Monthly Archives: March 2015

If you’re a rider bothered by occasional to chronic hip and knee pain, read on. You may have ITBS, or Iliotibial Band Syndrome.

ITBS is a common ailment usually identified with running, probably because more people are runners than horseback riders. Skiers, bicycle riders and horseback riders often develop this problem as well. The knee is usually the first part of the body to complain, although in my case the hip is usually the problem area.

The ITB (Iliotibial Band) is a dense fibrous band running from the pelvis to the outside of the knee. It runs over the bony parts of the hip and the outside of the knee, and the rubbing of the band over bone is what causes the problem. The band can become irritated and inflamed, and the underlying bursa can also become swollen.


Some causes are leg length asymmetry, over/under pronation, running on hills and hard surfaces, knee instability, and weak muscles. For horseback riders, improper rotation of the leg can contribute. Riders are often told to point their toes forward–properly, you would rotate your entire leg from the hip until the foot is pointing forward, but not by breaking at the ankle to get the forward direction of the toe, or by twisting at the knee. The bend of the knee required for riding can be a setup for ITBS.

I developed ITBS several years ago while training for a marathon. While knee pain is the most common symptom, I developed pretty severe hip pain, probably as a result of being a bit too overweight for the amount of training I was doing, and running on country roads with no shoulder, which means I was on the banked part of the road, which meant my right leg was constantly higher than my left. The best treatment for ITBS is rest, which of course I didn’t do because I was training for a marathon. I ran the marathon and three days later, I got the more common knee pain in a very acute form–heat, swelling, and the feeling that someone had jabbed a knife in my knee. With the race completed, I got the needed rest, and the knee pain thankfully went away, but I’ve had chronic hip pain ever since.

I’ve recently started taking dressage lessons and in many ways am starting all over with my riding. Nobody would call me a natural athlete, so I’d doing a lot of trial and error in my quest to do this correctly. I’d guess I’m riding 80% incorrectly, and my ITBS has flared up with a vengeance, causing quite a bit of pain from my hip all the way down to my ankle. Yes, the ITB goes from your hip to your knee, but since it pulls on your knee when you have ITBS, a muscle called the peroneals now goes into a spasm, and that runs from your knee to your ankle.

What to do? Prevention, as always, is the best course of action, and that means stretching, maintaining fitness, and being conscious of how your are using your body, maintaining correct alignment and avoiding overstress of your leg and knee. Of course, if you’re reading this, it may be safe to assume that it’s too late for prevention. Rest is the next best step–if you develop symptoms, try to identify what you’re doing to cause the problem, and STOP DOING IT! You may need to discontinue riding for a bit to give your leg a chance to heal. And if it’s too late for that, the traditional measures of ice and anti-inflammatories, combined with rest, will help. The best technique I’ve found, though, is a few forms of self-massage involving a tennis ball and a form roller. You can usually find muscle spasms along the band (press on various parts of the outside of your leg from hip to knee, and it shouldn’t take you long to identify the problem areas). The tennis ball is helpful for hip areas–lie on your side with the tennis ball pressing on the spasm and roll over the ball, helping the spasm to break up. The foam roller is useful for spasms on the outside of the thigh. This is going to hurt, so grit your teeth and do what you can! I’ve found, though, that this is the fastest way to get some relief from the pain and tightness.

Keep in mind that I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR ANY KIND OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL and you should check with your medical professional before doing any kind of diagnosis or self-treatment.

Runners World has some good information and stretches on their website:



Leaving Your Horse in Someone Else’s Care

Vacation Beach

So you are planning a vacation without your horse. The first question that comes to mind is, WHY? Why would you do such a thing? Is it really a vacation if you aren’t packing up your rig and Fluffy the horse and heading cross-country to a clinic 1,000 miles away?

OK, I get it. Everyone needs some time away from the “kids”. And of course you have arranged for Fluffy to be fed, watered, and loved on a bit. What could go wrong?

Well…let me share with you the experience a friend had recently. This friend admires horses but has not spent time around them and is not comfortable or familiar with them. Nevertheless, some of her friends decided that she would be the ideal person to take care of their horse while they are away. They’ve made several trips and all went well. Until the last trip, when the horse came down with colic.

Now fortunately, my friend has spent enough time around the neighborhood horses that she did recognize that this was a problem. But guess what? a) She did not know the name of their veterinarian. b) When a veterinarian was tracked down, my friend did not know the age of the horse or any of its medical history. c) If the horse had needed to be transported, there was no way to make that happen. And the final insult, d), the veterinarian was not prepared to extend credit to the owners, and my friend, who has limited means, was forced to come up with payment for the treatment. And on top of all this, she is, of course, not comfortable with handling any horse, much less a sick one.

So there is the answer to “what could possibly go wrong?”. And in this case, the horse responded to treatment, it did not have to be transported, and the veterinarian was paid, so things could have been much worse.

So, when you leave town without Fluffy in tow, here are a few pointers:

-Get a qualified, experienced, reliable person to take care of your horse.

-Leave documents in the horse’s stable area noting the horse’s name, age, medical history, and who to contact in case of emergency. It’s a good idea to have this in the stable area ANYWAY as part of your emergency preparedness plan.

-Notify your veterinarian that you will be out of town and who will be tending your horse and how much authority they have to make decisions on your behalf.

-Make a payment arrangement in advance with your veterinarian–either they agree to extend credit, you leave them a deposit, or leave them with a credit card number.

-Make sure transportation is available for the horse. If you have a rig and the person tending the horse is qualified and comfortable with driving it, have it hooked up, fueled up, and pointing in the right direction. Otherwise, make arrangements in advance with someone who can provide transportation.

-Make sure your horse will load in the trailer!

-Leave your contact information. If you are truly going to be incommunicado, make sure the horse’s caregiver is capable of making tough decisions, or have a backup person available who is.

And once all this is done, NOW you may go on vacation!