How Do Different Saddles Impact Horses’ Movement?

Researchers found that saddle type did not appear to impact movement in a group of Icelandic horses.
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As scientists seek to improve their knowledge of different saddles’ effects on horses, Swiss researchers have been focusing their attention on how various saddles influence—or don't influence—horses' movement.

Saddle type did not appear to impact movement in a group of Icelandic horses, said Katja Geser-von Peinen, DVM, clinical researcher in the Department of Sports Medicine at the Equine Clinic of Vetsuisse Faculty, in Zurich, Switzerland. The team chose to study Icelandic horses because their shoulder movement—often thought to be impeded by saddles—is considered an important criterion in their special gaits, including the four-beat tölt.

“Icelandic horse riders often think that the right saddle can free up the shoulder and give better movement, but our research shows that the kind of saddle doesn’t affect that at all,” she told The Horse.

However, the study results did confirm previous research indicating that the kind of saddle does affect pressure distribution on the horse’s back, Geser-von Peinen said. Specifically, treeless saddles caused the highest pressure points and were least successful at distributing the rider’s weight

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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