A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Zürich and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences confirmed that saddle fit is dynamic and influenced by even modest increases in speed within a gait.
Researchers found that a 10 percent increase within each speed range resulted in a 5 percent increase in the total saddle force peak at the walk, and a 14 percent increase at the trot.
The Swiss and Swedish researchers based their findings on data gathered from sensors that monitored seven dressage horses ridden on a treadmill in their regular tack, walking at speeds from 1.3 to 1.8 metres per second, and trotting speeds from 2.6 to 3.6 metres per second.
The motion of the horse and rider, vertical ground reaction forces and saddle forces were measured simultaneously. The study showed increasing velocity significantly accentuates the basic motion pattern of the respective gait and consequently exerted a distinct formative influence on the saddle forces.
At the walk, increased velocity could accentuate a rocking type of movement of the horse’s back.
At the trot, saddle movement was influenced by the vertical oscillation of the horse and rider, the resulting higher ground reaction force peaks and the stiffening of the horse’s back.
The bottom line?
It’s not enough for your saddle to fit when your horse is stationary; you need to work with a fitter who understands dynamic fit and who can make sure that the fit will work even while the horse is in motion.
The study was supported by a grant from the Stiftung Forschung für das Pferd (Research Foundation for the Horse).
Influence of velocity on horse and rider movement and resulting saddle forces at walk and trot
S. Bogisch, K. Geser-Von Peinen, T. Wiestner, L. Roepstorff and M.A. Weishaupt.
Comparative Exercise Physiology, 2014; 10 (1): 23-32 DOI 10.3920/CEP13025