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‘Saddle-slip’ is a cause of back pain in riders

Back pain in horse riders can be caused by ill-fitting saddles, according to a second study released by the Saddle Research Trust (SRT).

Earlier this year, Dr Sue Dyson and Line Greve of the Animal Health Trust (AHT) linked back problems and lameness in horses to “saddle-slip”. Now their findings show why riders may be suffering from it.

Thirty-eight per cent of 205 riders who responded to a questionnaire had back pain. In the clinical assessment this was associated with ill-fitting saddles and either a reduced airborne phase of the step of the horse in all four limbs or a stiff, stilted canter, suggesting pain.

Ill-fitting saddles were identified in 43% of horses, with saddle-slip observed in 14.6% and significantly associated with hind limb lameness or gait abnormalities.

However, only two riders had made the connection.

The research also flagged-up rider crookedness. Saddles that fitted well were often found to be the ones regularly checked, while horses ridden by experts were less likely to have asymmetry of the back.

“Ideally, saddle-fit should be checked more often than once a year,” said Line Greve. “Yet this isn’t the whole solution because, worryingly, 30% of horses that had their saddles checked at least once yearly still had an ill-fitting saddle. What is unknown is whether these saddles had ever fitted correctly, or whether a properly qualified saddle fitter was responsible.”

➤ The full study will be discussed at the SRT’s conference on 29 November Visit: www.saddleresearchtrust.com

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine, 7 August 2014

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