Question: I don’t normally have back pain, but after trotting for long periods of time at my trainer’s facility, both posting and seated, I later experience low back pain. This does not occur when riding at home.

Answer: This happens when riders don’t stretch AFTER the ride. Next time try that and see if there’s a difference. When you stretch your muscle, you are essentially lengthening it. As you do that – up to a point – you reduce the resistance to blood flow in the muscle. In other words, stretching allows for a sudden influx of blood to the muscle, and causes it to be “charged” with a little oxygen.

The back is a somewhat difficult area to stretch at first. Learning to stretch your back effectively, safely, and for best results takes practice. Nevertheless, once you are aware of the muscles and movements involved, you can stretch your back muscles just as well as any other group of muscles in the body.

Back Stretch 1 – Touch the Toe and Reach for the Sky (From The Rider’s Pain Free Back, Trafalger Square Books, 2007)

1. Stand with your legs spread roughly shoulder width apart. Keep your feet pointed straight ahead, parallel to each other. Place your hands on your hips.

2. Bend at your waist and stretch your right hand as far as possible toward your left big toe, keeping both knees straight. Keep your left hand on your waist as you stretch your right hand toward your toe. Keep your back as straight as possible. Look at the toe you are trying to touch.

3. Slowly return to a standing position. Place your right hand on your waist and reach forward with your left hand.

4. Bend at the waist and stretch the left hand as far as possible toward your right big toe, keeping the knees straight.

5. Slowly return to a standing position.

6. Slowly bend forward at the waist, keeping the back straight and your shoulders square. With both hands, try to touch an imaginary line that runs between the heels. Keep your eyes on the “line” on the way down. Get as close as you can to this line. DO NOT BOUNCE.

7. Life your head and eyes to look toward the horizon. Slowly stand straight up.

8. Raise both hands above your head, and stretch vertically. Keep your feet flat, and your eyes on the horizon as you stretch.

Dr. Warson stresses that it is important to stretch immediately after dismounting for best results.