Study aims to investigate links between excess rider weight and back pain in horses

  • The author of a study looking into rider weight and equine back pain hopes to find out whether there is a correlation between the two, and help inform future research.

    Elysia Jones, who is studying equine sports coaching at Hartpury University, is asking as many riders as possible to complete her study, which will inform her dissertation.

    She hopes to secure 1,000 responses to her questionnaire, which investigates how UK horse owners perceive the causes of back problems in their horses.

    “This will help create an understanding of the factors that create back pain, how significantly rider weight influences back pain, and how owners recognise the cause of the problem,” she said. “Hopefully, this research can act as a platform for future studies to grasp a better understanding of how back pain is established and the impact of rider weight in true circumstances.”

    Complete the questionnaire here

    Elysia told H&H the topic of rider weight and its effect on horses is a taboo one, and one that interests her.

    “It’s not something people like to go into too much, it’s very controversial,” she said.

    The survey asks about respondents’ horses, and themselves, including questions on rider experience, saddle fit and the horse’s work, to investigate a range of different causes of back pain.

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    “I’ve had about 120 responses so far and it’s an even split on whether people get their saddles fitted just to the horse, or to themselves as well, which is a big issue,” she said.

    “My objectives are to find out the prevalence of back pain in UK horses, to find out what owners think causes it and to find out if there’s a correlation between rider weight and equine back pain.

    “In my own view, up to a certain weight ratio, rider experience comes into play too but if a rider’s too heavy, you can’t change that; other studies have shown horses’ backs don’t work in the right way [under a too-heavy rider]. But I’m not saying rider weight is causing more back pain; I want to see what the results tell me.”

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