Influence of seating styles on head and pelvic vertical movement symmetry in horses ridden at trot

Persson-Sjodin, E and Hernlund, E and Pfau, T and Haubro Andersen, P and Rhodin, M (2018) Influence of seating styles on head and pelvic vertical movement symmetry in horses ridden at trot. PLoS One, 13 (4). e0195341.

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Detailed knowledge of how a rider’s seating style and riding on a circle influences the movement symmetry of the horse’s head and pelvis may aid rider and trainer in an early recognition of low grade lameness. Such knowledge is also important during both subjective and objective lameness evaluations in the ridden horse in a clinical setting. In this study, inertial sensors were used to assess how different rider seating styles may influence head and pelvic movement symmetry in horses trotting in a straight line and on the circle in both directions. A total of 26 horses were subjected to 15 different conditions at trot: three unridden conditions and 12 ridden conditions where the rider performed three different seating styles (rising trot, sitting trot and two point seat). Rising trot induced systematic changes in movement symmetry of the horses. The most prominent effect was decreased pelvic rise that occurred as the rider was actively rising up in the stirrups, thus creating a downward momentum counteracting the horses push off. This mimics a push off lameness in the hindlimb that is in stance when the rider sits down in the saddle during the rising trot. On the circle, the asymmetries induced by rising trot on the correct diagonal counteracted the circle induced asymmetries, rendering the horse more symmetrical. This finding offers an explanation to the equestrian tradition of rising on the ‘correct diagonal.’ In horses with small pre-existing movement asymmetries, the asymmetry induced by rising trot, as well as the circular track, attenuated or reduced the horse’s baseline asymmetry, depending on the sitting diagonal and direction on the circle. A push off hindlimb lameness would be expected to increase when the rider sits during the lame hindlimb stance whereas an impact hindlimb lameness would be expected to decrease. These findings suggest that the rising trot may be useful for identifying the type of lameness during subjective lameness assessment of hindlimb lameness. This theory needs to be studied further in clinically lame horses.

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