With many Equestrian Athletes suffering from lower back discomfort, I think that up to now the massive impact that nutrition can have on this has been ignored. When most people talk about back pain they will automatically assume that this has been caused by a sudden movement or lifting a heavy load. Now this may be the case, but many have ignored the role of poor nutrition and hydration on the lower back pain they experience.

Due to the position that you, the equestrian athlete, ride in you are predisposed to lower back stiffness. The erector spinae and para-spinals (small muscles that join the vertebrae) are working extremely hard to maintain your posture and stop you slouching like a sack of potatoes. When you have a weak anterior core musculature, traditionally thought of as the abdominals.

Ok, so a weak core aside, how can you help yourself and your horse achieve the best possible result, whether it be purely for enjoyment or the placing in a competition?

1. Hydration

Becoming dehydrated on your horse or before you ride your horse can have a huge impact on your performance. We are over 75% water and we don’t like to be poorly hydrated. This is what happens if you do.
Histamine, a neurotransmitter, becomes active and begins to redistributes water throughout the body with it’s priorities being the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and the glands. Then come the muscles, bones and skin (one of the first signs of dehydration is dry skin).

During long periods of dehydration, histamine makes sure that these vital organs have enough water to function. If you are not supplying the body with enough water the body will begin to pull it from other areas of the body.
Chronic dehydration can cause histamine to become over active, which can cause symptoms for other disorders such as asthma, constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, depression, muscle pain and joint pain!

So with histamine redistributing the water it receives and pulling it away from the muscles and joints in favour of the brain, lungs and digestive organs the muscles then start to become toxic.

With every action in your body there is a reaction. Just as a car burns petrol and produces waste gases the body produces by products from respiration, digestion and muscle contractions. If the body doesn’t get a plentiful supply of water these toxins build up in the muscles and lead to pain.

When you drink sufficient water your body flushes these from the muscles where they are excreted through urination.
A further complication of dehydration is joint pain. The cartilage in your joints is primarily composed of water. During movement these joint surfaces glide over each other and some of the cells become worn. The body then produces new cells to replace the worn and damaged ones. But due to the lack of blood supply to the cartilage water is required to transport the nutrients to help maintain and repair these damaged surfaces. Due to the lack of water the joint compartments will then become closer together resulting in increased friction, and wear and tear.

I always recommend my riders to get 1 litre per 50lbs of body weight.

2. Magnesium/Zinc

These two minerals are essential in the health of the muscles all over the body. Both of these are involved in the chemical reactions that produce movement and force production. A lack of these will cause the equestrian athletes back to seize up very quickly.

Zinc and magnesium are also very important in the recovery from exercise, bone health, energy metabolism and neuromuscular contractions. Magnesium actually facilitates the delivery of oxygen and energy to the working muscles. It is also worth noting that over a ¼ of all the bodies magnesium supplies are found in the muscles and over ½ of all magnesium can be found in the rest of our soft tissue and body fluids.

It really isn’t just the top elite level athletes who suffer from aching, tired and fatigued muscles. The stresses of the day to day life of many equestrian athletes can bring these common complaints to light in all equestrian athletes regardless of their level of competition.

Supplementation of magnesium during periods of intensive exercise or riding will help you to improve energy levels and subsequent performances.

3. Vitamin B & C

First of all let’s look at Vitamin C. This is an extremely powerful antioxidant; things such as citrus fruits have lots of this in. Also found colourful vegetables such as peppers and sweet potato. These can help reduce inflammation and enhance the healing process. Many equestrian athletes back pain is a result of an injury to the joints or soft tissues.
The inflammation as a result of the injury causes pain, which will appear worse if the inflammation occurs in the joint and puts pressure on a nerve.
Getting regular doses of vitamin C either from supplements or fresh fruit and vegetables can help fight and prevent inflammation.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to dramatically reduce pain caused by degeneration of the lower spine. Incidentally there was a study in the European Review for Medical and pharmacological Sciences (2000) which found that vitamin B12 is effective in treating lower back pain and disruption in movement.
In the same study they found that those people who supplemented with Vitamin B12 were actually far less reliant on anti inflammatory drugs, thus reducing the nasty side effects that they would have been suffering from had they taken a drug form.

Fish Oils –

These are fantastic at reducing the inflammatory responses that many equestrian athletes experience post riding. These fish oils should ideally be consumed out of the jar, rather than capsule, as some capsules cause the oils to taste rancid. These will also help to reduce blood pressure and improve circulation.

Tulsi Tea-

This is a fantastic herbal tea, otherwise known as ‘Holy Basil’. It does a fantastic job at reducing the oxidative stress caused by toxins and exercise. Tulsi tea should be consumed after exercise to reduce cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced when we experience stress of any kind, be it nutritional, environmental, exercise induced or postural, as is the case for many equestrian athletes. Cortisol at any other time than during exercise should be kept to a minimum as it will lead to high levels of insulin secretion and storage of sugar as fat. This is why you see the people who are stressed with big bellies!

There you have it 5 Top Tips To Reduce Lower Back Pain. These will make your riding all the more enjoyable and improve your longevity in the saddle.

Have a great day,


The Equestrian Athlete Plan
Facebook – Equestrian Fitness Page

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