40% of 1,324 women riders surveyed said they experienced breast pain while riding, with the most painful activity being the sitting trot. The study, by the University of Portsmouth and Sparsholt College, found breast pain was the fourth greatest barrier to women riding.
The other barriers include not having enough energy, a lack of time and work commitments.
Women with a larger chest were found to suffer more, with 21% of the respondents reporting that the pain affected their performance.
The trot and canter involve large vertical movements of the horse’s body, requiring considerable effort by the rider to maintain postural stability. This effort may be higher for women with larger breasts due to the greater breast momentum created, which may affect their performance and overall experience in horse riding.
Previous research has suggested that 70 - 80% of women are wearing the wrong-sized bra.
A correctly fitting bra for exercise is essential, as an incorrect fit can contribute to upper body musculoskeletal problems, poor posture and deep bra furrows in the shoulder caused by excessive strap pressure.
It is particularly important for women with large breasts to wear a well-fitted and supportive bra, as insufficient support for large breasts can lead to upper body pain and poor posture, yet they are more likely to have an incorrect fit.”
A correctly fitting supportive bra would be of benefit not just to the rider, the authors believe. A previous study has shown that horse heart rate increases as a direct response to tension in the handler or rider.
The breast is made up of fatty tissue, not muscle and once it's damaged or stretched, no amount of exercise can help the breast regain its original firmness and condition. It's worth bearing in mind that any form of riding that is faster than walking is considered high impact therefore the wearing of a well fitted supporting sports bra is essential.
Sports scientists have discovered in tests that a supporting sports bra prevents ‘bouncing’, and therefore stretching, of the sensitive breast tissue by 74% while a normal bra only compensates by 38%. That’s a huge difference!