Your ankle absorbs the action of your horse’s stride with every step they take, something I’m painfully aware of right now. Even riding with a long leg, your ankle flexes and moves both up and down and sideways in ways that are almost impossible to replicate when not on a horse. To help keep my ankle relatively comfortable, I’ve been riding in my dressage saddle and I’ve done a lot of walking. Posting trot is more difficult so I keep that to shorter sessions. My goal is to push myself a bit more with each ride but not to feel so fatigued that my ankle buckles when I dismount.
I had a not displaced fibular fracture that did not require surgery, but it is the second time I’ve broken that ankle in three years. It wasn’t until this spring that I really felt like I was back to normal, so it’s kind of depressing to be back at the beginning of my recovery again. However, I know what I need to do, and that’s a lot of stretching and strengthening exercises. Keep in mind that your ankles provide your base of support when riding; a flexible ankle enables you to sit better and to have steadier, more forgiving hands.
Funnily enough, the two muscles that most need to be strengthened are known as the “stirrup muscles”‘ — These comprise the peroneals, on the lateral side of the lower leg, and the tibial muscles, on the front and back of the lower leg. There job is to provide stability and support.
I’ve shared some of the exercises that are part of my PT program in the videos below. I also do calf stretches and balance on one leg. While balancing on my right leg is a piece of cake, I’m still quite wobbly on my left leg.
Do you have exercises that have helped you with your ankle strength and flexibility?