Why do so many female riders have back problems, slipped disc, or issues with L4, L5 vertebrae? Why do female riders have difficulty achieving correct position (shoulders, hips and heels in alignment) and have a balanced seat (not in front of or behind the motion)? In order for the horse to round his back the rider should be positioned over the horse’s centre of gravity approximately at the base of the withers. How easily is it for the rider to sit correctly balanced over the central axis of the horse?
In the video Jochen Schleese demonstrates there is not a lot of difference between standing and sitting positions for the male rider – shoulder hips heels are in one line. When standing the weight is on his feet; when sitting the weight comes off his feet and onto his seat bones. He can easily balance standing or sitting, he can easily pivot his pelvis and independently move his legs backward and forward – balanced and comfortable.
Can a female rider balance as easily as her male counterpart? In the same exercise we compare Cathy shoulder’s hips and heels – clearly not in one line; her toes and knees are turned out. In a relaxed position, she rolls back onto her seat bones, slouches and her leg goes forward into a ‘chair seat’. When Jochen (her coach) tries to reposition her leg back into position and turn her knees and toes in, her position looks good, but she is very uncomfortable and tense as she balances on her pubic symphysis. If she relaxes, she rolls back onto her seat bones (slouches) and her legs go forward. No amount of core strength and conditioning can change the ease of a women balancing in a ‘male saddle’.
The difference comes down to the structure of the pelvis. Jochen demonstrates the male pelvis easily balancing on his seat bones. We observe his pelvis has a higher tailbone, higher pubic symphysis (PS) and seat bones closer together). The female pelvis cannot balance on her seat bones. In proper position (discs of her spine horizontal), her pelvic balance point is so far forward, it is her PS that first hits the saddle and there is hardly any contact on her seat bones (which are flatter). As we see in the video, her pelvis falls back and her spine is not vertical. In order for the female to get comfortable, she rolls back until she gets support from her butt cheeks, relieving the pressure off the front of her seat bones and PS, however then the rider is leaning far back. When she forces herself forward into correct position there is tremendous stress on the SI joint and discs because the vertebrae are not horizontal. There is great pressure exerted on the cartilage between the discs. This is very painful for the rider and the reason so many female riders have L4, L5 disc problems.
The solution to achieving correct balance, correct position and being relaxed and comfortable in the saddle, is to be correctly fitted for a female design saddle. A certified Saddle Ergonomist, Equine Egonomist or saddle fitter will be able to assess optimal fit for female riders in the Saddlefit 4 Life® 80 Point Saddle Fit Evaluation.
Jochen Schleeseis author of ‘Suffering in Silence – The Saddle fit Link to Physical and Psychological Trauma in Horses’ (2013). Through the Saddlefit 4 Life global network of equine professionals Jochen Schleese provides industry education to help equestrians recognize and prevent saddle fit issues and long term damage to horse and rider. Find answers in a personal 80 point Saddle Fit Evaluation to horse and rider. www.SaddlesforWomen.comand Guys too! 1-800-225-2242 www.Saddlefit4life.com