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Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution in horses without back pain


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Objective of the study was to assess saddle pressure distribution in a normal horse population and to determine whether or not the pressure pad used is able to provide reliable information on saddle fit in a field setting. In addition the influence of type of saddle, type of saddle pad and back conformation on saddle pressure distribution was investigated. Forty randomly sampled horses were equipped and measured with a pressure pad at rest, during free and medium (collected) walk and during rising and sitting trot. All measurements were made on the straight line and were summarized according to the percentage pressure distribution front to back, as well as left, right and middle (spinal), of the saddle. Additional data were collected by a questionnaire and all data were statistical analyzed by the program STS 3.42 and NCSS 2007 (ANOVA). Significantly higher percentage pressures were noted at the back of the saddle in horses with poor muscu-lature in the lumbar region when compared with those with prominent muscles in this area. Measurements using alternative saddle pads such as gel pads, foam material pads or yoga mats were variable and gave significantly different (higher) percentage pressures when compared to the traditional thin textile saddle pad. Western saddles showed significantly higher percentage pressure distribution towards the front of the saddle while a treeless saddle showed a higher percentage pressure distribution over midline. This study provides preliminary information on the saddle pressure distribution in a normal horse population measured in the field setting. Larger numbers would enable more robust interpretation of pressure measurements and improve on their clinical relevance.
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Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015) 145
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015) 2 (March/April) 145-152
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
in horses without back pain
Melanie Glaus1, Stefan Witte2and Conny Herholz1
1Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL, CH-Zollikofen
2Vetsuisse Faculty Bern, ISME Equine Clinic, CH-Bern
Summary: Objective of the study was to assess saddle pressure distribution in a normal horse population and to determine whether or not
the pressure pad used is able to provide reliable information on saddle fit in a field setting. In addition the influence of type of saddle, type
of saddle pad and back conformation on saddle pressure distribution was investigated. Forty randomly sampled horses were equipped and
measured with a pressure pad at rest, during free and medium (collected) walk and during rising and sitting trot. All measurements were
made on the straight line and were summarized according to the percentage pressure distribution front to back, as well as left, right and
middle (spinal), of the saddle. Additional data were collected by a questionnaire and all data were statistical analyzed by the program STS
3.42 and NCSS 2007 (ANOVA). Significantly higher percentage pressures were noted at the back of the saddle in horses with poor muscu-
lature in the lumbar region when compared with those with prominent muscles in this area. Measurements using alternative saddle pads
such as gel pads, foam material pads or yoga mats were variable and gave significantly different (higher) percentage pressures when com-
pared to the traditional thin textile saddle pad. Western saddles showed significantly higher percentage pressure distribution towards the
front of the saddle while a treeless saddle showed a higher percentage pressure distribution over midline. This study provides preliminary
information on the saddle pressure distribution in a normal horse population measured in the field setting. Larger numbers would enable
more robust interpretation of pressure measurements and improve on their clinical relevance.
Keywords: Saddle pressure distribution / field study / saddle type / saddle pad / back / orthopedics
Citation: Glaus M., Witte S., Herholz C. (2015) Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution in horses without back pain. Pfer-
deheilkunde 31, 145-152
Correspondence: Conny Herholz PD Dr. med. vet., HAFL Zollikofen, Länggasse 85, 3052 Zollikofen, Schweiz, e-mail:
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
It has been estimated that 75 % of the horses are ridden with
a saddle which does not fit (
2004). An ill-fitting
saddle is one of the main causes of back pain (
al. 2004), but it may simply manifest as poor performance, in
particular in the sport horse (
et al.
2002). Distinct differences in the heigh of pressure and its
distribution are correlated with saddlefit (
et al.
2005). The primary causes of an ill-fitting saddle are asym-
metry of the saddle, cushions that are too hard and a caudal-
ly located center of balance (
et al. 2005). Damages
related to pressurer are caused both by intensity of the rider’s
action and the duration of it (
von Peinen
et al. 2010b).
Judging saddle fit is most often performed subjectively and
with the horse at rest (
von Peinen
2006). Use of a saddle pres-
sure measurement device allows objective assessment of pres-
sures and their distribution under the saddle, during ridden
exercise (
et al. 2002,
et al.
2005). The pressure data generated by the Pliance-System has
been validated and reported extensively with reference to
saddle fit, saddle type, saddle pad, and in the evaluation of
horse, saddle and rider interactions (
et al. 2005, von
et al. 2010,
et al. 2010,
et al. 2010 a,
et al. 2004). As part of an evolving process these
studies aimed to improve the reliability, accuracy and clinical
relevance of saddle pressure measurement devices. The single
most important factor in all of these studies is the standardiza-
tion of the experimental setting (i.e. rider, speed, ground) (
et al. 1996,
De Cocq
et al. 2006), something that is not
always taken into consideration by saddlers and trainers that
use saddle pressure measurement devices in their daily work.
The aim of the study was to investigate the use of a commerci-
ally available saddle pressured measurement device under field
conditions and to identify commonalities with standardized stu-
dies. A further goal was in providing preliminary guidelines for
the interpretation of information generated with the unit. In
order to fulfill these goals the following hypotheses were tested:
• Gait will significantly influence pressure distribution.
• The structural differences between dressage, show jumping
and eventing saddles and western and treeless saddles will
result in significantly different pressure distributions (front-
back, left-right and spine)
• Saddle pads have the potential to negatively influence the
normal pressure distribution under all saddles in which they
are used.
• Conformation of the longitudinal muscles of the vertebral
column will significantly influence pressure distribution
under a saddle.
Materials and methods
Horses, riders and saddles
Saddle pressure distribution was measured in 40 randomly
sampled normal horses without a history of back pain. This
included 19 mares and 21 geldings, with an age range of 5
145-152_Glaus.qxp_Musterseite Artikel.qxd 18.02.15 14:29 Seite 145
to 22 years (mean 11.5 years). Horse breeds included in the
study were warmbloods, thoroughbreds, arabians, Swiss light
draft horses (Freiberger) and ponies. Breeds were grouped as
heavy (He), warmblood (WB), thoroughbred / arabian (TB/A)
and small horse / pony (Po) Horses were reported as being
used in dressage, show jumping or for pleasure riding. Photo-
graphs of all horses were taken at the time of the measure-
ment and later used in order to categorize the degree of
musculature (in the thoracolumbar region) as convex, flat or
concave. Based on rider information it was established that
none of the horses measured were suffering from clinically
relevant back pain. Riders were specifically asked whether a
veterinarian, chiropractor or osteopath had visited the horse
for treatment of the thoracolumbar region. Horses were hou-
sed at various locations and for the purposes of the study
were ridden by their usual rider using their own saddle and
pad. Saddles measured included jumping (n=13), dressage
(n=15), eventing (n= 8), western (n =3) and treeless (n =1)
saddles. Saddle pads were categorized as regular cloth pad
(RCP), wool pad (WP) or ‘alternative’ pad (AP). The riders
were all experienced horsemen.
Data acquisition
All measurements were made at the horses’ own stable. With
the exception of 2 measurements (performed on a gravel
pathway) all measurements were performed in sand arenas.
All horses were ridden in a straight line and recorded in the
same order (at rest, free walk, collected walk, rising trot and
finally sitting trot). Recordings were made over 25 meters as
defined by markers.
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015)
Saddle pressure distributions were registered using the Team
Satteltester®system. This system is marketed for use by sadd-
lers, riding teachers and veterinarians. This system incorpora-
tes 256 flat pressure sensors arranged 16×16 as a square
pad. Sensors record at a frequency of 20/Hz (
comm. 2013). Pressure sensors are protected by a rubberized
cloth giving the pad a thickness of 1.5cm and allowing easy
symmetrical placement under all saddles. Data was continu-
ously transmitted via blue-tooth and recorded on a laptop
computer. The mean pressure distribution recorded over each
trail by the custom-made STS-program 3.42 was used for
data analysis. Percentage pressure distribution was categori-
zed as left, right and spinal (middle) as well as front and back.
Table 1 Summary of the data shown in Figure 1 | Zusammenfassung der Daten aus Abbildung 1
Condition Rest Free Walk Collected Walk Rising Trot Sitting Trot
% Distribution
Median 52.3 53.2 55.5 60.3 57.19
Minimum 33.8 35.7 37.0 44.8 36.7
Maximum 82.4 81.3 81.7 80.4 83.4
Range 48.6 45.6 44.7 35.6 46.7
p- value 0.22 0.44 0.44 0.40 0.95
Fig. 1 Box plot of the median percentage pressure distribution,
at the front of the pad, for all horses |
Boxplot der prozentualen
Druckverteilung im vorderen Bereich der Messmatte (alle Pferde)
Fig. 2 Box plot of the median percentage pressure distribution
measured on the left half of the pad, for all horses. |
Boxplot der
prozentualen Druckverteilung auf der linken Seite der Messmatte
(alle Pferde)
Fig. 3 Box plot of the median percentage pressure distribution,
measured over the spine in all horses. |
Boxplot der prozentualen
Druckverteilung im spinalen Bereich der Messmatte (alle Pferde)
Statistical analysis
Statistical analysis of the data was performed using the NCSS
program. Normal distribution of the data was tested using the
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. The influence of various factors
(saddle type, saddle pad and back conformation) were tested
separately using an ANOVA. In cases where normal distribu-
tion was not given, a Kruskal-Wallis Anova on Ranks was
used. Significance level was set at p<0.05.
Influence of gait on pressure distribution
Pressure distribution front to back
Percentage pressures in a craniocaudal direction were regi-
stered as front or back. For ease in reporting the results of
only the percentage distribution towards the front will be
reported. Although median values for the trot appear greater
than those for the other conditions, a significant difference is
only present between rest and sitting trot (p = 0.027*) (Fig. 1
and Tab. 1).
Pressure distribution left to right
In order to allow a direct comparison between left and right
the pressure values obtained for the spine (midline) were
discounted and the values for left and right corrected to give
a percentage distribution to a side. Figure 2. shows the tight
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015) 147
distribution of median pressure measurements, in our popu-
lation of horses, with an equal left to right distribution. Medi-
an pressure distribution was confirmed to lie around 50%
with a range of approximately 10% to either side. There were
no statistically significant differences in these findings between
the gaits measured.
The percentage pressure distribution for pressures measured
over the spine (midline), during the various gaits, are shown
in figure 3. Significantly lower values were recorded when
horses were measured during both sitting and rising trot when
compared to the resting state (p= 0.000131*). The mean
percentage pressure located over the spine was 11.5%.
Factors influencing percentage pressure distribution
Saddle-type, saddle pads and back conformation were eva-
luated for their possible influence on pressure distribution and
are summarised in tables 2, 3 and 4. Significance is highligh-
ted through an asterisk.
Type of Saddle
At rest (p = 0.003) and at ridden walk (p= 0.0136 and
p=0.003) there is a significantly greater mean percentage
pressure over the front of the western saddle (WE) when com-
pared to the dressage (DR), show jumping and eventing
Table 2 Differences in mean percentage pressure distribution according to condition and between types of saddle (DR= Dressage, SJ=Show
Jumping, EV=Eventing, WE=Western, TL=Treeless) |
Unterschiede der prozentualen Verteilung (Mittelwerte) bezogen auf Gangart und Satteltyp
(DR= Dressur, SJ=Springen, EV=Eventing, WE=Western, TL=Baumlos)
Mean percentage pressure distribution
Significant differences
Type of saddle
1. WE ! DR, SJ,EV
1. WE ! DR
Collected walk
1. WE ! DR, SJ, EV
Rising trot
Sitting trot
1. SJ ! WE, TL
2. EV ! WE, TL
3. DR ! WE, TL
Collected walk
1. SJ ! WE, TL
Rising trot
Sitting trot
1. TL ! DR, WE, SJ, EV
1. TL ! DR, EV
Collected walk
1. TL ! DR, WE, SJ
Rising trot
1. TL ! WE, DR, SJ, EV
Sitting trot
1. TL ! WE, DR, SJ, EV
145-152_Glaus.qxp_Musterseite Artikel.qxd 18.02.15 14:29 Seite 147
saddle (Tab. 2). A further significant difference is noted bet-
ween a left-sided distribution of mean pressures in western
and treeless saddles, when compared to the other saddle-
types (p = 0.001, p = 0.005). Finally the treeless saddle sho-
wed a significantly higher mean percentage distribution over
the spine (midline) than all other saddle types (p= 0.0018,
p=0.0044, p= 0.0068, p= 0.0014, p= 0.0007). The hig-
hest value (40.3%), was measured at rest.
Saddle pad
At rest and at a walk the mean percentage pressure distribu-
tion was significantly higher (p <0.05), towards the front of
the saddle and over the spine, under the ‘alternative’ saddle
pads (Yoga mat, Gel pad or similar), than with the regular
cloth pad (Tab. 3).
A concave lumbar region resulted in a significant increase in
mean percentage pressure distribution to the back of the
saddle when compared to a convex conformation (Tab. 4).
This was recorded in all 5 conditions (p= 0.021, p= 0.023,
p=0.015, p =0.017, p =0.022).
Pressure distribution and influence of gait
The results of our study suggest that, irrelevant of gait, variability
in pressure distribution front to back of up to 30% can be nor-
mal. This finding corresponds to those of de
et al (2006)
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015)
et al. (2005) which describe high variability in maxi-
mal pressure measurements of 23% and 35% respectively.
With outliers excluded the variation in left to right percentage
pressure distribution is small and variations, in the mean, of
greater than 5–10% can be interpreted as abnormal. Higher
percentage distribution to one side should not be ignored
and its possible clinical relevance must be correlated with the
results of a thorough clinical evaluation.
In the presence of an adequate depth and width of gullet no
pressure should be registered on midline (
Despite this a mean percentage pressure distribution of
11.5% was measured in our study. Interestingly this value was
significantly lower at the trot than at rest. The authors suggest
contraction of the epaxial muscles of the back (primarily m.
longissimus dorsi) and their stabilizing role during exercise as
an explanation for these findings, the saddle being ‘lifted’
from the spine.
As already mentioned results of the current study show a con-
sistently higher mean percentage pressure over the front half
of the saddle. This finding has been reported previously (
et al. 2005). During ridden exercise this trend is exacerba-
ted by the large influence of rider and his or her seat (de
et al. 2009,
et al. 2010).
et al. (2004)
shows, that at walk the overall force is more or less equivalent
to the rider’s body mass, whereas the force values increase to
about twice the body mass of the rider at a trot. Instability of
an ill-fitting saddle may cause additional pressure peaks resul-
ting from a reduced coupling of the saddle between horse
movements and rider movements (
et al. 2007). An
increasing mean pressure distribution towards the front of the
Table 3
Differences in mean percentage pressure distribution according to condition and between saddle pad (RCP=regular cloth pad,
WP=wool pad, AP=alternative pad |
Unterschiede der prozentualen Verteilung (Mittelwerte) bezogen auf Gangart und Sattelunterlagen
(RCP=einfaches Sattelpad, WP=Fellunterlage, AP=alternative Pads wie Gelpad oder Yogamatte)
Sigificant differences
Saddle pad
1. RCP ! AP
1. RCP ! AP
Collected walk
1. RCP ! AP
Rising trot
Sitting trot
Collected walk
Rising trot
Sitting trot
1. RCP ! AP
Collected walk
1. RCP ! AP
Rising trot
Sitting trot
145-152_Glaus.qxp_Musterseite Artikel.qxd 18.02.15 14:29 Seite 148
saddle is noted in our results progressing from standing
through walk to the trot (sitting trot creating less pressure than
rising trot). Hypothesis one can therefore be upheld. Results of
a previous study showed that the centre of pressure shifts
toward the withers in sitting and rising trot (
et al. 2010)
and, as seen in our study, that pressures are highest at the
front (third) of the saddle during rising trot (
et al. 2010).
Regarding propre saddle fit in the area of the gullet plate and
stainless steels possibIe discrepancies are best manifested at
rising trot as well (von Peinen et al. 2010b). It is important to
remember that speed will also influence tension through the
horse’s back (
et al. 2001) and therefore pressure distri-
bution. Speed was a factor that was not standardised in this
study as horses moved at their preferred speed.
Influence of various factors on percentage pressure distribu-
Type of saddle
Dressage saddles appear to have a front-back distribution
that most closely approximates 50:50. Aside from good
saddle fit this may be a reflection of the importance of a cor-
rect seat in this discipline. Significantly higher values were
measured towards the front in the three western saddles inclu-
ded in the study (Table 3.) when compared to all other saddle
types. The tendency of these saddles to ‘tip’ forward has been
shown previously (
et al. 2010) and it is likely that
this results from the rigid wooden saddle tree.
The significant differences in mean percentage pressure distri-
bution to the left in both the treeless and the western saddles
compared to the other saddle types is likely explained by their
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015) 149
proven relative lack of stability (
et al 2012). Finally the
absence of a saddle tree leads to poor weight distribution and
the significant focal pressure over midline recorded in the
‘treeless saddle’ (
et al. 2012,
et al. 2010).The
highest percentage pressure distribution measured over mid-
line in this study was 40.4 %. This was recorded in the only
horse fitted with a treeless saddle. This saddle-type is known
to cause focal pressure over the spine (
et al. 2010,
et al. 2010). Although only a low number of saddles of
this two types were included in the study (n=3; n=1), the
results confirm that particular attention should be paid to the
type of saddle in order to avoid future problems. Hypothesis
two can be upheld.
Saddle pad
Good saddle-fit is paramount for long term health of the
back and poor fit is hardly compensated through the use of
a pad (
et al. 2004).
et al. (2010 b)
came to the conclusion that the saddle pads tested in their
study (gel, leather, foam and reindeer) did not greatly
influence the fit of a saddle that was appropriate for the hor-
se. However the reindeer fur pad alone decreased the maxi-
mum overall force. A chosen pad should be large enough,
not create bulges, not slip during movement, have an
appropriate shape at the withers and should not cause an
excessive narrowing of the saddle (
et al. 2010 b).
Bearing the findings of
et al (2010 b) and
et al (2004) in mind the ‘alternative’ pads in table 3
can be seen to negatively influence percentage pressure
distribution (significant shift of pressure to the front of the
saddle and significant increase in pressure over the spine).
Hypothesis three can also be upheld. A saddle that fits well
and is combined with a simple cloth pad (numnah) appears
Table 4
Differences in mean percentage pressure distribution according to condition and between back conformations |
Unterschiede der
prozentualen Verteilung (Mittelwerte) bezogen auf Gangart und Rückenkonformationen
Back conformation
1. Convex ! Concave
1. Convex ! Concave
Collected walk
1. Convex ! Concave
Rising trot
1. Convex ! Concave
Sitting trot
1. Convex ! Concave
Collected walk
Rising trot
Sitting trot
Collected walk
Rising trot
Sitting trot
145-152_Glaus.qxp_Musterseite Artikel.qxd 18.02.15 14:29 Seite 149
to distribute pressure best. Also Mönckemöller et al. 2005
showed that after proper saddle fitting the horse’s back pain
could be reduced considerably.
Back conformation
Conformation and condition of muscles in the thoracolumbar
region dictate how well a particular saddle will fit. In the cur-
rent study shape of the withers did not appear to influence
percentage pressure distribution. In contrast to this a lack of
muscles (and concave conformation) in the lumbar region
was shown to be associated with increases in mean percen-
tage pressure distribution towards the back of the saddle This
likely results from a backward tipping of the saddle, applying
focal pressure. This will eventually lead to muscle soreness
2010). A convex lumbar region was
noted to shift pressures to the front of the saddle. Hypothesis
four is therefore partially upheld.
As the goal of the study was to assess the value of saddle
pressure measurements by saddlers or trainers under field
conditions, horses were not clinically examined to rule out
back pain prior to inclusion in the study. Undiagnosed thora-
columbar pain can therefore not be excluded. A clinical exa-
mination and ideally further diagnostics, including radio-
graphs of the thoracolumbar vertebral column, would have
been necessary to confirm its absence.
Horses included in the study were randomly selected rather
than being assigned to a group or fulfilling inclusion criteria.
This excluded bias but resulted in relatively low numbers in
certain categories. For this reason the statistical power is often
poor. Future studies should include larger numbers of horses
allowing more robust comparison between conditions and
influencing factors. Repeatability should also be assessed.
Nevertheless, important trends have been evaluated.
While this study divided the back into regions through the
categories front, back, left, middle (spinal) and right, a more
accurate subdivision would more precisely localise sites of
abnormal pressure. In addition the system used for this study
is unable to provide absolute pressure measurements. Alt-
hough such measures must be interpreted in conjunction with
clinical findings and the horse’s constitution, they provide
valuable additional information on the actual forces to which
the back is being subjected.
Bearing these limitations in mind the current study provides
preliminary data useful for the interpretation of percentage
pressure distribution data recorded using a saddle pressure
measurement system in a field setting. It also provides some
insight into factors that should be considered due to their
influence on pressure and pressure distribution. Larger num-
bers are required to confirm these initial findings. It is impor-
tant to remember that the results of an isolated (or repeated)
saddle pressure measurement represent a small part of a lar-
ger evaluation that recognises the interactions between sadd-
le, horse and rider.
Manufacturer’s address
Team-Satteltester: David Albrecht, Cetin Ekin GbR, Schlossstr.
52D, 86485 Biberbach-Markt, Germany
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015)
Animal Welfare Statement
For the present study no approval was necessary as all horses
were ridden under normal conditions and no surgical or other
medical procedure was adopted.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors exclude any conflict of interest.
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Erweiterte Zusammenfassung
Vorläufige Feldstudie zur Satteldruckverteilung bei Pfer-
den ohne Rückenprobleme
Rund 75 % der Pferde werden mit einem unpassenden Sattel
geritten, was eine der wesentlichen Ursachen für Rückenpro-
bleme und Leistungsdepression bei Sportpferden ist. Haupt-
gründe für schlecht passende Sättel sind asymmetrische Sät-
tel, zu harte Sattelkissen, zu enge Sattelkammern und zu weit
nach hinten verlagerte Schwerpunkte der Sitzfläche.
Normalerweise wird die Passform eines Sattels durch eine
Fachperson subjektiv beurteilt wobei die Begutachtung aus-
schliesslich im Stand stattfindet. Durch Satteldruckmesssyste-
me ist es möglich, die Druckverteilung in der Bewegung
objektiv zu beurteilen. In den neusten Studien wird das Plian-
ce-System der Firma Novel GmbH verwendet, um Sattelunter-
lagen, Sattelpassformen, Sattelmarken oder die Evaluation
der Interaktion zwischen Reiter und Pferd in hoch standardi-
sierten Studien zu überprüfen. Der Wissensstand über die
Aussagekraft, die Verlässlichkeit und die Verwendbarkeit sol-
cher Messmatten ist in stetem Aufbau. Die Standardisierung
der Faktoren ist dabei von essentieller Bedeutung. Bei der all-
täglichen Arbeit mit solchen Satteldruckmatten sind diese Vor-
aussetzungen nur bedingt gegeben.
Ziel der Studie war es anhand von Satteldruckmessungen zu
überprüfen, wie die Druckwerte in einer gesunden Pferdepo-
pulation verteilt sind und ob die Messmatte in einem Feldver-
such verlässliche Informationen zur Überprüfung der Sattel-
passform liefert. Weiter wurde untersucht, wie Satteltyp, Sat-
telunterlage und Rückenkonformation die Satteldruckvertei-
lung beeinflussen.
Vierzig zufällig ausgewählte Pferde wurden mit dem System
Satteltester®im Stand, Schritt, versammeltem Schritt, Leicht-
trab und versammeltem Trab auf geraden Linien über 25
Meter untersucht. Die gemessenen Druckwerte wurden im
Rückenbereich in prozentuale Anteile vorne-hinten, links-
rechts sowie spinal eingeteilt. Zusätzliche Angaben wurden
mittels Fragebogen generiert und die erhobenen Daten wur-
den durch das Analyseprogramm STS 3.42 und NCSS 2007
(ANOVA) ausgewertet.
Die gemessene prozentuale Druckverteilung in craniocauda-
ler Richtung (vorne-hinten) zeigt Differenzen zwischen allen
Gangarten. Ein signifikanter Unterschied wurde jedoch nur
zwischen dem Stand und dem Leichttrab (p=0.027*) im vor-
deren Bereich festgestellt (Abb. 1 und Tab. 1). Keine signifi-
kanten Unterschiede konnten in der prozentualen links-rechts
Verteilung der Mediane festgestellt werden (Abb. 2). Der opti-
male Wert von 50% mit Abweichungen bis zu 10% zu beiden
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015) 151
Seiten konnten bestätigt werden. In Abbildung 3 sind die pro-
zentualen Druckwerte auf der Wirbelsäule in allen gemesse-
nen Gangarten zu erkennen. Signifikant tiefere Werte wurden
während dem Leichttrab und dem versammelten Trab ge-
genüber dem Stand (p = 0.000131*) festgestellt. Der Mittel-
wert der prozentualen Druckverteilung liegt bei 11.5%.
Verglichen mit dem Dressursattel, dem Springsattel und dem
Vielseitigkeitssattel zeigten Westernsättel im Stand (p=0.003)
sowie Schritt (p = 0.0136 und p= 0.003) signifikant höhere
Druckwerte im Widerristbereich (Tab. 2). Eine weitere signifi-
kante Differenz wurde zwischen der prozentualen links-rechts
Verteilung zwischen den Western- sowie baumlosen Sätteln
gegenüber den anderen Sätteln festgestellt (p= 0.001,
p=0.005). Des Weiteren wies der baumlose Satteltyp eine
erhöhte Druckverteilung im spinalen Bereich auf (Tab. 2). Der
höchste Druckwert wurde im Stand mit 40.3% gemessen.
Im Gegensatz zur einfachen Schabracke erhöhten Sattel-
unterlagen wie Gelpads, Schaumstoff- oder Jogamatten die
Druckverhältnisse im vorderen Bereich und über die Wirbel-
säule während dem Stand und Schritt signifikant (p <0.05)
(Tab. 3).
Eine eingefallene Rückenkonformation (fehlende Bemuske-
lung) resultierte im Lendenwirbelbereich in prozentual höhe-
ren Druckwerten als ein runder Rücken (gute Bemuskelung)
(Tab. 4). Diese Druckverteilung konnte über alle fünf Gangar-
ten festgestellt werden (p = 0.021, p = 0.023, p = 0.015,
p=0.017, p =0.022).
Unabhängig von der Gangart kann eine Variabilität von bis
zu 30% in der Druckverteilung vorne-hinten als normal gese-
hen werden. Diese Erkenntnisse decken sich mit anderen Stu-
dien, welche eine hohe Variabilität der Maximaldruckwerte
von 23 bis 25% beschreiben. Die Verteilung der Messwerte
„links-rechts“ ist, bei Vernachlässigung der Ausreißer, sehr ge-
ring. Abweichungen von rund 5–10% sind normal. Um die
Ausreißer richtig einzuschätzen und zu interpretieren, muss
das klinische Bild berücksichtig werden. Sofern Auffälligkeiten
wie Scheuerstellen, weisse Flecken oder Dolenz vorhanden
sind, gilt es diese Ausreißer als abnormal einzustufen. Im spi-
nalen Bereich sollte grundsätzlich kein Druck einwirken, was
durch einen genügend breiten Kissenkanal erreicht werden
kann. Trotz eines gewünschten Druckwertes von 0 %, lag der
Durchschnitt über alle Faktoren auch in der vorliegenden Stu-
die bei 11.5 %. Ebenfalls wurde festgestellt, dass die spinale
Belastung über die Gangarten vom Stand hin zum Trab
abnahm. Eine mögliche Erklärung ist der vermehrte Schwung
und die erhöhte Muskelaktivität sowie größere Spannung der
Rumpfmuskulatur im Trab, welche zu einer Entlastung der
Wirbelsäule führen.
Wie bereits erwähnt, weist die Studie im vorderen Bereich
konstant höhere Druckwerte auf. Die höheren Messwerte
können einerseits auf den Reiter und seinen Sitz zurückgeführt
werden, welcher einen großen Einfluss auf die Messdaten hat
und andererseits auf die Instabilität eines schlecht passenden
Sattels. Der Druck steigt vom Stand über den Schritt bis hin
zum Leichttraben und nimmt im ausgesessenen Trab wieder
ab. Resultate aus anderen Studien belegen dieses Ergebnis.
Nicht nur die Gangart, sondern auch die Geschwindigkeit
beeinflussen die Spannung und Schwingung im Pferderücken
145-152_Glaus.qxp_Musterseite Artikel.qxd 18.02.15 14:29 Seite 151
und dadurch auch die Druckverteilung. In der vorliegenden
Studie wurde die Geschwindigkeit nicht standardisiert. Die
Tiere liefen in dem ihnen entsprechenden Tempo.
Dressursättel scheinen im Stand und im Schritt mit Werten um
die 50:50 den Druck am besten zu verteilen. Neben einem
gut passenden Sattel ist vor allem in dieser Disziplin ein kor-
rekter Sitz von zentraler Bedeutung, was sich auch in der Mes-
sung wiederspiegeln kann. Signifikant höhere Druckwerte
wurden im vorderen Bereich bei den drei Westernsätteln im
Vergleich zu allen anderen Sätteln gemessen. Andere Studien
bestätigen das nach vorne Verkippen, wobei die Ursache im
starren Sattelbaum liegen kann. Im Bereich „links-rechts“
zeigt sich ein signifikanter Unterschied im Schritt. Die West-
ernsättel und der baumlose Sattel scheinen ein Problem in
ihrer Stabilität zu haben. Schlussendlich führt ein fehlender
Sattelbaum zu einer schlechteren Gewichtsverteilung, einer
punktuellen Auflage und dem gemessenen signifikant höhe-
ren Druckwert über der Wirbelsäule. Trotz der geringen
Anzahl (n= 3, n =1) wurden dieselben Tendenzen wie in
anderen Studien festgestellt und es empfiehlt sich den oben
genannten Problemen bei einer Sattelanpassungen besonde-
re Beachtung zu schenken.
Ein gut angepasster Sattel ist von zentraler Bedeutung wobei
Sattelunterlagen nicht oder nur in geringem Maße in der Lage
sind Druckstellen auszugleichen. Hingegen beeinflussen Sat-
telunterlagen (Gel, Leder, Schaumstoff oder Rentierfell), wel-
che an einen gut passenden Sattel angepasst sind, die Sattel-
passform nicht im negativen Sinne. Lediglich das Rentierfell
scheint jedoch im Stande den Maximaldruck zu senken. Die
verwendeten Sattelunterlagen müssen ausreichend groß sein,
die richtige Form im Widerristbereich aufweisen und dürfen
den Sattel nicht einengen. Unter Berücksichtigung dieser
Gegebenheiten besteht eine negative Beeinflussung durch
die "alternativen" Sattelunterlagen (Tab. 3) auf die prozentuale
Druckverteilung (signifikante Druckerhöhung nach vorne
sowie über der Wirbelsäule). Ein gut angepasster Sattel mit
einer einfachen, dünnen Schabracke scheint die beste Lösung
für eine ausgeglichene Druckverteilung zu sein.
Preliminary field study on saddle pressure distribution
M. Glaus et al.
Pferdeheilkunde 31 (2015)
Die Konformation des Pferderückens respektive die Bemuske-
lung des Pferdrückens verlangen bei der Sattelanpassung
besondere Aufmerksamkeit. Bei Pferden mit mangelnder Rü-
ckenmuskulatur verkippt der Sattel nach hinten und übt ver-
mehrten Druck auf den sensiblen Lendenbereich aus, was
wiederum zu Verspannungen des M. longissimus dorsi führt.
Ein runder Rücken hingegen verlagert das Reitergewicht ver-
mehrt auf den Widerristbereich.
Da die Studie zum Ziel hatte, den Wert von elektronischen
Satteldruckmessungen für Sattler oder Trainer unter alltäg-
lichen Bedingungen zu überprüfen, wurden die vierzig Pferde
nicht klinisch auf Rückenprobleme untersucht. Daher können
Rückenprobleme in der thoracolumbaren Region nicht aus-
geschlossen werden. Eine klinische Untersuchung sowie Rönt-
genbilder des thoracolumbar vertebral column wären hierfür
nötig gewesen.
Des Weiteren wurden die Tiere zufällig ausgewählt und mus-
sten keine Vorgaben erfüllen. Dadurch konnte eine Voreinge-
nommenheit verhindert werden, was jedoch zu relativ tiefen
Zahlen in den einzelnen Kategorien führte und einer damit
verbundenen schlechten Aussagekraft. Dennoch konnten
wichtige Tendenzen aufgezeigt werden. Zukünftige Studien
sollten aber eine höhere Anzahl Pferde einschließen.
Die Untersuchung unterteilte den Rücken in die Kategorien
vorne-hinten, links-rechts sowie spinal. Für eine bessere Ein-
grenzung der abnormalen Druckwerte wäre eine feinere
Unterteilung der Rückenbereiche sinnvoll. Obschon das ver-
wendete System nicht in der Lage ist absolute Druckwerte zu
liefern, konnten wichtige zusätzliche Informationen bezüglich
der auf den Rücken wirkenden Kräfte ermittelt werden.
Die Untersuchung ergab bei Messungen unter Praxisbedin-
gungen erste wertvolle Hinweise auf Satteldruckverteilungen
und beeinflussende Faktoren bei gesunden Pferden. Weitere
Untersuchungen einer größeren Pferdeanzahl können eine
zuverlässigere Interpretation mit verbesserter klinischer Rele-
vanz ermöglichen.
145-152_Glaus.qxp_Musterseite Artikel.qxd 18.02.15 14:29 Seite 152
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Exercise intolerance, unwillingness to perform and/or back pain in sports horses are frequently associated with bad saddle fit. Generally, saddles and saddle pads are fitted subjectively and exclusively on the standing horse and rely on the expertise of the saddler. However, for over 16 years, it is possible to objectively assess the pressure distribution underneath the saddle by using a pressure sensitive mat connected to a data logger system. The examination can be carried out in the standing horse as well as while the horse is ridden in different gaits. Saddle pressure measurements were not only performed in the context of saddle fitting, but also to study the interaction between rider and horse. Furthermore, mean and peak saddle pressures were correlated with clinical signs of saddle soreness and back pain in order to define the upper limit pressure values which are still tolerated by the horse. With the help of this device, the critical zones of the saddle area can be detected selectively and the results can be used to convince the rider or saddler of the necessary changes which have to be carried out on the saddle. The respectful co-operation between veterinarians, saddlers and riding instructors is an important prerequisite for an effective and sustainable resolution of the problems encountered in horses with back pain.
Full-text available
Back problems in connection with saddle fit were studied in 26 horses. Problems were usually related to willingness of the horses to be ridden, moving the back away from underneath the saddle, stiffness for latero-, dorso- and ventroflexion, difficulties in transitions between gaits and riding under collection. Standardized protocols for assessing back problems, saddle manufacturing and saddle fit on horses with and without a rider were used, as well as measurements of saddle pressures under the saddle using an electronic saddle pad (Novel GmbH, Munich) while the horses were trotting. Statistical anaysis of data was performed using two factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) and correlations were calculated with a p-value set significant at p<0.05. Results demonstrated that muscle tensions and contractions as well as pain on the dorsal spinal processes were mostly responsible for back problems mainly in the lumbar area. Reasons for badly fitting saddles were assymmetry, hard saddle cushions, too narrow gulches and the concentration of the main point of gravity of the saddle seat over the lumbar area. If pressure measurements were subdivided in 6 masks with a cranial, middle and caudal mask on each side of the saddle, maximal pressures (MPP) exceeding 3.45N/cm2 in the anterior, 3.03N/cm2 in the middle and 3.10N/cm2 in the caudal mask were responsible for back problems. If mean pressure values (MVP) were studied, this was true for 1.32 N/cm2 in the cranial, 1.14 N/cm2 in the middle and 1.00 N/cm2 in the caudal masks. Significant differences and correlations were found for pressure values and back problems as well as saddle fit. It was clearly shown that pressure tolerance was much lower in the lumbar area compared to the withers and that "bridge- formation" of the saddle was one of the worst criteria for saddle fit. The study also revealed that the electronic saddle pad delivered valuable data for daily equine practice in conjunction with back problems in horses.
Full-text available
Since 1999 our group has been publishing several studies about the use of electronic measurements under the saddle (electronic saddle mat system / Pliance Mobile - 16HE by Novel GmbH). The present study was set up to check the saddles on 25 horses before and after adjustments were made by saddlers; in a way that had been recommended by our group members. For that purpose the data of the two series of measurements as well as the state of back pain were compared at least 12 weeks after the adjustment in saddle fit hod taken place. The investigations were based on the hypothesis that painful areas of the equine back could be located in context with the distribution of the measured values and be eliminated through the proposed alterations in fit. The comparison of original and repeated measurement resulted in distinct differences in the height of pressure as well as its distribution, The most significant deviations concerning the pressure values were in the enlargement of the contact area and in the pressure relief of the highly sensitive region of the rear thoracic spine, In combination with the results of the clinical examination, a significant reduction of horses suffering from back pain was demonstrated. This led to the conclusion that the tested system could reliably uncover and therefore prevent back problems caused by ill-fitting saddles.
In this study 25 Lipizzan stallions were used to measure the fit of saddles under the horse back rider. Two different saddle products were studied, both of the type of dressage saddles. Results were correlated to physical examinations of the horses' backs and constructions of the saddles. The measurements were performed with the horses in stance with and without a rider, in a walk, trot and canter at the right and left hand. All horses were mounted by the same rider. Differences between both saddles were found in the contact area, pressure distribution and force transmission from the rider, whereas the measured values were not influenced by the arena figures, and only slightly by the different gaits. Differences were found mainly in the standing horses with and without a rider and in the walk compared to the faster gaits. Positive correlations were demonstrated between pressure values < 3.5 N/cm2 and slight pain reactions at the dorsal processes of the spine, atrophy of the muscles under the saddle and hard saddle cushions. In addition correlations could be found between custom fit saddles in contrast to not customized saddles, and repairs on the saddles, such as upholstering, became visible. Objective criteria for the good fit of a saddle are the following: a large, continuos contact between saddle and horseback during stance and movements, pressure values that on average do not exceed 3 N/cm2 and do not exibit spots of higher pressure. The saddle cushion should distribute compressive forces evenly over the back of the horse, and the formation of a "bridge" between the anterior and the posterior parts of the saddle, with reduced pressure in the middle must be avoided by all means.
Scientific approaches to the classical art of saddle-pad fitting with the horse have become available during the past few years. Force Sensing Array (FSA) technology has offered clinicians in the medical profession innovative systems for rehabilitation applications. With proven usefulness in the medical sector, the application of Force Sensing Array (FSA) technology in pressure mapping of the equine back and saddle has potential clinical and research applications in veterinary medicine. The objective in this study was to apply FSA technology in evaluation of an equine athletic saddle pad and pad liners and to document any observed/potential areas of error within the system that would affect objectivity of data collection/interpretation. All dynamic scans demonstrated a repeatable pattern of pressure distribution that is associated with gait, load distribution and horse limb placement. The in motion scans gave the best overall evaluation of effectiveness of the pad liners studied. This study did not define “normal” static or dynamic saddle-pad-horse pressure gradients or patterns. The pressure distribution pattern is the most valuable data to be gained from Force Sensing Arrays and should be the primary use of the device. Precise scientific methodology must be used in these type of studies. Potential exists for animal and operator induced error when using this technology.
The aim of the study was to compare the stability of the rider as well as the forces acting on a horse’s back with different seating positions at the trot (sitting trot, rising trot and two-point seat). The same experienced rider was mounted on 10 sound horses trotting on a treadmill. The kinetic data were recorded with an electronic pressure mat, placed under a well-fitting dressage saddle with no saddle pad. The rider used three different seating positions, each for 20 s. Right forelimb motion was used to synchronise the pressure data with the stride cycles. To determine the rider’s stability, the movement of the centre of pressure (COP) along the transverse (X) and longitudinal (Y) axes was calculated. The force was taken as the sum of all segments of the pressure pad multiplied by the area of the pressure pad. The maximum force and the X- and Y-deviations were evaluated using ANOVA for repeated measures with a Bonferroni Post hoc test.The stability of the rider in the Y-direction was significantly highest in the two-point seat, followed by the rising trot and the sitting trot, respectively. In the X-direction, there was no significant difference between the three positions. The significantly highest load on the horse’s back was at the sitting trot (2112 N), followed by the rising trot (2056 N) and the two-point seat (1688 N). The rider was most stable in the two-point seat while transferring the lowest load on the horse’s back. The rising trot was found to be more stable and less stressful for the horse’s back compared to the sitting trot.
It can be a challenge to find a conventional saddle that is a good fit for both horse and rider. An increasing number of riders are purchasing treeless saddles because they are thought to fit a wider range of equine back shapes, but there is only limited research to support this theory. The objective of this study was to compare the total force and pressure distribution patterns on the horse's back with conventional and treeless saddles. The experimental hypotheses were that the conventional saddle would distribute the force over a larger area with lower mean and maximal pressures than the treeless saddle. Eight horses were ridden by a single rider at sitting trot with conventional and treeless saddles. An electronic pressure mat measured total force, area of saddle contact, maximal pressure and area with mean pressure >11 kPa for 10 strides with each saddle. Univariate ANOVA (P<0.05) was used to detect differences between saddles. Compared with the treeless saddle, the conventional saddle distributed the rider's bodyweight over a larger area, had lower mean and maximal pressures and fewer sensors recording mean pressure >11 kPa. These findings suggested that the saddle tree was effective in distributing the weight of the saddle and rider over a larger area and in avoiding localized areas of force concentration.
Similar to human decubitus ulcers, local high pressure points from ill-fitting saddles induce perfusion disturbances of different degrees resulting in tissue hypoxia and alteration in sweat production. To relate the different clinical manifestations of saddle sores to the magnitude of saddle pressures at the location of the withers. Sixteen horses with dry spots after exercise (Group A) and 7 cases presented with acute clinical signs of saddle pressure in the withers area (Group B) were compared with a control group of 16 sound horses with well fitting saddles (Group C). All horses underwent a saddle pressure measurement at walk, trot and canter. Mean and maximal pressures in the area of interest were compared between groups within each gait. Mean pressures differed significantly between groups in all 3 gaits. Maximal pressure differed between groups at trot; at walk and canter, however, the only significant difference was between Group C and Groups A and B, respectively, (P > 0.05). Mean and maximal pressures at walk in Group A were 15.3 and 30.6 kPa, in Group B 24.0 and 38.9 kPa and in Group C 7.8 and 13.4 kPa, respectively; at trot in Group A 18.1 and 43.4 kPa, in Group B 29.7 and 53.3 kPa and in Group C 9.8 and 21.0 kPa, respectively; and at canter in Group A 21.4 and 48.9 kPa, in Group B 28.6 and 56.0 kPa and in Group C 10.9 and 24.7 kPa, respectively. The study shows that there is a distinguishable difference between the 3 groups regarding the mean pressure value, in all gaits.