Spending time on horseback can be relaxing and therapeutic. Unfortunately, ankle pain can quickly turn a lovely afternoon in the saddle into an excruciating event. The knees and ankles absorb a lot of movement when riding. This absorption puts the joints at risk of developing serious alignment issues if the pain is not addressed early.

Try one of these three simple tips to help you overcome ankle pain while riding and prevent persistent injuries in the future.

1. Lengthen your stirrups.

A common cause of ankle pain while riding is stirrups that are too short. When the stirrup length on your saddle isn't an exact match for the length of your legs, your ankles will rest at an awkward angle.

Over time, the strain of the awkward angle will manifest as pain that shoots through the ankle and into the leg. Try dropping your stirrups a notch or two and use an awl to punch new holes in the stirrup leather for maximum comfort if your leg length falls between holes.

2. Stretch your calf muscle.

Just because you are feeling pain in your ankle while riding doesn't mean that the ankle itself is the source of the problem. Researchers have discovered that there is a connection between tightness in the calf muscle and pain in the ankle and foot. This means that if your calf muscle is tight before you hop into the saddle, you are likely to experience more ankle pain.

Take the time to stretch your calves thoroughly before each ride. Stand facing a wall with your toes pointing toward and touching the base of the wall. Extend one leg backward and maintain contact between the knee and toes of your forward leg and the wall. Press the heel of the leg extended backward toward the floor until you feel the calf muscle in that leg stretch.

Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then alternate legs and repeat. This simple stretch will loosen your calf muscles, which will reduce ankle pain during each ride.

3. Strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Another reason you may be experiencing ankle pain during a ride is weak abdominal muscles. Correct riding position requires that the abdomen be engaged to provide balance and support. When the abdominal muscles are weak, the legs must absorb the brunt of the work.

The added strain of having to support the weight of the body can cause joint deterioration. Building muscle tone throughout your body can help you increase your strength and alleviate the pressure you put on your ankles while horseback riding. For more information, contact your local foot and ankle specialist.