Avoiding Saddle Soreness

Young woman on horse crossing obstacle on course
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Whether you've just started riding or have logged 100s of hours or miles in the saddle, it can sometimes be a challenge to avoid various types of saddle soreness. Some soreness, like sore muscles, will be resolved over time. The more you ride, the less you will be sore after each ride. But not all soreness is muscular, and you won't necessarily 'leather up' as your riding skills advance. 

Riding Position

One of the most common places riders get chaffed is along the inside of their calves and occasionally inside the knee area. The first thing to do is check your position—make sure you are sitting correctly and your legs are not swinging. Posture or seat problems like these may be solved with a few riding lessons.


Sometimes tack can be a problem. Bulky stirrup leathers, buckles and saddle flaps can pinch or rub. Try changing the position of buckles, if possible, or changing leathers to thinner ones. Half chaps—like boot tops without the foot part, can help prevent chafing on the inside of your calf and provide support to your leg. Half chaps come in many different styles, colors, and materials and can be found for less than $50. You may also be able to pick up good quality items like this at a tack consignment shop. If you ride English, you might want to wear tall boots. Leather is more comfortable, but rubber might be fine if the weather is not too hot or cold. 

If you have longer than average legs, you may get pinched between the saddle flaps and the tops of your tall riding boots. Custom boots are an option, albeit an expensive one. Again, half chaps come in tall sizes work well. It is also possible to find an English saddle with longer flaps. Of course, a custom saddle will be made to fit your leg length, but these tend to cost a lot. 

Some saddles will leave your seat bones feeling bruised after a long ride. Older saddles especially can be hard and are not made to fit women. A sheepskin pad or seat cover like the Cashel Tush Cushion can add a bit more padding that the saddle lacks.

Even a half hour ride in a poorly fitting saddle can cause days of embarrassing discomfort. Chafing in the crotch area is a very common problem for men and women. The most likely cause of this is the size of your saddle seat or the position it sits you in. Try a saddle a with a larger seat, or with a narrower or wider twist (the width of the saddle under the area where your thigh sits). More and more saddles are being made with women's conformation in mind.

A young woman tacking up her horse prior to a ride
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Check bulky inseams on your pants aren't causing the problem. Lots of folks ride in jeans all the time, but you may find the seams too thick. The most common riding gear has some stretch in it, like Lycra schooling tights.

Riding in the rain
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Quick Fixes

If changing your saddle isn't an option there are still a few temporary fixes that may help. Guys can try wearing undergarments made for cyclists, or eschew the boxers for tighter fitting briefs. There are rumors that some distance riders resort to wearing pantyhose. Cut off the lower part of the leg so they don't show at the ankles. If you ride in jeans, look for styles that don't have a thickly folded inseam.

Some women are most comfortable riding in a thong, others prefer fullbacks or short style underwear. Women can try underwear made for cyclists too. These might be helpful if you don't have a lot of 'padding' between you and the saddle. Underwear-like the bicycle briefs have padding in front and back. Try a few different styles to find what works for you. You can also find riding pants with built-in underwear. Be prepared to wash these often.

A dollop of petroleum jelly in sensitive areas can help prevent chaffing. Yuck. Look for anti-chafing spray, sticks or lotions. Make sure if you are planning to use them in intimate areas, they are safe for this purpose.