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Open AccessArticle

The Effect of Tree Width on Thoracolumbar and Limb Kinematics, Saddle Pressure Distribution, and Thoracolumbar Dimensions in Sports Horses in Trot and Canter

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Centaur Biomechanics, 25 Oaktree Close, Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire CV35 9BB, UK
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Department of Clinical Science and Services, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield AL9 7TA, UK
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FairfaxSaddles, The Saddlery, Fryers Road, Bloxwich, Walsall, West Midlands WS3 2XJ, UK
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Woolcroft Saddlery, Mays Lane, Wisbech PE13 5BU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(10), 842; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100842
Received: 27 August 2019 / Revised: 7 October 2019 / Accepted: 10 October 2019 / Published: 21 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
Determining the correct saddle fit is essential in order to optimise the interaction between the horse and rider dyad, and to reduce the risk of back-related problems or loss of performance as a result of incorrect saddle fit. Although there are industry guidelines (Society of Master Saddlers) on correct saddle fit, some saddle fitters (and others) choose to fit saddles that are wider than industry guidelines on the assumption that increased saddle width will enhance equine locomotion and allow the horses’ thoracolumbar spine to function unhindered. This study quantified the effect that a saddle that was one width fitting wider and narrower (based on the Society of Master Saddlers industry guidelines) had on the kinematics of the thoracolumbar spine, thoracolumbar epaxial musculature profiles, equine locomotion, and saddle pressure distribution. It was found that a saddle that was one width fitting wider and narrower affected the kinematics of the thoracolumbar spine, resulting in concavities in epaxial musculature at T13 when using the wide saddle and at T18 when using the narrow saddle. The wide saddle caused areas of high pressures in the cranial region of the saddle and the narrow saddle caused areas of high pressures in the caudal region of the saddle. It is essential that the correct saddle fit is achieved for each horse and rider combination in order to optimise the horse-rider system and reduce the risk of back-related problems or loss of performance that may occur as a result of incorrect saddle fit.
This study evaluated the effect of saddle tree width on thoracolumbar and limb kinematics, saddle pressure distribution, and thoracolumbar epaxial musculature dimensions. Correctly fitted saddles were fitted by a Society of Master Saddler Qualified Saddle Fitter in fourteen sports horses (mean ± SD age 12 ± 8.77 years, height 1.65 ± 0.94 m), and were altered to one width fitting wider and narrower. Horses were equipped with skin markers, inertial measurement units, and a pressure mat beneath the saddle. Differences in saddle pressure distribution, as well as limb and thoracolumbosacral kinematics between saddle widths were investigated using a general linear model with Bonferroni adjusted alpha (p ≤ 0.05). Compared with the correct saddle width, in trot, in the wide saddle, an 8.5% increase in peak pressures was found in the cranial region of the saddle (p = 0.003), a 14% reduction in thoracolumbar dimensions at T13 (p = 0.02), and a 6% decrease in the T13 range of motion in the mediolateral direction (p = 0.02). In the narrow saddle, a 14% increase in peak pressures was found in the caudal region of the saddle (p = 0.01), an 8% decrease in the range of motion of T13 in the mediolateral direction (p = 0.004), and a 6% decrease in the vertical direction (p = 0.004) of T13. Compared with the correct saddle width, in canter, in the wide saddle, axial rotation decreased by 1% at T5 (p = 0.03) with an 5% increase at T13 (p = 0.04) and a 5% increase at L3 (p = 0.03). Peak pressures increased by 4% (p = 0.002) in the cranial region of the wide saddle. Altering the saddle fit had an effect on thoracolumbar kinematics and saddle pressure distribution; hence, correct saddle fit is essential to provide unhindered locomotion. View Full-Text
Keywords: thoracolumbar region; saddle fitting; locomotion; equine thoracolumbar region; saddle fitting; locomotion; equine
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MDPI and ACS Style

MacKechnie-Guire, R.; MacKechnie-Guire, E.; Fairfax, V.; Fisher, D.; Fisher, M.; Pfau, T. The Effect of Tree Width on Thoracolumbar and Limb Kinematics, Saddle Pressure Distribution, and Thoracolumbar Dimensions in Sports Horses in Trot and Canter. Animals 2019, 9, 842.

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