A startling frequency of lameness in the general sport horse population is revealed in a new study on the relationship between lameness, saddle slip and back shape.
The British research found that hind limb lameness was the biggest cause of saddle slip in horses.
Saddle slip is usually blamed on poor saddle fit, a crooked rider or asymmetry in the shape of the horse’s back, but the first phase of a long-term research project, first published in 2012, showed that hind limb lameness was frequently the culprit.
The second phase of the study has gone on to look at the frequency of saddle slip and the reasons for it in a large cross-section of the sport horse population.
The research by the head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust, Dr Sue Dyson, and doctoral student Line Greve involved assessment of 506 normal, working sport horses.
Of the 506, 46 percent were classified as lame or having a stiff, stilted canter. Saddle slip occurred in 12 percent of cases, predominantly in those with hind limb, as opposed to fore limb, lameness.
There was minimal asymmetry of back shape in the horses studied but 37 percent of the riders sat crookedly, possibly as an effect of the saddle slip rather than as a cause.
“Given these figures, horses with hind limb lameness and gait abnormalities are more than 50 times more likely to have saddle slip than other horses,” Greve said.
“Furthermore, with nearly half of those studied being lame, many horses with lameness are clearly going unrecognised.
“This study has reinforced our previous work and suggests that further education of riders and trainers is needed, to help them identify saddle slip as an indicator of lameness.”
The full results of the study will be presented at the second Saddle Research Trust International Conference, to be held in Cambridge on November 29 at Anglia Ruskin University.