Saddle Research Trust supports landmark pilot study to address effects of rider weight on equine performance

Dr Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust’s Centre for Equine Studies, Newmarket, who led the study said: “While all the horses finished the study moving as well as when they started, the results showed a substantial temporary effect of rider weight as a proportion of horse weight. The results do not mean that heavy riders should not ride but suggest that if they do they should ride a horse of appropriate size and fitness, with a saddle that is correctly fitted for both horse and rider.

 

“We must remember that this is a pilot study: further work is required to determine if horse fitness, adaptation to heavier weights and ideal saddle fit will increase the weight an individual horse can carry. This should help us further in our quest to develop guidelines for the optimum rider: horse bodyweight ratios.”As the average weight and height of humans continues to increase there is growing debate about relative rider-horse sizes, with riding school horses epitomising the variety of weights of rider that a single horse may be exposed to. Numerous inter-related aspects are involved with the horse and rider combination including the age of the horse, its fitness and muscle development, the length of its back and the presence or absence of lameness. The rider’s skill, fitness, balance and coordination are important factors, as is the fit of the saddle to both the horse and rider. The type, speed and duration of work and the terrain over which the horse is ridden must also be considered.2

To date little research has been conducted on the effects of rider weight on equine welfare and performance. To address the shortfall World Horse Welfare, the Saddle Research Trust, the British Equestrian Federation and a number of other organisations helped to fund a pilot study last summer, the results of which have now been analysed.

Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, said: “These pilot results are certainly not surprising but are very significant in adding vital evidence to inform an appropriate rider: horse weight ratio. It is common sense that rider weight impacts equine welfare however

many might not fully understand or recognise this. What is desperately needed is basic guidance to help riders identify a horse or pony that is right for them and this research is a vital step in that direction.”

Ultimately the study should help with the development of guidelines to help all riders assess if they are the right weight for the horse or pony they intend to ride, to enhance both equine welfare and rider comfort and enjoyment.

The original article, written by Dr Sue Dyson, appeared here.