Rider Pressure Affects Horse Tack Evaluation

The force a rider exerts on the horse's back will shift depending on his or her position and should be included in any evaluation of tack pressure, researchers recently reported.

"You need a force that is distributed over a certain area to make a good evaluation of the saddle pressure, therefore saddle measurements should be performed with a rider," said Patricia de Cocq, MSc, DVM, of Wageningen University in The Netherlands. "The load distribution underneath the saddle should be as equal as possible to prevent saddle sores."

De Cocq and colleagues used the Pliance system to measure pressure on a standing horse with a loose girth, and with a tightened girth, without and with a rider mounted. Ten readings for each stage were taken using 23 riders and six Arabian geldings. Sometimes the sensor mats were left in place between measurements and sometimes they were removed and reapplied.

"Measurements when the system and saddle are not removed are more repeatable than when the system is removed and replaced," she said. "This makes the system especially suitable to measure the effect of riding technique and rider level, but makes measurements of different saddles more complicated."

Knowing the complete force measurements would be especially important to endurance riders, she said.

"The occurrence of pressure sores depends on the height of the pressure and the time this pressure is exerted on the horse's back. Therefore saddle fitting and the influence of the rider on the force on the horse's back is far more important than in disciplines were the horse's back is loaded for a shorter time," she explained.

De Cocq said the study was limited because it was performed only on a standing horse.

"In movement I expect that there will be more changes with different rider positions," she relayed.

The study, "Usability of normal force distribution measurements to evaluate asymmetrical loading of the back of the horse and different rider positions on a standing horse," was published in the September 2009 issue of The Veterinary Journal. The abstract is available on PubMed.  

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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