EQUUS - - Equus - By Christine Barakat and Mick McCluskey, BVSc, MACVSc

• How sad­dle de­sign af­fects rider sta­bil­ity • Trans­port stress linked to pre­ma­tu­rity • Bet­ter way to de­liver med­i­ca­tions • Whole body vi­bra­tion ther­apy stud­ied

It may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but re­mov­ing a sig­nif­i­cant part of your sad­dle may make your seat more se­cure, ac­cord­ing to a new study. Led by Michi­gan State Univer­sity pro­fes­sor emerita Hi­lary Clay­ton, BVMS, PhD, the study showed that rid­ers were more bal­anced and sta­ble when sit­ting in a sad­dle that had no flaps---the large leather pan­els that lie be­tween the rider’s thighs and the horse. Most English sad­dles have two flaps on each side---one in con­tact with the horse and the other un­der the rider’s leg, with the bil­let straps ly­ing in be­tween the two ---but on some sad­dles only a sin­gle flap rests be­tween the horse and the rider. “I be­lieve flaps were de­vel­oped rider’s fric­tion,” though ev­ery tary or sad­dle. cavalry legs they says to from aren’t pro­tect “Legacy Clay­ton, de­signs sweat found the mili- al- have and on no num­ber flaps, of and mod­ern there en­dur- are a ance small sad­dles seat with that straps con­sist for of the a girth and stir­rups.” The re­search team tested rider sta­bil­ity in a mod­ern dres­sage sad­dle de­signed to have no flaps. “The sad­dle has a full tree and a nor­mal seat to en­sure com­fort of both horse and rider,” says Clay­ton. “From the horse’s per­spec­tive, the tree and the pan­els pro­vide weight dis­tri­bu­tion and gul­let width, which are crit­i­cal el­e­ments to en­sure equine com­fort that many tree­less sad­dles strug­gle to of­fer. From the rider’s per­spec­tive, the seat feels like con­ven­tional sad­dles de­spite its ap­pear­ance. It is noth­ing like the feel of a bare­back pad.” The sad­dle also has stir­rups at­tached un­der the skirt and

long a short For bil­lets the girth. study, to be five used dres- with sage horses were rid­den by the same pro­fes­sional rider. Each horse was fa­mil­iar­ized with the feel of the flap­less sad­dle prior to the day of the study. Data were col­lected us­ing a pres­sure sen­si­tive pad placed un­der the sad­dle as the horses were rid­den in their stan­dard sad­dles and in the flap­less sad­dle in a ran­dom­ized or­der. The rider’s move­ments were then plot­ted us­ing com­puter anal­y­sis of the data. The anal­y­sis showed that the rider was more sta­ble in the flap­less sad­dle. “The rider’s cen­ter of pres­sure, which rep­re­sents the rider’s po­si­tion in the sad­dle, was more sta­ble with the flap­less sad­dle,” says Clay­ton. “The rider stayed more cen­tered over the mid­dle of the horse in all gaits. In col­lected trot, ex­tended trot and ex­tended can­ter, the rider also moved less from front to back.” Clay­ton ex­plains that “part of this ef­fect can be at­trib­uted to the rider’s close­ness to the horse [without flaps] and the fact that the rider’s thighs are less ab­ducted (spread apart). Most rid­ers who get into a flap­less sad­dle com­ment that their horses feel nar­rower, which makes it eas­ier to in­wardly ro­tate the signer the the more flap; im­proved port the the rider, ter­pret for rider This the thigh. thighs rider’s gaits.” horse in this will ef­fec­tively says be­lieves horse be­ing that sta­bil­ity is be abil­ity as The Clay­ton: are hip how as less well be­cause able sad­dle’s be­ing less ‘hinge’ that, without she ben­e­fits rid­ers in­clined as to ab­ducted, “I the sees be­cause fol­low bet­ter in- the works de- re- a the to up­set Ad­di­tion­ally, sition (var­ied ipate Horses the the was like less) rider’s horse’s more con­sis­tency.” from the move­ments. con­sis­tent rider’s bal­ance. stride po- to She stride, so the horse can an­ti­cadds study horses ac­cepted that re­ported ei­ther or the quickly rid­ers im­me­di­ately that the adapted in the to was the The a pro­fes­sional, flap­less rider in sad­dle. the study but Clay­ton ef­fects rid­ers such were says as seen that her­self: the in am­a­teur same “I col­lected sional and data am­a­teur from rid­ers pro­fes­but fes­sional only re­ported rider for on the the study proto re­duce the vari­abil­ity in the data. I was so im­pressed I gave it a try and am now rid­ing flap­less.”

Ref­er­ence: “Com­par­i­son of rider sta­bil­ity in a flap­less sad­dle ver­sus a con­ven­tional sad­dle,” PLOS One, June 2018

On a con­ven­tional sad­dle with two flaps, the un­der­ly­ing sweat flap and girth tabs are vis­i­ble when the outer flap is raised (right). This is a monoflap sad­dle; when the panel is lifted the tabs are vis­i­ble (right). A flap­less sad­dle is shown without a pad and with a pad (right).

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