Monday, May 16, 2011

Saddle research uncovers new theory in asymmetry

The Saddle Research Trust (SRT), believe they have discovered a new theory in rider asymmetry, which they feel will have implications for equine performance and welfare.

Following a series of pilot studies carried out in conjunction with educational establishments throughout 2010, the charity claims to have evidence that highlights previously unidentified areas and measurable characteristics of saddle performance.

Anne Bondi BHSI, Director for the trust explains: “The initial objective of our early pilot studies was to measure the effect of the rider asymmetry using a variety of scientific measuring systems open to the trust. It soon became apparent that a more complex pattern of interaction was occurring, one that could not just be explained by a rider sitting crookedly.”

Humans are not perfectly symmetrical, and most riders are aware of being right or left handed. This ‘handing’ often creates a loss of symmetry in the rider in the vertical plane.

“After observing this common occurrence we began to examine further the effect the saddle has on the rider and their posture” she continues.

A similar lack of symmetry also exists in the horse in the horizontal plane. The movement of a horse’s back and limbs creates movement in the saddle, generating an unstable platform for the rider. This forces riders to adopt a compensatory action - accentuating the already asymmetrical posture. The horse also compensates for carrying the asymmetrical rider by counterbalancing.

According to the SRT, this is far more complex than a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. It involves a mixture of symptoms involving asymmetries in the horse, rider and saddle, but more significantly the interaction between them.

"Our studies to date have shown a clear lack of synchronisation in this three-way interaction, and it is our understanding that the degree to which this occurs is greatly affected by saddle design and fit."

“We have raised many new questions about the effect of saddles on asynchrony, as well as identifying measurable characteristics in saddle performance. Although our work is in its infancy we believe it will have far-reaching effects on all levels of equestrianism.”


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