There is little information about horse-saddle interaction at take-off for a fence, although there is potential that this could have an influence on performance. It was hypothesised that (1) maximum peak pressure under the saddle would occur in the phase of maximum thoracolumbar flexion prior to hindlimb take-off; and (2) limb and trunk kinematics at take-off over the fence would be affected by reducing peak pressure at Thoracic vertebrae (T)10-13 at the point in the stride where peak pressures occur. The peak pressures under the usual saddle (Saddle S) and a saddle modified to reduce peak pressures at T10-13 (Saddle F) were measured during approach and take-off over a 1.30 m upright fence in 12 elite jumping horses. The timing of peak pressures was determined by comparison with simultaneous video data. Shoulder, carpal flexion angle and trunk angle to the horizontal at hindlimb take-off, take-off distance from the fence and fetlock height above the fence were determined using high speed motion analysis. Peak pressures under the saddle at T10-13 and kinematic data were compared between Saddles S and F. Maximum peak pressures occurred at forelimb vertical, during hindlimb protraction, consistent with thoracolumbar ventroflexion. Saddle F was associated with significantly lower peak pressures at T10-13, greater shoulder and carpal flexion, a steeper trunk angle, and higher fetlock height above the fence than Saddle S. Forelimb take-off distance from the fence was not different between saddles, but hindlimbs were significantly closer to the fence with Saddle F, indicating potential increase in ventroflexion through the thoracolumbosacral region. These findings suggest that reducing peak pressures under the saddle at T10-13 are associated with altered kinematics during the approach and take-off over a fence, which may have a positive effect on jumping performance.
- Gait analysis
- Pressure mat