As a dressage rider with riding pain, my story is not an uncommon one. After spending over 40 years of my life as a dressage rider, teaching and training, I was not able to get on a horse without extreme riding pain. Along the way, I learned firsthand that dressage riders can be more susceptible to developing problematic hip joints due to the motions they make to follow the dressage horse’s movement. Four years, 19 doctors and other health practitioners, two arthroscopic hip surgeries and $25,000 later, I finally got properly diagnosed and treated for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAIS) in my hip to, at last, get back in the saddle. I hope this article helps others who might be in similar situations of riding pain and hip surgery.
Diagnosing My Riding Pain
It all began in 2007, when a standard dismount caused me to buckle from pain upon landing on my right leg. It had simply given out as soon as it touched the ground, and I grabbed the saddle so as not to fall. It had been an uneventful ride, except for a small sideways spook that had left me standing in my right stirrup while my horse moved abruptly to the left. During the spook, I felt a twinge in my right hip and lower back area but believed it insignificant. That is, until I dismounted. I managed to walk far enough to put my horse away before calling the doctor.
His diagnosis was a severe groin pull or labral tear (the labrum is a type of cartilage that lines the hip socket). One required rest, the other surgery. He felt unqualified to make the diagnosis of labral tear and referred me to a specialist. I knew my health-insurance options were limited because of the high deductible plans that are one of the challenges of being self-employed, so I chose the conservative option of rest.