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Spinal stenosis affecting riding position

I wonder if anyone can share their thoughts/experiences on riding with spinal stenosis. I have severe stenosis and spondylosis in the lumbar spine. I have had multiple discectomy operations.
Over time, I have found myself leaning more and more forward when I ride, particularly in canter. I understand why I do it, it takes pressure off the spine, but obviously it’s not ideal (I’m a dressage rider). I regularly do Pilates, yoga and gym work. Has anyone been able to manage the need to lean forward with these conditions effectively?

Yes, I have stenosis and spondylolisthesis and no problem with leaning forward. There may be a few things going on with with you. The ideal position for you to sit in anywhere, according to my PT, is with your hips higher than your knees at all times.

First, make sure that your saddle does not tilt the top of your pelvis forward. Make sure that your stirrup length is long enough so that your feet rest comfortably on the stirrups with your ankle slightly bent, but that there is no real body weight in your stirrups.

Make sure that you are not sitting in chair seat (on the back pockets of your jeans, so to speak). That is absolutely deadly. A good exercise to try is to stretch your legs straight out to the side up as high as you can (parallel to the ground) and then drop them slowly back to the saddle. That should help get you sitting a little deeper into the horse. Whenever you feel like the bottom of your pelvis starts tipping back and your seat bones are not pointing straight down, you can lift your legs out slightly to correct it.

Finally, you mention that this happens in the canter, and not the sitting trot, so I wonder if your horse may be contributing to the problem. Until the canter is collected and balanced, it is hard for anyone to sit since there is so much motion. Try cantering in two point (standing a bit in the stirrups) until your horse warms up and you can balance the canter.

Anyway, I feel your pain and I hope that some of this helps!


I have spinal stenosis and ankylosing spondylitis in addition to two ruptured discs, one bulging disc, and progressive arthritis in my spine, and now my left shoulder. I see two PTs for my shoulder and my pelvis. I just found a new trainer who is helping me since I am now just sitting on my three-year old and noticed how incredibly stiff I am on and I sit really funky in my saddle to alleviate pain my SI joints.

  1. Make sure that you have proper treatment for your back. I’m on Humira, Cymbalta, and Relefan as needed. I know you mentioned Pilates and yoga, but make sure your rheumatologist and PT approve. The biggest thing my PT and rheumatologist mentioned is doing these things correctly. I’m not trying to be bossy; I found out I was doing yoga incorrectly so I wasn’t adequately stretching everything.

  2. Proper riding equipment is a must. I have a sheepskin pad on my dressage saddle that really helps with cushioning; I purchased MDC stirrups to help with my hips and knees (the AS actually started in my right knee when I was a kid and the MDC stirrups really help); I need to check the brand of saddle I have. It fits my Fjord (so far) and I find that doesn’t stress my back too much.
    I love, love, love my Engel pad. It’s similar to the Christ pad, but not as expensive. I prefer riding bareback, but the Engel pad has a lot of cushion.
    I also wear a Tipperary vest that I had fitted to me when I made a special trip to Dover. This adds extra security just in case.

  3. As @Eclectic_Horseman mentioned, stretch out your legs. If you can, ask your trainer or someone else to gently massage your thighs, too. Be careful with this, but one of my dressage trainers used to do this, and it helped.

I naturally tip my pelvis forward since my pelvis tips forward as my spine is fusing. Some of it you can’t help; don’t force your back into an unnatural position. You risk hurting your back.

I hope that helps, along with @Eclectic_Horseman’s excellent advice!! These diseases SUCK so much!!! I would also ask your doctor since you don’t want to rupture any discs.

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How is Humira working for you? I was on it for 13 years, and it was a wonder drug for me. It even beat back a lot of the RA fatigue. Unfortunately, I had to go off for a month due to stubborn cellulitis. When the cellulitis finally cleared up and I was able to go back to Humira, it no longer worked for me. I went on to Orencia, which did nothing, then Kevzara, which I’ve been on for five years and keeps my inflammation markers in the normal range. But I don’t feel as good as I did on Humira.


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I have been on it a year with a period off due to pneumonia and I have found that it really helps, but doesn’t it depend on each person? I’m so sorry that you had to deal with cellutitis and now not finding a medication that doesn’t work as well.

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True. I know plenty of people with RA for whom Humira did nothing, yet Orencia (which didn’t work at all for me) is like a wonder drug. Some people think it will someday be discovered that RA is multiple diseases, not just one. I just don’t know, and wish it were easier to figure out what works and what doesn’t.


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