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Is horseback riding, even at a walk, bad for your spine? I've heard conflicting answers from two doctors, neither of whom rode horses.I really love horses and would rather reduce myself to walking than to give them up entirely.

If you have any insight on this please let me know.


- P. S.


Howdy, P. S.!

As with many seemingly conflicting answers, both are probably correct. If you don't ride correctly -- bouncing up and down on the saddle with your back out of position, etc. -- your spine can take a real beating. On the other hand, if you ride with your weight on the balls of your feet, heels lower than your toes and using your ankles and knees as shock absorbers, the motion of your upper body can strengthen the muscles that support the spine and actually reduce the risk of back problems. Also, vigorous activity seems to help strengthen bones. I'm no doctor, but if you are riding properly I'd tend to side with the doctor who says keep riding.

As an example, remember Connie Douglas Reeves of Texas, who died in August of 2003 following a horse riding accident. An active rider, she died of cardiac arrest in the hospital twelve days after being thrown, but she doesn't seem to have had any spinal problems -- even at the age of 101! Connie was a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and a riding instructor who taught more than 30,000 girls how to ride.

Keep yer heels down!

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