Combining Hips & Horses

If a hip replacement may be in your future due to joint degeneration or injury, don’t worry! Many equestrians can safely return to the saddle after this common procedure.

Hip replacement surgery replaces any part of your joint that isn’t working. Recovery is relatively quick, starting with getting you up and moving as soon as the same day of your surgery. A few weeks of strength building and physical therapy is all that stands between you and your saddle. When you first start riding again, make sure you use a mounting block and ride a calm, reliable horse. Don’t forget to stretch before and after you ride.

Hip Replacement 101

A hip replacement is a fairly common procedure that involves replacing one or both hips. The recovery can often be fairly quick, around two to four weeks, and involves physical therapy—though this varies from person to person.

The Procedure

A surgeon removes any damaged sections of your hip joint and replaces them with artificial parts made from hard plastic, ceramic, and metal.

Any pain you experience is usually from the disruption of the soft tissue around the joint.

What is the best type of hip replacement for horseback riders?

There’s no one replacement option that’s best for riders. Instead, it’s important to find a surgeon who understands your goal of returning to riding and to have a physical therapy plan in place to achieve it.

Recovery

A hip replacement means almost immediate relief from your previous discomfort. You’ll be up and walking the same day as your surgery and can generally return home a few days after that (if not the same day).

Many riders can get back in the saddle for some light riding as soon as three weeks after surgery. But always consult with your doctor.

This video offers some great details about regaining your strength post-surgery.

What are good exercises for horseback riding after hip replacement?

Low-impact exercises are the way to go to build back your strength and balance. You can try things like swimming and cycling.

Long-term Prognosis

According to WebMD, 95% of hip replacements are good for at least 10 years. As many as 75% are good for 15-20 years.

How long yours will last depends on how well you care for your new joint.

Avoiding high-impact activities (and any falls) is the best way to make your replacement last.

Is horseback riding hard on your hips?

It depends. If you have good core strength and stretch your hip flexors regularly, probably not.

Riding can cause hip pain for some people.

If your core is weak and you rely on your hips for balance, you’ll strain your hip flexors, which can also cause lower back pain.

When can you ride horses after hip replacement?

The exact time will vary from person to person, but your doctor will let you know when it’s safe.

Make sure you’ve built back your previous strength and feel balanced before hopping back in the saddle.

Photo Cred: Canva (P.S. Always wear a helmet!)

Safely Back in the Saddle

It’s important to take things slowly when you ride after your hip replacement, to avoid re-injuring the area.

Riding Precautions to Take After Hip Replacement

Start with walking and slowly work your way up to faster gaits. Focus on your position, balance, and the use of your core muscles.

If possible, get back in the saddle with a calm horse that has smooth gaits.

Mounting Blocks Are Your Friend

You want to avoid excessive bending of your hips—a mounting block takes away a lot of the strain of mounting.

Taller mounting blocks will make mounting even easier.

How do you mount a horse after a hip replacement?

Slowly, and with a mounting block. Make sure you stretch beforehand to make the motions easier.

Look for a Calm, Reliable, “Bombproof” Mount

Your feisty four-year-old OTTB probably isn’t the best horse to hop on after surgery.

Find a reliable, calm, older mount or schedule some trail rides at a local trail riding company.

Stretch Before Riding

Stretching is paramount to a successful hip replacement recovery.

Going through some gentle stretches before you ride will help loosen up the area and make riding easier.

What are good exercises to open the hips for horseback riding?

Once any exercise restrictions have been lifted by your doctor, yoga is a fantastic way to improve your hip strength and flexibility.

Here are a few poses that will help open your hips:

  • Low lunge
  • Half lotus
  • External hip rotation
  • Spinal twist

Photo Cred: Canva

FAQs

Q: How do you relax your hips for a horse?

Squat down slightly with both legs together and put your hands on your thighs. Bend your knees, then circle them for one minute in each direction.

Q: How do you strengthen your hips for a horse?

There are lots of great exercises you can do to build strength in your hips:

  • Squats
  • Wall sits
  • Hip circles
  • Leg lifts

Many of these exercises shouldn’t be done while you’re still recovering, so hold off on these until you have the all-clear from your doctor.

Q: What activities are restricted after hip replacement?

Any high-impact activity should be avoided, including jogging, basketball, and football. Stick to sports like swimming, cycling, and golf.

Q: What exercises should be avoided after hip replacement?

You’ll want to steer clear of bending your hips beyond 90 degrees (think deep squats or lunges). It’s also important to avoid crossing your legs (at the ankle is OK, just don’t put one knee over the other).

Don’t rotate your feet inwards or raise your legs to the side.

Q: Are there permanent restrictions after hip replacement?

This may depend on your specific replacement or your doctor’s recommendations, but largely, no restrictions. High-impact activities and falls should be avoided, however, to avoid re-injuring the area.

It’s also important to consistently stretch and avoid over-straining the area. If you do this, you’ll maintain mobility and will help the replacement last longer.

Parting Thoughts

Don’t sweat it if your doctor tells you it’s time for a hip replacement. You’ll be back in the saddle (and pain-free) before you know it!

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Sources

Hip replacement – Mayo Clinic

WebMD

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