for an extended period. YMMV. The one thing I cannot tolerate for any length of time is a saddle with poor lateral balance that keeps sliding in one direction or the other.

TL;DR - anything that correctly fits you and the horse should be fine. Happy shopping!

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My friend suggested looking up Griffin Equestrian and talking to Stephanie. I don’t know if she’s a brand rep or independent, but if my friend recommends her, it doesn’t matter. Good luck!

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The most important thing for avoiding back pain in the saddle is having the balance right, and that is a hallmark of a well-fitted saddle anyway.
Any custom saddle maker can put the blocks where you need them to be if you are ordering new. If buying used you might want to consider velcro blocks so you can customize yourself.
Another thing to try is a basic Thinline pad, formerly called UltraThinLine, no shim pockets just a sheet of rubber! Many of my clients with back pain swear by them.
Good luck!

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You can also try a gel pad (Acavello?) to help with shock absorption. It does take up some room so consider that when buying a saddle. You can apply for a medical allowance to compete with one as well. That process took me about a year.

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I came to say this but someone already has! I’ve also done L5/S1 (mine blew centrally towards cord and affected my legs whenever I slacked in my posture) and the thinlines do what they say they do - they eliminate the concussion that will otherwise travel up into your spine.

If you have a healthy back you won’t ‘feel’ anything from the thinline. I’ve lent my pad to riders without back injuries and they’re not convinced after they try it because they don’t ‘feel’ anything differently when they ride with it. When I did my disc I rode both with and without it and felt pain when I rode without it but felt no pain when I rode with it, it’s the only thing that permitted me to keep riding.

Without it, my supporting muscles would lock themselves tight to try stabilise me against the impact they felt and that just made things worse, it made me stiffen up (which increased concussion even more) and then ultimately made me try hold myself behind/infront of the movement to try avoid the motion.

Now that my spine has “healed” I also can’t feel anything differently when I ride with it but I know it’s still doing its job in eliminating that concussion. It does help my body from tensing the muscles that shouldn’t.

Another random thing I learned from my injury is that looking down while riding places extra pressure on your spine! Moving my head a few degrees downwards amplified the pain in my back. So turns out there is a legit reason to not look down while riding. :slight_smile:

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Thank you all so much! I haven’t been on for a bit but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the suggestions.

Foreigner does go in a thin line right now, actually! I will look in to a gel pad, that sounds fantastic. Something to help with the concussion sounds like it will really help. I’m going to hold off a bit longer on a saddle and keep saving, and I do plan on getting new, so I can make sure it is exactly what I need. It would be good to be able to place the blocks where they need to be.

I wasn’t able to start regular lessons yet, but last week I rode him again and his movement is getting so big. Afterwards my whole body was sore (in a good way, I’m so out of shape :joy::joy:). Thankfully my back wasn’t. The problem is, I have never tried to sit his trot. I don’t know how I will. It won’t be a problem for a while, but when I get to that point I dread it.

I know I will have to keep getting the rhizotomies, and I’m sure the next one will be some time this year. It’s worth it to ride him (and function semi-normally).

Now Fore is in Florida until spring, his first season away from me. I’m excited and jealous. I have 0 expendable income :joy: but I can’t wait to start riding him again in the spring.

I appreciate you all!

I’ll just add a 3rd that a thinline definitely helps a creaky human back. I had a horrible flare up facet joint arthritis in my lower back & it took 3 rounds of injections to shut it up; I also have lost pretty much all curvature in my neck. In the meantime, using the pad made riding much less painful. I haven’t needed it for years, thankfully, but it’s still in the trailer just in case.

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Stubben says their Biomex seat is specifically designed to reduce back pain - https://stubbennorthamerica.com/biomex-seats/

No personal experience with it, but might be worth a look.

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So I am a little special and didn’t think it was a seat saver, that it was a saddle pad, hahaha. I ordered the thin line from smartpak to try first and then I’ll go with the Acavallo next, thanks!

I’ll also look at the stubben, that sounds really neat!

I luckily found my trainer before I got worse than slight disc compression, but finding a neutral pelvis is important, as well as never letting a saddle wedge you. I personally have to have a large flat spot in the seat for it to be very comfortable, and I’m fairly like findthedistance in balance preferences. I’ve tried scoop seats which instantly brought me to tears so I got out of them as quickly as possible - yet still lost feeling in a leg and was sore for a while. Blocks which hold you in place are the enemy to back problems if they’re wedging you in a way which forces pressure on the spine to make up for it. You have to absorb motion somewhere, and if your seat and legs can’t move…what’s left?

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I have three herniated discs and various other back problems. I also have an older mare who has had some back arthritis, but was much more comfortable in the Devoucoux Harmonie dressage saddle. I borrowed it a few times and she went markedly better in it than in either of her custom fit saddles, but the first generation Harmonie was just a bit too wide in the seat and twist for me and gave me hip pain (I am petite and narrow in the hips). In 2020 Devoucoux came out with the Harmonie S, which has a narrower deeper seat but the same flexible carbon fiber tree and flared panels, and I tried out the demo a few times and was immediately impressed. It has shock absorption built into the tree and gel in the seat area and I could once again sit the trot even on a big moving warmblood. It was expensive but by that point I was having a lot of back pain and difficulty sitting the trot, so I decided to spend the money with the rationale that it was cheaper than back surgery (of course DH observed that back surgery was covered by insurance and therefore cheaper, but I really didn’t want to have surgery). I got it Dec 2020 and have ridden in it almost daily, and it instantly made a dramatic difference for me. Less pain, able to ride more than one horse, and my position scores have improved. It’s also very secure and the horses like it, and the tree has enough give and flex that it seems to fit a wider range of horses. My daughter is tall and narrow and also has some back pain (and loves my saddle), and last month we found a demo condition one for her and her new horse that was more than half off the new price, so that’s something to consider as well. I’ve tried a ton of saddle pads and custom saddles over the years (including thin line, sedelogic, matrix, and many others), and have also done countless PT and Pilates sessions, which have helped somewhat, but not as much as this saddle. Your results may vary, but I’ve been very pleased with it. I bought mine from the Devoucoux rep, but if you are interested in demo or used saddles there’s an online tack vendor who often gets them in that I’ve had good experiences with. They offer a trial period and we got my daughter’s saddle from her as well as another saddle two years ago.

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Oh, I did mean a saddle pad, I didn’t know they made seat savers now, so don’t feel bad!

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As far as saddles, it might be something you have to try several different seat configurations to find something that will make you comfortable. Be aware of the pommel and cantle angle, that might affect how your back feels. Agree with looking at the Biomex seats on Stubben, there may be other brands that offer something similar. Look at saddle brands that make a model designed for women riders both Albion or Schleese offer a model, there maybe something in how they are designed that might help with your back pain.

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Hahah they do have seat savers too, so between his thinline saddle pad (that is, if my princess and the pea gelding decides he wants that pad that day instead of the million other freaking pads I keep for him. what a diva…) and the seat saver, maybe I can have some relief until I get a new saddle. I’m going to try it on my mountain horse for now before I go with him.

Awesome, thanks! @vali, do you mind me asking how much the Devocoux is? Is it wool or foam flocked? Before I bought my Black Country eons ago I sat in every saddle I could find at all the expos and the Devocoux and loved them, I would be willing to try them out for sure. Demo models are awesome, that’s how I got my BC.

Sent you pm.