Anyone who horse rides will know just how hard the sport is on your knees. However, the logistics of the sport makes protecting the knees very difficult with problems such as tight fitting clothing, the need for a complete range of motion, and most importantly the fact that most of us would rather suffer with knee pain than risk scratching our tack!
Your knees are designed to move in one direction only, front to back. It is not meant to move side to side or rotate. When sitting on a horse, we compress this straight hinge structure against the round surface of the horse’s barrel. This creates a side-to-side stress on the knee joint, that it was not designed to endure. Over a long period of time, this pressure can cause the medial collateral ligament to tighten and the lateral ligament to weaken and stretch. Disruption of either ligament shifts the tibia in the opposite direction, so lateral-ligament weakness results in deviation of the tibia inward (medially) making the knee joint unstable. This instability can cause the knee to bow, the stresses on the joint accelerate. When standing and walking the body presses down on the knee unevenly, with more weight borne on the medial surface of the tibia. This results in compression of the medial meniscus causes inflammation in the joint and degradation of the cartilage that can eventually lead to osteoarthritis. Add hook like arthritic bone spurs, and the result is likely a future knee replacement. The use of a brace can help to keep the joint straight, thus reducing the symptoms described above.
With all of these facts in mind, we would recommend that for horse riding a brace that the inside hinge can be removed from the brace to avoid any damage to the saddle. A brace that does not have too much bulk, giving you the option to wear it under breeches. Baring these two things in mind we would recommend the Donjoy Sport or the Donjoy QuickFit. Both of these braces provide protection, compression and support for ligament problems and general knee instabilities. The Donjoy Sport is a wraparound brace whilst the Quick Fit is a pull on brace. Pull on braces as standard are a slimmer fitting less bulky design, however, it is personal preference which style people prefer. However, despite being slightly more bulky the Donjoy Sport does have the benefit of being manufactured specifically with athletes in mind and is made from DryTex fabric that will keep the leg dry and cool during exercise.
A customer of ours recently had a great idea, as she found that she did not like riding with her brace under her breeches, however, as she was using it for showing she could not have the brace on display. Her solution, to cut a pair of old, slightly baggier breeches above and below the knee, creating a perfect sleeve to cover the brace when in the show ring.