Relationship between saddle and rider kinematics, horse locomotion and thoracolumbar pressures in sound horses

Mackechnie-Guire, R and Mackechnie-Guire, E and Fisher, M and Mathie, H and Bush, R and Pfau, T and Weller, R (2018) Relationship between saddle and rider kinematics, horse locomotion and thoracolumbar pressures in sound horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.

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Abstract

Reason for performing the study: Saddle fit is considered to be a crucial factor for the health and performance of horses, yet there is a paucity of scientific data. Objective: To determine the relationship between saddle and rider kinematics, horse locomotion and thoracolumbar pressures in sound horses. Method: Seven horses with asymmetric saddle position were tested before and after correction of the saddle positioning asymmetry. Kinematic and kinetic data were collected using motion capture, inertial sensors and a pressure mapping system. Data of horses showing saddle roll to the right were normalised to represent saddle roll to the left. Results: When comparing saddle roll with saddle correction in trot, this study found that once the saddle had been corrected on the rein with saddle roll to the outside (here: right rein) there was an increase in outside front fetlock hyperextension (P=0.02) and inside hind fetlock hyperextension (P≤0.05); there was a reduction in peak pressures after saddle correction under the inside portion of the panel in trot (P≤0.05) and canter (P=0.04), riders showed increased thoracic side bend (lean) on the contralateral side to the direction of saddle roll (P=0.02). Conclusion: The presence of saddle roll creates changes in fetlock hyperextension and hence likely force production, increased peak pressures beneath the panel on the contralateral side to the direction of saddle roll and affects rider position, with the rider leaning in the opposite direction to saddle roll likely in order to optimise balance.