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An investigation into the effectiveness of saddle design and its influence on rider lower leg position when using the light seat. Amanda Purchas 18th March 2013


Abstract and Figures

An investigation into the effect of saddle design (SJ vs GP saddles) on rider lower leg position when using the light seat.
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Show jumping is one of the UKs leading equestrian sports, its popularity in
competition and as a spectator sport has led to its recognition at international
events such as the Olympics (FEI, 2013; BSJ, 2013). The discipline requires
the competitor to complete a set of 11-14 jumps, on average, with no
mistakes and thus, relies on the skill, balance and agility of both the horse
and rider (GEF, 2003; BSJ, 2013). The English saddle has become an
imperative piece of equipment that is used and manipulated throughout many
of the top equestrian disciplines (Dressage Today, 1996). This manipulation
of the original English saddle has led to the development of the jump (SJ)
saddle that is designed to suit the discipline specific demands of show
jumping. However, regardless of its imperative role in uniting both the horse
and rider there is a limited range of research available on the subject area.
The main focus of saddlery research as present has investigated the effect of
ill-fitted and fitted saddles. Mechan et al, (2007) and Tiago et al, (2011), both
found that ill-fitted saddles increased the presence of asymmetric pressure
points inflicted on the horse which is suggested to impair communication.
Within these studies there was much speculation on the potential effects of
the saddle on the rider; however, only one paper by Peham et al, (2004) has
actually researched its influence. This study revealed that the ill-fitted saddle
increased the rider movement variability significantly in the forwards plane,
which was suggested to influence the balance of both the horse and rider
(Peham et al, 2004).Yet regardless of Peham et al, (2004) research
indicating the potential negative influence of and ill-fitted saddle on the rider
no further research has expanded the subject area.
Show jumping requires the rider to remove their weight off the horse’s back
to enhance locomotion and jump biomechanics (Randal, Edwards & Button,
2010). This poise known as the light seat, allows for greater dynamic stability
of both the horse and rider (Clayton & Back, 2003). To effectively execute the
light seat the rider must shorten their stirrup length (SL) so that they can
successfully remove their weight out of the saddle (BHS, 2009). This short
SL and the postural requirement of the jump seat is what lead to the
development of the SJ saddle (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2009).
The general purpose (GP) saddle, much like the original English saddle is
designed for use in dressage and jumping disciplines therefore, its design
sits to accommodate the postural requirements of both sports (GEF, 2003).
The SJ saddle however, is designed specifically for use in jumping disciplines
such as show jumping thus, requiring a more forward cut flap design and a
longer, shallower seat (see plate 1 for comparison of GP and SJ saddle)
(GEF, 2003). From plate 1 it can be seen that between the saddle types
there is a definite difference in saddle design. However, it is not yet proven
that the SJ saddles design aids the rider in competition or that the GP saddle
can act effectively as a multifunctional piece of equipment.
Plate 1: Saddle design a) GP saddle b) SJ saddle. (Millybry Hill, 2013; UK
saddles, 2013)
In principle the GP saddle should struggle to accommodate the SL used in
the SJ saddle, as logic would suggest its deeper seat and straighter cut will
not allow for the higher placement of the knee; nevertheless, this principle
has not yet been investigated. Conversely, there is no research that states
that the SJ saddles design better accommodates the shorter SL and
increases rider stability in the light seat. Therefore, this preliminary study
investigating the effect of saddle design when using the light seat on rider
lower leg position hopes to answer the following aims, objectives and
research questions.
1.1 Aims and Objectives:
1.1.1 Research Aims:
1) To establish the benefits if any, of using the SJ saddle in show
jumping, with particular reference on its ability to support the rider’s
lower leg when using the lights seat.
2) To establish if the GP saddles design can accommodate the discipline
specific demands of show jumping, with particular reference to its
ability to support the rider’s lower leg position when using the light
1.1.2 Research Objectives:
1) To record videos of rider’s on the mechanical horse in the light seat
at canter in both the SJ and GP saddle.
2) To record SL used in both saddle types.
3) To analyse rider body segment angles and lower leg displacement
in both the SJ and GP saddle with video analysis software.
4) To statistically compare data sets from both saddles to highlight
any significant differences.
1.1.3 Research Questions:
1) Does the GP saddles design accommodate the riders lower leg
position when using the light seat?
2) Does the SJ saddles forward cut design better accommodate the
riders lower leg position when using the light seat?
3) Can the SL used in the SJ saddle be used in the GP saddle?
4) Is there any difference between rider lower leg stability in the light seat
when using a SJ saddle compared to a GP saddle?
5) Is there any difference between rider lower body segment angles in
the light seat when using a SJ saddle compared to the GP saddle?
Through the achievement of the previous research questions, it is expected
that the study’s findings can be transferred and applied into the equine
industry. It is hoped that such information can better educate riders on saddle
choice and highlight any areas for improvement in terms of saddle design. As
well as providing the industry with imperative research into the relationship
between the rider and saddle.
2.1 Saddle design:
The saddle is widely utilised throughout a range of disciplines to aid
communication, balance, stability and comfort between the horse and rider
(Peham et al, 2010). The coupling of the rider and saddle allows the rider to
distribute their weight evenly over the horses back creating a larger base of
support which in turn enhances balance and stability (Clayton, 2003; Peham
et al, 2010). Saddle design is dependent on the requirements of the discipline
with designs altering to increase stability, effectiveness of aids and
communication (Swift, 1985; BHS, 2007). Despite the obvious importance of
the saddle in uniting the horse and rider dyad minimal research has
addressed its effect on human or equine biomechanics.
Research into the effect of the saddle on the horse and rider is sparse with
most of the current research investigating saddle fit. Peham et al, (2004)
carried out an investigation to distinguish the effect of and ill-fitted and fitted
saddle on rider variability; it was found that the ill-fitted saddle increased the
riders variability in the forwards plane. Equitation principles such as those by
the German National Equestrian Federation (GEF), highlight that in order for
the horse remain in balance the rider must remain in sync with the horses
centre of mass (CoM) (Swift, 1985; Clayton, 2003; GEF, 2003). However, if
as found by Peham et al, (2004), the rider is unable to maintain a consistent
balance when in a ill-fitted saddle then the ability of the rider to effectively
control the balance of the horse is lost.
This forwards variability as suggested by Peham et al, (2004) may also
disturb the communication between the horse and rider. Tiago et al, (2011)
theorised a concept similar to that of Peham et al, (2004), when suggesting
that asymmetric pressure points caused by ill-fitted saddles; could confuse
the communication of the rider to the horse, as the horse relies on physical
signs of communication from the rider (BHS, 2007; Print, 2011).
Mechan et al, (2007) in a study investigating the influence of saddle width on
pressure distribution found that different pressure peaks where present with
each saddle width, with the largest peaks seen in the most ill-fitted saddle of
the selection. The same rider was used throughout the entire study thus, the
mass within the saddles remained consistent. Therefore, it could be assumed
the pressure alterations and asymmetry was caused by the reduced coupling
of the horse and rider. Such information links into that of Peham et al, (2004)
in regards to the effect of an ill fitted saddle and its influence on rider
balance. However, both studies only used gaits up to trot therefore, more
research is needed to establish saddle influence in faster gaits.
Tiago et al, (2011), emphasised the relevance of pressure points on equine
muscular function and how the presence of pressure points can lead to
localised inflammation and impaired nervous activity, which subsequently can
effect equine biomechanics (Peham et al, 2004; Meschan et al, 2007; Tiago
et al, 2011). It was also suggested that show jumping horses have longer
spinal processes and therefore, pressure points occurring on the dorsal
midline in 37.2% saddles could contribute to the development of kissing
spine (Tiago et al, 2011). Thus, the necessity for a fitted saddle is both a
requirement for performance and welfare. However, pressure points found
within Tiago et al, (2011), study cannot be directly linked to saddle fit but
could be caused by rider asymmetry. Therefore, further research is needed
to establish a specific technique for identifying saddle asymmetry whilst
controlling the influence of the rider.
2.2 The Riders position:
The correct riding position is a necessity for clear and consistent
communication between the horse and rider (GEF, 2003). A rider must utilise
muscular endurance, motor skill, flexibility and co-ordination to communicate
with the horse, whilst maintaining balance in both the sagittal and coronal
planes (Deitz, 1999; GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). The ability to manipulate
biomechanical variables whilst remaining in balance allows the rider to apply
subtle but effective aids that aim to control the speed, direction and
behaviour of the horse (Swift, 1985; Schills, 1993; GEF, 2003).
The traditional seat dictates in accordance to the British Horse Society riding
manual (BHS) and the GEF; that the riders head should look to the direction
of the movement; the shoulders should be positioned slightly back, open and
supple. The back should be straight but relaxed with no ventral thoratic curve
with the waist strong and central. The thigh should be flat to the saddle with
minimal muscle tone and tension of joints, followed by the lower leg hanging
freely with the ankle in alignment with the hip joint (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007).
See plate 2 for visual example of the traditional seat.
Plate 2: Traditional seat (Horse Chronicles, 2013)
Asymmetry caused by the in-correct execution of the traditional seat can lead
to a disturbance in force distribution under the saddle which De Coqu et al,
(20101) suggests can impair communication. A later study conducted by De
Coqu et al, (20102) on saddle and leg forces when performing lateral
movements confirmed De Coqu et al, (20101) theory. When finding that it is a
necessity for the rider to asymmetrically distribute their weight when
conducting lateral movements such as Travers. Thus, if a rider is already in a
asymmetric balance then the core aid for the movement is lost as the horse
will struggle to interpret the weight shift. Therefore, an initial poor riding
posture will impact on the clarity of aid communication which can
subsequently result in poor performance (De Coqu et al, 20101; De Coqu et
al, 20102).
2.2.1 Rider ability and Position:
Schills, (1993) in a study investigating joint angles of riders at different levels
of riding ability found that advanced riders positioned there trunk closer to
the vertical, whilst placing their thigh and lower legs deeper under their body.
This position subsequently opened up the hip angle allowing greater fluidity
of the hip joint and thus, enhancing the ability of the rider to move in
synchronicity with the horse (Schills, 1993). A beginner rider however,
showed to have a more acute hip angle of 128ͦ, in comparison to that of and
advanced rider whose angles averaged at 140ͦ (Schills, 1993). This more
acute hip angle brings the riders CoM over ones toes thus, tipping their
balance forwards whilst limiting the flexibility of the hip joint (Schills, 1993;
Back and Clayton, 2003; GEF, 2003).
A more recent study by Kang et al, (2010) who looked at the development in
rider position in accordance to skill level found results similar to that of
Schills, (1993) study. It was concluded that there is a linear relationship
between hip angle and skill level development. However, Kang et al, (2010)
study used a juju horse whose conformation and movement is unique to the
breed therefore, the study may lack comparability.
For a rider to remain in harmony with the horse they must anticipate the
rhythmic disturbance of locomotion, by doing this they can instinctively
manipulate muscle groups to stabilise their seat (Heleski et al, 2009). This
anticipation is more naturally expressed in advance riders as explained by
Janura et al, (2009); who found that advanced riders showed less centre of
pressure (CoP) disturbances than novice riders. Heleski et al, (2009), also
found correlations similar to that of Janura et al, (2009); when finding that
novice riders will undergo cyclic phases of imbalance due to lack of
experience and practice thus, causing the rider to take up greater rein
tension in order to regain balance.
Peham et al, (2001) investigated the limit cycle of a professional and novice
rider to quantify harmony of the horse-rider dyad. It was found that the
professional rider had fewer and smaller deviations to their limit cycle in
comparison to the novice; this implied that the advanced riders CoM
remained in sync with that of the horses. Although Peham et al, (2001), study
lacks validity due to only two test subjects of different genders being used its
findings interlink with that of later studies (Heliski et al, 2009; Janura et al,
It can therefore, safely be assumed that rider experience resulting in ill
execution of the correct riding posture could result in poor performance of the
dyad. Thus, there is a necessity that the correct rider position is established
at an early stage. It can also be noted that further research into the
interaction of the rider and saddle could provide insight into the manipulation
of saddle variables that could enhance and correct the novice riding position.
2.2.2 Rider somatotype, body composition and gender:
Individuals can be categorised into three basic body types, ectomorph,
mesomorph and endomorph, see plate 3 for visual representation (Print,
2011; Winfield and Lewis, 2012). Unlike other sports there appears to be no
somatotype that predisposes any advantage to riders in competition (Print,
2011), with elite rider somatotypes ranging from the tall ectomorph of William
Fox-Pitt to the shorter mesomorph of John Whitaker.
Plate 3: Body somatotypes. (Peak Performance, 2013)
An ectomorph is characterised as an individual of tall stature, lean
musculature, low fat stores and a small waist (Print, 2011). This body shape
can be advantageous when riding wider horses and competing in dressage
(Print, 2011). As the longer leg length allows for the rider to more effectively
‘wrap’ their leg round the horse whilst also being able to efficiently execute
leg aids (Print, 2011; Winfield & Lewis, 2012). Ectomorphs tend to have a
long thigh to body ratio meaning that they must use a longer saddle design to
accommodate their thigh (Winfield & Lewis, 2012).
Endomorphs in general are shorter in height, have large bone structure and
greater fat stores (Print, 2011). This somatotype can benefit the rider when
utilising the jumping or light seat as the shorter leg length allows for the rider
to move out of the saddle with greater ease (Print, 2011). Conversely, they
may struggle with balance created by their ‘top’ heavy stature and thus, may
benefit from using saddles with a deeper seat (Print, 2011; Winfield & Lewis,
Body shape can also provide both benefits and disadvantages when riding,
Dietz, (1999) explained that all body shapes can fit into two categories; that
of a triangle and that of an inverted triangle as shown in plate 4. A rider
whose body complies to the normal triangular shape will have narrow
shoulders and wider hips, a body shape usually seen in the female gender
(Dietz 1999). This body shape is said to be advantageous as the wider base
of support will increase both the balance and stability of the rider (Dietz,
1999; Clayton & Back, 2001).
Plate 4: Potential body shapes (Wilson, 2013).
The inverted triangle, which refers to a rider with wide shoulders and narrow
hips will struggle with balance more so than the alternative shape (Dietz,
1999). However, the smaller base of support allows the rider to shift their
weight in the saddle with greater speed and thus, provides greater dynamic
balance (Dietz, 1999).
The incorrect alignment of the pelvis can impair the orientation of the spine
and legs hence, it is important that its position remains correct (Dietz, 1999;
Winfield & Lewis, 2012). The structure of the pelvis differs between men and
women. The male pelvis has a backwards tilt and narrower width, which
predisposes men to adopt the ‘chair seat’ as the backwards tilt causes the
flattening of the lumbar vertebrae (Dietz, 1999; Winfield & Lewis, 2012).
Conversely, the female pelvis has a forwards tilt which results in an anterior
curve of the lumber vertebrae causing the back to hollow (Dietz, 1999;
Winfield & Lewis, 2012). The correct spinal alignment is between the two
extremes explained therefore, it is important that riders actively alter their
seat to avoid an incorrect riding posture. It could also be possible that saddle
design influences pelvic alignment, i.e the deeper seat of the dressage
saddle may counteract the backwards tilts of the male pelvis. However, there
is a need for research into this area before such associations can be made.
2.2.3. Rider stirrup length:
Rider SL is a variable manipulated through personal choice however; certain
disciplines such as dressage or show jumping will require significantly
different SL in order for a correct riding style to be established (Swift, 1985;
PCMHS, 2007; BHS, 2007). Plate 5, illustrates the difference in SL and thus,
lower body positioning in the dressage and show jumping disciplines. SL has
a direct effect on the riders lower body kinematics therefore, SL must allow
the correct alignment of body segments in the manor shown in plate 6 (Swift,
1985; Dietz, 1999; GEF, 2003).
Plate 5: Demonstration of the rider in the ‘traditional’ dressage seat and ‘light’
show jumping seat respectively (Life and Horses, 2012; Equine Links, 2012).
Plate 6: Correct rider body segment alignment (Swift, 1985).
In the dressage discipline the rider is required to communicate with the horse
through a series of complex aids whilst remaining in perfect harmony
therefore, a longer SL is required as shown in plate 5 (Swift, 1985; GEF,
2003; BHS, 2007). Through utilising the longer SL the rider’s body weight is
taken through their seat bones allowing the legs to remain supple (GEF,
2003). This allows for the rider sit deep into the saddle and encourages the
correct dressage posture (GEF, 2003). However, if SL is too long the rider
will reach with their toes resulting in imbalance. Conversely, if the stirrups are
too short then the rider will create tension through their inner thighs and thus,
lose the required depth of seat (GEF, 2003).
The show jumping discipline largely relies on the rider remaining in balance
through quick changes in direction and pace thus, a shorter SL is used as
shown in plate 5 (Swift, 1985; GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). This shorter SL
allows for the rider to poise their centre of mass (CoM) directly over that of
the horses rather than through the saddle, bringing the riders centre of
gravity (CoG) closer to their base of support (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). This
combined increases balance and stability of both the horse and rider (Swift
1985; Back & Clayton, 2003; Print, 2011). For a rider to correctly ride in the
light seat the weight of the rider must be taken through their heals (GEF,
2003). However, if the stirrups are too long the rider will distribute their weight
through their toes thus, tipping the balance forwards and impairing the
synchronicity of the dyad (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007).
As explained above the manipulation of SL is imperative for optimal
performance in any discipline. However, for the rider to remain in a correct
riding posture specific saddle designs are needed; such as the deeper
straighter cut of the dressage saddle and more forward cut SJ saddle (GEF,
2003). Nevertheless, the degree in which these saddle designs
accommodate the discipline specific SL is unknown. Thus, further research is
needed to establish their effectiveness so that beneficial advancements in
saddlery and rider performance can be made.
2.2.4 The light seat:
The light seat is utilised in disciplines such as show jumping and racing
(GEF, 2003) which require the rider to take their weight off the horses back
(Dietz, 1999; GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). The light seat is used in training as
well as competition as the posture required closely mimics that of the jumping
position (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). A firm knee and stable lower body position
is a necessity for creating the basis of the light seat (Swift, 1985; BHS, 2007).
Hence, it is important that the rider shortens their SL appropriately in order
for their weight to be taken through their heals (Swift, 1985; GEF, 2003; BHS,
2007). The degree of bend at the hips is discipline specific; see plate 7 for
comparison (GEF, 2003). Racing will require a more drastic bend as jockeys
adopt a shorter SL hence, developing a greater distance between
themselves and the horses CoM (Back & Clayton, 2001).Therefore, by
closing the angle at the hip their CoM will come closer to their base of
support thus, increasing their balance and stability (Back & Clayton, 2001). In
the aforementioned disciplines, the importance in SL is again highlighted and
thus, supports the previous ending point of section 2.2.3 on the importance of
understanding the interaction of saddle design in supporting SL.
Plate 7: The variation in light seat adoption throughout disciplines. A) Racing
b) Cross-country c) Showjumping. (Discover Ireland, 2013; Iron Gatewell,
2013; Breene Equestrianism, 2013)
Preliminary studies conducted by Randal et al, (2010) on the effect of rider
position on step and stride length of canter; found that by adopting the light
seat canter stride length was significantly increased conversely, when the
deep seat was used hind limb step length increased. This increase in canter
stride length was theorised to be a result of the rider moving off the horses
back and thus, enhancing the horse’s ability to lengthen the extensor muscle
chain (Randal et al, 2010). The increase in hind limb step length was
suggested to be due to the rider supporting the forehand and thus,
encouraging positive hind limb placement (Randal et al, 2010). This shows
that the correct manipulation of rider position can be utilised throughout the
disciplines to enhance equine performance, in addition to highlighting the
impact of the rider position on equine biomechanics.
2.2.5 Physiological demands of riding:
Research into the physiological requirements of riding is conflicting
particularly in reference to cardiovascular (CV) demands. The ability for
researchers to effectively manipulate the exertion of equine competition has
become a struggle. Westerling, (1983), used a cycle ergometer to measure
VO2max with the concept that cycling mimicked the posture and muscular
demands of riding. However, Meyers and Stirling (2000), theorised that the
use of the ‘light seat’ by riders initiated higher levels of exertion on the upper
body and thus, the use of a treadmill was more appropriate.
Both studies produced relatively low VO2max values of 43.8± and
33.8± for Westerling (1983) and Meyer and Stirling (2000),
respectively. These values would indicate that riders do not rely on CV
endurance to perform, as other athletes who require CV endurance produce
VO2max values of and for female and male athletes
respectively (Wilmore, Costill and Kenneny, 2008; Douglas, 2012).
Yet, such results contradict heart rate (HR) readings produced by Trowbridge
et al, (1995), who found that national hunt jockeys spend the entire race
duration at 80% of their maximal HR. Roberts et al, (2010), also established
that event riders HR started at an average of 172bpm in dressage, 180bpm
in show jumping and finished on 184bpm in the cross country phase. These
HR readings would suggest that aerobic pathways are being utilised in
competition however, the VO2max values suggest otherwise. Thus, there is a
need for the further development in method design to investigate the aerobic
requirements of the rider.
In terms of muscular endurance Terada et al, (2004), suggests that riders
utilise tonic contraction in muscles such as the rectus abdominus and
trapezius for postural control when riding. In order to sustain this type of
contraction for long period’s riders will require some degree of muscular
endurance (Terada et al, 2004; Wilmore, Costill and Kenney, 2008). Terada
et al, (2004), study was conducted in trot only thus, further research is
needed to investigate muscle activity in faster gaits as the riding posture
used in trot differs from that used in the canter and gallop (GEF, 2003).
As like the CV demands methods for accurately measuring a rider’s strength
are unrefined. Alfredson et al, (1998) used a isokinetic dynamometer to
measure rider strength and found that riders had a significantly greater
strength than their controls. Yet, later research by Meyers, (2006) using
exercises such as bicep curls; found that participants undergoing a 14 week
equitation program showed no improvement in strength apart from that in the
rectus abdominus. Similar results were found previously in study by Meyers
and Stirling, (2000). Hence, as like CV demands rider strength remains
inconclusive thus, further development in the methodologies for establishing
the riders physiological demands are needed for both the advancement in
rider research and training.
It may also be beneficial to look at the physical exertion of novice and elite
riders, as it could be found that more stable riders exert less physical
energy. Such information could interlink with the development of a new
saddle designs that could better enhance stability; which would reduce the
need for novice riders to consciously stabilise themselves. This in turn could
focus rider concentration; conversely, it could also limit rider development.
2.3 Equine Biomechanics:
The CoM is a key part of any biomechanical analysis as its movement
determines load distribution and balance (Butchner, Obermuller & Schield
2000; Clayton & Back, 2001) Benke (1934), was the first researcher to
accurately establish the positioning of the horses CoM. A Borelli moment
table was used to determine the positioning of the CoM with the results
revealing its location on the cranio caudial axis. Benke (1934), results
dictated it to be on the 13
thoracic rib, below the line connecting the
shoulder to the buttock, see plate 8 for visual representation (Benke, 1934).
Plate 8: X) Horses CoM on the cranio caudial axis. (IRGAF, 2013) (check)
Dynamic balances is defined as the ability to remain in a state of equilibrium
in which all parts of the body are moving with the same constant velocity; the
ability for a horse to effectively achieve this strongly relies on the equilibrium
of the CoM (Clayton & Back, 2001). Buchner, Obermuller & Schield (2000)
found that a horses CoM moved accordingly to the propulsion and
deceleration of the stride. The largest displacement of the CoM was 54mm
on the ventral axis which occurred in the trot gait. However, it was strongly
emphasised that visual displacement of the trunk was significantly greater
than that of the CoM (Butchner, Obermuller & Schield, 2000). Thus, the
greater displacements of the trunk act to maintain the CoM in a state of
equilibrium by counteracting opposing forces (Clayton, 2003).
Later research by Nauwelaerts et al, (2009), implies possible counter-
indications for Buchner, Obermuller & Schield (2000). Their research
suggested that the methodology for assuming that the trunk is a rigid
structure when investigating CoM displacement could cause an inaccuracy in
results by 25% in the longitudinal plane. However, Nauwelaerts et al, (2009),
research only implies and inaccuracy in previous CoM values and does not
disprove the concepts of previous research as similar conclusions were
drawn from their investigation.
2.3.1 The application of CoM displacement when jumping:
Movement of the CoM occurs as a result of locomotion, the displacement of
the limbs causes an asymmetric balance and thus, to counteract such
imbalance a shift in the CoM occurs (Clayton, 2003; Nauwelaerts et al,
2009). When a horse jumps its ability to successful clear the jump is largely
attributed to the horse’s capability to remain in balance (Clayton & Back
2001; Clayton 2003). In each stage of the jump process CoM alignment is
altered; at take-off there is a progressive upwards orientation of the trunk
(Clayton & Back, 2001), causing the CoM to displace vertically by 1cm as
found by Bobbert & Santanmaria (2004). The eccentric muscle activity of the
hind limbs as the take-off progresses into suspension will then cause the
CoM to elevate cranially (Thoulan 1991; Clayton et al, 1996). In suspension
the horses body is moving at the same constant velocity and therefore, its
CoM will return to neutral (Clayton & Back, 2001; Clayton, 2003; Bobbert &
Santanmaria, 2004). In the progression to landing a cranial shift in the CoM
will occur in par with the gradual decrease in orientation of the trunk; its state
will then return to neutral on the sagittal plane on hind limb ground contact
(Clayton & Back, 2001; Clayton, 2003; Bobbert & Santanmaria, 2004).
2.4 Influence of the Rider on Equine Biomechanics:
Clayton et al, (1996) and Galloux & Barry (1997), established there is
negative correlation between the altitude and velocity at take-off and the
height of the horses flight arc. This correlation can therefore, be manipulated
by the rider to maximise performance (Clayton & Back, 2001). This can be
achieved by riders in par to research by Clayton et al, (1996) and Galloux &
Barry, (1997), by manipulating the speed and orientation of the head, neck,
trunk and hindlimbs on jump approach. Through manipulating the previous
variables the rider is able to control the angle of take-off; for example
approaching a jump in a uphill steady canter will produce a steep angle and
thus, produce a higher and shorter flight arc (Clayton et al, 1996; Galloux &
Barry, 1997). Alternatively approaching a jump in a fast canter will impair the
ability of the horse to get close into the jump and thus, its take off will occur
earlier at a more acute angle, subsequently producing a longer and flatter
flight arc (Clayton et al, 1996; Galloux & Barry, 1997; Clayton & Back, 2001).
Therefore, riders can dramatically influence the success of a jump effort by
controlling the horses speed and engagement on approach.
Reaserch by Lewczuk, Sloniewski and Reklewski (2006) found that riders
have a stabilising effect on the horse when jumping; as their presence allows
for the manipulation of stride length and jump preparation which increases
the ability to repeat jump parameters. On the other hand, rider influence is
not always beneficial. Symes & Ellis (2009), found in an investigation of rider
asymmetry that riders with a left anterior rotation of the shoulders blocked
the ability of the horse to flex right in canter and thus, impaired the fluidity
and engagement of the gait. However, Symes & Ellis (2009), findings could
lack reliability as the 17 riders used had varying levels of ability therefore, the
impact on equine performance cannot be directly isolated to the rider
asymmetry, as rider ability has been seen to impact equine performance
(Peham et al, 2001; Heleski et al, 2009). Nevertheless, Symes & Ellis (2009),
research does interlink and correlate with the findings of Meschan et al,
(2001), Moore, (2010) and Tiago et al, (2011).
Two key studies have investigated the effect of the forces imposed by the
rider in trot. Peham et al, (2010) and De Cocq et al, (20101) found that peak
loading forces where greatest when the rider used sitting trot and that rising
trot initiated significantly lower loading forces. Peham et al, (2010)
additionally found that the light seat dramatically reduced the loading on the
horses back whilst better maintaining the riders CoM over that of the horses.
From such data it was concluded that using the light seat or rising trot was
more suited for use on young or in-advanced horses. As the reduced loading
better allows for the activation of the back extensor chain which could be
easily impaired in weak backed horses if the alternative method was used
(De Cocq et al, 2010; Peham et al, 2010).Conversely, advanced horses
should have a greater ability to cope with the increased loading as their back
muscle tone and strength will be more established (De Cocq et al, 2010;
Peham et al, 2010).
Moore, (2010), highlights several riding implications that jeopardise the
equine gait with the most emphasised point being the ‘posting’ of the rider.
Moore, (2010), explains ‘posting’ be a rider who sits with locked joints angles
which create a rigid structure. This is said to cause the sagging of the
horses back which is initiated by concentrated loading forces that result in
the dis-engagement of the back extensor chain (Peham et al, 2010; Moore,
2010). Such effect impairs hind quarter engagement and thus, the clarity of
the gait (Clayton & Back 2001; Clayton, 2003; Moore 2010).
Through the analysis of peer reviewed literature it can be found that a rider
who can correctly manipulate equine gait variables such as speed,
engagement and balance, can significantly optimise equine performance.
Alternatively, riders can more easily impair performance through
asymmetrical balance and incorrect manipulation of gait variables.
3.1 Research Design:
The study design utilised quantitative methods to produce numerical data to
establish if the aims and objective of the study have been met. Numerical
data in the form of angles and measurements allowed for accurate data
readings whilst producing both reliable and valid results (Cox et al, 2006).
3.2 Sampling Technique:
The study was advertised through social media channels to Hartpury Collage
(UWE) and The University of Gloucester students using a voluntary
population sampling technique. Participant information sheets and the terms
and conditions of the study where made available on request to those
Potential participants where required to have an inside leg length of between
30-36 so that a standard 17.5 saddle could be used throughout. An
additional pre-requisite was for the potential participants to be a ‘capable’
rider; it was standardised that riders must ride at a minimum of BHS stage 2
or equivalent (BHS 2007). This could be established through verbal/written
affirmation from a BHS qualified riding instructor or BHS equitation
certificates. BHS Stage 2 riding specifications are available in the appendix
The population sample was limited to Gloucestershire out of convenience
and due to its thriving equine industry. However, by limiting the sample
population to such a small loci a natural bias may occur thus, it must be
highlighted that the findings of the study cannot be reliably applied to the
entire equine industry.
3.2.1 Study Population:
8 ‘capable female collegiate riders aged 18-23, height 178.9cm ± 14 and
inside leg length of 83.06cm ± 2.59 (See Appendix 2.0).
3.2.2 Equipment:
The Racewood simulator (mechanical horse) fitted with a 17.5 Wintect
Synthetic GP saddle (E406250) and a 17.5” John Paul show jumping saddle
was used within the study. A list of additional equipment is listed in the
appendix 3.0.
3.2.3 Ethical Considerations:
Participants were required to provide a signed permission slip and where
requested to read the participant information booklet before entering the
study (See appendix 4.0). In both documents and throughout the study it was
clearly stated that participants were free to leave the study at any time.
3.3 Data Collection:
Data collection was undertaken at the Hartpury Collage (UWE), Therapy
yard, Gloucester, over the duration of 2 days.
3.3.1 Marker Placement:
High visibility markers where placed on the right side of the participants
clothing at relevant anatomical points as shown in plate 9; allowing for
accurate analysis of joint angles and measurements. Makers where placed
on the following points: front of toe, posterior point of boot heal, lateral
malleolus (ankle), lateral portion of the condyles of the femur (knee), greater
trochanter of the femur (hip) glenohumeral joint center (shoulder) and lateral
side of hat directly above and parallel to ear. Tight dark clothing was required
to be worn by participants to increase visibility and decrease the
displacement of makers. Appropriate riding gear was also requested for both
health and safety and ease of data collection.
Plate 9: High visibility marker placement on lateral side of rider. (Not to scale)
3.3.2 Video Equipment:
A Zodia Zi8 High definition video camera with 720 fps was positioned on a
tripod 3.95m from the mechanical horse at a height of 128.5 cm. This allowed
for the camera to catch the entire view of the study. Figure 1, shows the
setup with relative distances.
Figure 1: Study set-up including camera range of view and key. (Not to scale)
Mechanical Horse
Field of View
3.3.3 Data Collection Process:
Each participant underwent strict marker placement, height, inside leg and
thigh measurements before mounting the mechanical horse. Each rider
underwent a 10 minuet warm-up/acclimatisation period before data collection
commenced. Three, one minuet videos and one photo was recorded three
times for each rider in the light seat at canter. A detailed data collection
procedure is shown below in table 1.
Participants where first put into the SJ saddle and asked to shorten their
stirrups to jumping length; as SL was determined through personal choice,
the riders position and seat within the saddle was analysed in accordance to
a pre-determined specifications (see appendix 5.0). The test specifications
where designed to ensure the rider was sat correctly in the saddle and that
their riding position was not impaired by the choice of SL. If any problems did
occur the rider’s SL was altered until it met the specifications. This process
was then repeated when the rider sat in the GP saddle.
Table 1: Stage and progression of data collection process. * see appendix
5.0 for test specifications.
Warm up (walk, trot and canter in both classical and light seat)
10 minuits
Mount SJ saddle & shorten stirrup lengh to jumping length. (record length)
2 minuits
Check seat position and posture in accordance to the test specifications* . (Alter
stirrup length if neccesary) Photograph rider.
5 -10minuits
Video-Light seat- Canter (SJ saddle)
1 minuit
Mount GP saddle with previouse stirrup length
1 minuit
Check seat position and posture in accordance to the riding specifications.
Photograph rider
Video -Light seat- Canter (GP saddle)
If alteration in stirrup length was needed at stage 6; Alter stirrup length to meet the test
specifications and repeat step 7. (record stirrup length & photograph)
Complete stage 7 even if in same stirrup lengh used in SJ saddle even if stirrup lengh needs to be
changed to meet the test specifications.
* The test specifications Avaliable in the appendix 3.0
3.4 Analysis of Data:
The videos where analysed using Dartfish Software v6 allowing for
quantitative values to be produced (Cox et al, 2006). Rider joint angles where
measured at the same point in the canter stride allowing for accurate cross-
comparison of the study’s findings too previous and future research (Shills et
al, 1993; Kang et al, 2010). Angle measurements were taken 3 times for
each video to discount anomalies and provide an average joint angle. Joint
angles measured by video analysis are displayed in plate 9. The data was
analysed at only the suspension phase of the stride in order to standardise
the point of analysis.
The use of the canter gait increased the relevance and comparability of the
data; as the use of the light seat is encouraged in this gait particularly in the
show jumping discipline (GEF 2003; BHS, 2007). Lower leg stability was
determined by monitoring the movement of the lower leg (lower leg
displacement). This was achieved by finding the point in the stride where the
rider weight distribution was neutral, the heal marker was then tracked for its
displacement along the sagittal plane (GEF 2003; BHS, 2007). See plate 10
for visual explanation. All data gained through analysis was presented in
Microsoft Excel 2010 (See attached CD).
Plate 10: A) Represents the angles being measured in the study. a = hip, b=
knee and c= ankle. B) Represents the heal marker displacement on the
sagittal plane.
3.5 Statistical Analysis:
Statistical analysis was performed using the program SPSS 21.0. This
allowed for comparison of data averages and calculation of standard
deviation values from the raw data.
Each rider acted as their own control thus, providing related data sets. The
Kolmogrov-smirnov test was used to establish if the data was parametric; on
confirmation a paired T-test was used determine if there was a significant
difference. A level of 0.05 significance was used for all in all test outputs.
4.1 Descriptive statistics.
Out of the 12 data collection samples used only 8 of the participants data
could be used for data analysis. Within the methodology there was no pre
requisite for what discipline the rider competed in. However, it became
apparent in the data collection that the 4 dressage riders where less
competent riding at a short jumping length. Because of this the light seat
could not be maintained correctly and therefore, their data was not used for
Out of the 3 videos (see table 1) collected for each individual the statistical
analysis focused on only 2 videos; the SJ saddle and the GP saddle with the
necessary lengthened SL. Thus, from this point onwards any reference to the
GP saddles data refers to that of when the SL was altered.
Table 2 shows the descriptive statistics for the SL used in the GP and SJ
saddle. The protocol of the study required the SL used to meet the test
specifications before data collection could begin.
Table 2: Descriptive statistics of SL used in the GP saddle and SJ saddle.
Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics for the rider lower leg displacement
(LLD); with negative referring to the posterior movement of the lower leg and
positive referring to the anterior movement.
Stirrup length (cm)
Table 3: Descriptive statistics for LLD when in the SJ and the GP saddle.
Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics for the population rider body segment
angles when riding in the SJ saddle and GP saddle.
Table 4: Descriptive statistics for rider body segment angles when in the SJ
and the GP saddle.
4.2 Statistical Analysis.
4.2.1 Stirrup length used in the SJ and GP saddle.
One aim of the study was to establish if the SL used in the SJ saddle could
be used in the GP saddle. The test specification found in the appendix 5.0
determined if a SL was suitable for the rider and saddle.
The mean SL used in the SJ saddle was 51.44cm with a standard deviation
(SD) of 2.6; the mean SL increased to 54.78cm with a SD of 2.67 when riding
in the GP saddle. Figure 2 shows the comparison of SL used between the
two saddle types.
Figure 2: A comparison of SL used in the SJ saddle compared to the GP
saddle for individual participants. Statistical comparison of SL used between the two saddle types.
After a normal distribution was established a Paired T-test was used to
compare the two SL; it was found that the SL used in the GP saddle was
significantly greater than the SL used in the SJ saddle. The statistical output
provided a P-value of 0.000 which was significant at a level 0.001. See
appendix 6.0 for statistical output.
4.2.2 Lower leg displacement between saddle types.
The study aimed to establish if there was any significant difference between
rider lower leg stability when in the SJ saddle compared to the GP saddle.
The mean overall LLD when in the SJ saddle was 11.36cm with a SD of 1.87;
when in the GP saddle the overall LLD increased to 12.66cm with a slightly
larger SD value of 2.093, Figure 3 shows that comparison of overall LLD.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Length (cm)
Figure 3: A comparison of overall LLD when in the SJ and GP saddle. Comparison of overall LLD.
After a normal distribution was confirmed a Paired T-test showed there was
no significant difference in overall LLD in the GP saddle in comparison to the
SJ saddle. See appendix 6.0 for statistical output. Positive lower leg displacement between saddle types.
The mean positive LLD (anterior displacement) was 4.25cm with a SD of
2.16 in the SJ saddle; a lower mean positive LLD was seen in the GP saddle
with a value of 2.57cm with a smaller SD of 1.73. Figure 4 shows the
comparison of positive LLD.
Figure 4: A comparison of positive LLD when in the GP saddle compared to
the SJ saddle. Comparison of positive lower leg displacement.
The two data sets showed normal distribution, however a Paired T-test
identified that there was no significant difference between positive LLD in the
SJ compared to the GP saddle. See appendix 6.0 for statistical output. Negative lower leg displacement between saddle types.
The mean negative LLD (posterior displacement) in the SJ saddle was
7.11cm with a SD of 2.59; in the GP saddle the greater mean of 10.1cm with
a marginally smaller SD of 2.54 was recorded for negative LLD. Figure 5
shows the comparison of negative LLD.
Figure 5: A comparison of negative LLD when in the GP saddle compared to
the SJ saddle. Comparison of negative lower leg displacement.
A normal distribution was established in the two data sets. A Paired T-test
identified that there was a significantly greater negative LLD when in the GP
saddle compared to the SJ saddle. A P-value of 0.041 was significant at
≥0.05. See appendix 6.0 for statistical output.
4.2.3 Body Segment angles between saddle types.
As the degree in which a rider folds into the light seat is dependent on
personal preference then a mean population value will not accurately
represent the individuals within it. This was confirmed with the SD values
which ranged from 7.23- 10.18 thus, highlighting that the mean values
presented in table 4 are not a true reflection. Individual means and SD for
angles A, B and C are shown below in table 5.
Table 5: Individual means angles and SD values when riding in the SJ saddle
and the GP saddle.
A Kolmogorov-Smirnov test for normality established that all angle data
obtained through data analysis was normally distributed. As a population a
Paired T-test showed that there was no significant difference between angles
A, B, and C when riding in the GP saddle compared to the SJ saddle. Comparison of angles between the saddle types.
Individual Paired t-tests identified that 6 of the 8 riders showed to have a
significant difference in one or more angles when riding in the GP saddle
compared to the SJ saddle. All of the riders had P-values significance at a
level0.05. Comparison of angle A.
A Paired T-test established that there was a significant difference between
angle- A in 5 of the 8 participants when riding in the GP saddle compared to
the SJ saddle. Of the 5 participants 4 of the individuals angles-A where
significantly greater when riding in the GP saddle and 1 individual angle-A
was smaller. All differences where significant at a level ≥0.05. Figure 6 shows
individual comparisons of angle A. See appendix 6.0 for statistical output.
1 118.30 3.82 114.17 6.16 70.87 0.40 115.03 4.87 110.50 1.95 73.77 0.95
2 128.30 2.07 128.33 4.17 63.13 3.89 135.30 2.62 123.97 2.35 63.57 1.84
3 109.90 3.21 105.03 1.02 67.50 0.50 118.87 4.05 109.87 4.46 66.33 2.36
5 115.53 4.98 111.27 2.37 68.77 3.58 118.17 2.94 111.63 2.80 74.23 1.91
7 116.13 3.19 134.77 0.86 44.13 0.86 122.90 3.21 128.40 1.97 65.13 1.10
8 120.67 12.33 120.23 1.63 70.83 1.66 130.73 4.30 125.63 1.50 71.90 2.26
9 117.97 4.31 108.30 2.17 77.17 0.95 126.73 1.86 107.47 1.50 77.37 1.31
10 142.20 2.81 120.93 3.41 72.63 0.23 131.07 1.53 128.47 1.80 70.27 0.35
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Figure 6: Comparison of participants angle A in the GP and SJ saddle. Comparison of angle B.
A Paired T-test showed that there was no significant difference in angle B
when riding in the GP saddle compared to the SJ saddle. 1. Figure 7 shows
individual comparisons for angle- B. See appendix 6.0 for statistical output.
Figure 7: Comparison of participants angle B in the GP and SJ saddle.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
35 Comparison of angle C.
The Paired T-test showed that angle-C was significantly greater in 3 of the 8
participants when riding in the GP saddle compared to the SJ saddle, the P-
values of the statistical output where significant at a level ≥0.05. Figure 8
shows individual comparisons for angle C. See Appendix 6.0 for statistical
Figure 8: Comparison of participant’s angle C in the GP and SJ saddle.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
5.1 Rationalisation of Methodology:
A key part of the study was to investigate the comparative difference in rider
lower leg stability when in the SJ and GP saddle. This was achieved by
analysing the negative and positive displacement of the lower leg along the
sagittal plane. There is no previous research available regarding rider lower
leg stability and as a result the studies research design was experimental
however, a preliminary study was undertaken in order to develop a more
effective methodology. As the research design was experimental it is not
without fault nevertheless, its development will provide a basis for further
The pre-requisite for participation within the study was for riders to be of
capable ability. This was standardised as riders having a skill level of BHS
stage 2 or equivalent. The use of BHS stage 2 was chosen due to its syllabus
requiring the rider to have competent ability in the light seat and jumping. As
the use of the light seat was imperative for data collection it was deemed that
this level of skill must be the minimum requirement for participation.
Marker placement and angle calculation was carried out in par to previous
methodologies conducted in papers by Schills, (1993) and Kang et al, (2010).
Similar to other biomechanical research several angle measurements were
taken throughout the data analysis (Schills, 1993; Kang et al, 2010). This
minimised the presence of anomalies and increased the data’s repeatability
and reliability (Schills, 1993; Kang et al, 2010). This process also allows for
the comparison of data sets to new or previous research and subsequently
permits for greater application.
Randal et al, (2010) highlighted the canter gaits wide application throughout
the equine disciplines and the need for further research into horse and rider
interaction within this gait. Therefore, due to the predominance of the canter
gait in show jumping and to be in par with future research suggestions only
the canter was used throughout the study.
The study collected data on the mechanical horse as it allowed for the control
and repetition of speed and movement patterns for each participant, whilst
closely mimicking the equine gaits (Lovett et al, 2004; Daniels, 2012).
Therefore, data fluctuations could be accurately applied to the variables
under study.
Research by Lovett et al, (2004) and a dissertation study by Daniels, (2012),
found that there is no significant difference in rider body segment angles at
the different limb impacts of the canter gait. Thus, angle calculations were
taken at only one point in the canter stride and remained consistent for each
5.2 Comparison of Results to Related Research:
This study into the effect of saddle type on rider stability has produced
repeatable valid data. However, due to individual variance in the execution of
the light seat and the lack of previous research a comparison of numerical
data cannot be made.
5.2.1 Rider stirrup length:
By design the SJ saddle has a more forward cut knee roll which
accommodates for a shorter SL (GEF, 2003). As explained by equitation
manuals it is necessary for a rider to substantially shorten their SL; as a rider
needs to distribute their weight through their heal in order to counteract the
forwards posture of the light and jumping seat (Swift, 1985; Dietz, 1999;
BHS, 2007). This study found that the SL used in the SJ saddle was unable
to be replicated in the GP saddle without jeopardising the rider’s position and
subsequent balance. On average SL had to be lengthened by 3.13cm when
in the GP saddle.
An acceptable SL was deemed appropriate if it met the predetermined test
specifications (see appendix 5.0). All riders had to lower their SL when the
same SL used in the SJ saddle was replicated in the GP saddle. The most
common violation of the test specifications that resulted in the increase in SL,
was that the rider could no longer sit with their seat bones in the deepest part
of the saddle and that their thigh could no longer run parallel with the saddles
cut (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). This impairment of the riders seat is thought to
be caused by the GP saddles deeper and shorter seat dimensions that do
not allow for the higher placement of the knee caused by the short SL. As a
consequence, the rider’s seat bones could no longer be placed in the
deepest part of the saddle without their knee being inappropriately placed
over the saddles perimeter. Additionally, the straighter cut of the GP saddle
impaired the rider’s ability to place their knee correctly below the knee roll.
Equitation manuals state that the longer the SL the less ability the rider has
of getting off the horses back without taking their weight through the ball of
the their foot and toes (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). When this occurs it is
commonly seen that the lower leg swings back and places the rider in a
forwards balance (GEF, 2003; BHS, 2007). It was found that there was a
significant increase in the negative LLD of riders with the longer SL; a finding
that interlinks with the previous equitation concept. However, this finding
cannot be directly linked the SL as its occurrence was in a different saddle
type to its control counterpart. Therefore, it will be of benefit to investigate the
effects of SL on lower leg stability in the same saddle.
5.2.2 Lower leg stability:
It is explained in equitation manuals that a firm knee and stable lower leg
creates the basis for balance in the light seat (GEF, 2003; BHS 2007). It was
found within this study that riders had a significant increase in negative LLD
when riding in the GP saddle compared to the SJ saddle. Posterior
displacement of the lower leg results in an anterior shift in the riders CoM
(Back & Clayton, 2001). This shift consequently places the riders balance on
the horse’s forehand, as the positioning of the lower leg can no longer
counteract the forwards posture of the light seat (GEF, 2003; BHS 2007).
Rider imbalance particularly when placed anteriorly can influence the
success of a jump effort by impairing the ability of the horse to shift its weight
onto its hindquarters and open up the angle of trajectory at take-off (Clayton
& Back, 2001). Therefore, the GP saddles inability to effectively stabilise the
lower leg could potentially impair performance in terms of jump success.
However, the degree of its influence on the approach and landing of a fence
would need investigation.
Previous research into rider stability can loosely be applied to the study’s
findings. Peham et al, (2001), found that complete synchronicity of the horse
and riders CoM minimised and stabilised a riders limit cycle. This concept
would imply that the imbalance caused by instability of the lower leg will
reduce the coupling of the horse and rider, in terms of their harmony in
movement (Peham et al, 2001; Janura et al, 2009). It could also affect the
riders ability to predict disturbance in the gait as the impaired synchronicity
will reduce the riders ability to percept subtle changes in movement (Janura
et al, 2009). Hence, instability of the rider can not only be of detriment to
jump success but can negatively affect the events between jump efforts.
5.2.3 Rider joint angles:
As a population there was no significant difference between rider joint angles
when comparing the influence of the two saddle types. Nevertheless, as
individuals significant differences where seen in 6 of the 8 participants in one
or more of the recorded angles. However, due to the gap in knowledge
surrounding the subject area, only speculation can be made regarding the
reasons for the change in angle size.
Angle-A (hip) showed to be significantly larger in 4 of the 8 participants when
riding in the GP saddle. Previous studies investigating rider segment angles
in the traditional seat have concluded that advanced riders have a larger
angle of the hip than novice riders (Schills, 1993; Kang et al, 2009). This
occurrence however, is not limited to the traditional seat as a dissertation
study conducted by Daniels, (2012), found similar findings when comparing
rider competence in the light seat. Therefore, if the study’s findings are
compared against previous data then the increase in angle-A when in the GP
saddle would imply a more stable riding posture. However, the increase in
negative LLD when in the GP saddle contradicts the previous stipulation.
As discussed in section 5.2.2 the significant increase in negative LLD in the
GP saddle will cause the riders CoM to shift onto the horses forehand.
Hence, the increase in angle-A could be the result of the rider actively
opening the hip joint in order to counteract the forwards balance induced by
the swing back of the lower leg (Clayton & Back, 2001). Nevertheless, a
more in-depth study would be required to confirm this concept as the study’s
data can only presume the movement of the CoM.
The knee joint (angle-B) showed to have no significant changes in angle size
between the two saddle types. On visual analysis of the video data it became
apparent that the knee acted as a pivot in which the upper and lower body
rotated around (Clayton & Back, 2003; Jahiel, 2013). This finding interlinked
with the fact that there was no significant change in angle-B. As the increase
in negative LLD displacement should have suggested that the angle of the
knee became more acute. Thus, the concept of the knee acting as a postural
pivot explains why no significant change was recorded.
Angle- C (ankle) was significantly increased in 3 of the 8 participants when
riding in the GP saddle. The GEF, (2003), suggests in par to other equitation
manuals that a too long a SL when executing the light seat results in the rider
taking their weight through their toes (BHS 2009). This concept could relate
to the increase in angle-C in 3 of the participants as the distribution of weight
through the toe increases the angle of the ankle. However, this increase only
occurred in 3 of the 8 participants and therefore, is not a significant change
when viewed as a population.
5.3 Study Limitations:
5.3.1 Population sample:
The studies time scale and complexity dictated the small population sample
of the study (n=8) nevertheless, its number is not dissimilar to previous
studies such as that by Kang et al, (2009) where a total of 9 participants
where used. However, the small population sample does impair the studies
validity and application to the wider equestrian public.
The smaller population sample also reduced the statistical power of the
Paired-test as it produced some p-values that where only marginally greater
than the 0.05 significance level. If the population size was greater it would
have been probable that the data output would have been significant.
Therefore, it would be beneficial to complete a similar study with a larger
population size in order to strengthen the validity of the study’s findings.
BHS stage 2 was the minimum requirement for participation within the study
however, no upper boundary was set to standardise the experience of the
rider. This lapse in standardisation could influence the results of the data, as
studies into rider competence suggest that a more experienced rider can
better stabilise and predict the onset of unbalance (Peham et al, 2001 Janura
et al, 2009). However, as each rider acted as their own control and statistical
analysis was carried out both as a population and individually the influence of
this limitation is minimised.
5.3.2 Mechanical Horse:
Use of the mechanical horse within the study allows for the control of external
influences, whilst closely mimicking the motion pattern of a live horse (Lovett
et al, 2004; Daniels 2012unpublished). However, due to the angled
placement of the girth on the mechanical horse the saddle sat in an uphill
posture. This meant that the rider could not effectively use the knee support
of the saddle whilst in motion. This factor could influence the validity of the
results however, as the girth placement brought about the same effect in both
saddles its influence became standardised. Nonetheless, its occurrence does
impair the studies comparability to a live horse as the positioning of the
saddle would differ and may bring about a different effect.
5.3.3 Marker displacement:
As like previous biomechanical research, markers where placed the surface
of tight clothing (Schills, 1993; Lovett et al, 2004; Kang et al, 2009; Janural et
al, 2009). This method results in the common limitation of displacement error
(Maslen & Ackland, 1994). Maslen & Ackland (1994) found that the largest
discrepancy between skeletal and surface markers was seen on the rotation
of a joint. Thus, as riding relays on subtle changes in motion through flexion
and extension, there is a reduced potential for large displacement errors. The
method of surface marking is also non-invasive and requires no ethical
approval, because of this and the experimental nature of the study surface
markers where deemed more appropriate.
5.3.4 Saddles:
The basic design of the SJ saddle and GP saddle is consistent throughout
the equine industry. However, the dimensions of the saddle flap and seat
vary with each manufacturer. Therefore, the conclusions of the study cannot
be accurately applied to saddle makes different to those used in the study.
5.4 Suggested areas of further research:
The current study investigated the SJ saddle suitability in the canter gait
however; the design of the SJ saddle is to optimise a rider position over the
jump. Therefore, it would be beneficial to investigate the stabilising effect of
the SJ saddle over the jump with particular reference to rider position on
approach, take-off and landing.
With the lack of research into the area of saddlery it would be advantageous
to investigate the effects of other discipline specific saddle designs, such as
the dressage saddle on rider biomechanics. Achievement of such data will
allow for a better understanding of the relationship between rider and saddle,
and how certain designs and fits can either negatively or positively influence
rider performance. A better understanding of the saddle and rider relationship
will also allow for the advancement of saddle designs in favour of both the
horse and rider and educate the equine public on saddle choice.
Rider body segment angle research in the light seat is limited. Therefore,
there is a need for further investigation on rider angles when executing the
light seat on a live horse. Provision of such information will provide a basis
for comparison in other rider biomechanical studies and will provide valuable
knowledge to the couching industry in optimising rider position.
The main aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the suitability of the
SJ saddle and GP saddle for use in show jumping, with particular reference
to rider SL and lower leg stability in the light seat.
Research into rider position has repeatedly highlighted the negative influence
of an incorrect riding position on equine gait kinematics. In terms of saddlery
there is growing portfolio of research investigating the effects of an ill-fitted
saddle on the horse. However, there is still a gap in knowledge regarding
saddle variables such as saddle fit and design and its influence on rider
The results of the study found that the jumping SL used in the SJ saddle
could not be replicated to an acceptable standard in the GP saddle; as the
straighter cut and deeper seat did not allow for the correct placement of the
knee and seat bones. Therefore, the SL had to be lengthened. This
lengthening of the SL increased the posterior displacement of the lower leg
when in the light seat and thus, created an incorrect forwards balance. Such
scenario was not replicated in the SJ saddle, as the more forward cut and
shallower seat allowed for the higher placement of the knee. As a result the
SJ saddle could sufficiently contain and better stabilise the rider’s lower leg.
From this preliminary study it can be assumed that the SJ saddle can
optimally maintain and stabilise the riders position in the light seat and thus,
it is suitable for use in show jumping. Conversely, the GP saddle cannot
structurally support the shorter SL needed in the light seat without impairing
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1.0 BHS Stage 2 riding criteria:
The learner will be able to ride schooled horses independently and working
as a ride in an enclosed environment. They must be confident and competent
riding horses with and without stirrups in all three paces, and with the reins in
one hand. Their position must be established, showing balance and security
and a degree of ‘feel’. They will be able to build up a rapport and work in
harmony with various types of horse and show an understanding of the basic
principles of riding from leg to hand. They will show an ability to assist the
horse in keeping its balance during a range of school movements. The
learners’ independent, well balanced and secure seat should be established
at this level. This will enable the learner to progress their confidence and
competence in being able to further positively influence the horse’s way of
going.” (BHS, 2012)
“The learner will be able to show a secure, independent balanced jumping
position. They must be confident and competent jumping horses over a
course of fences up to maximum of 2ft 6ins (76cm). Their position must be
established, showing balance and security and a degree of ‘feel’. They will be
able to build up a rapport and work in harmony with various types of horse.
They will show an ability to assist the horse in keeping its balance round a
course of fences. The learners’ independent and well balanced jumping
position should be established at this level. This will enable the learner to
develop their skills and ability to jump horses over more difficult fences and
courses.” (BHS, 2012)
2.0 Participant details:
*Thigh measured: From crease of groin to the top of patella.
**Calf measured: posterior tibiofemoral joint crease to heal.
3.0 Additional Equipment:
1× tripod
2× Stirrup leathers & irons
2× Pack of reflective markers
1× Tape measure
2× Laptops
1× Camera (8mp)
No. Age Height (cm) Inside leg (cm) Thigh* (cm) Calf** (cm) Discipline:
20 171 79 38 48 SJ
21 172 80 38.5 48 E
21 181 84.5 41 47.5 SJ
21 181 86 41 49 SJ
18 179 81.5 39.5 50.5 SJ
23 185 85.5 43.5 51 HACK
21 184 86.5 44 51 SJ
22 178 81.5 44 46.5 HUNT
5 14 2.59 2.23 1.81
Average: 20.88 178.88 83.06 41.19 48.94
4.0 Participant permission Slips & Information Booklet.
Participant Participation Form:
Title of Investigation:
An investigation into the effect of saddle design on rider lower leg position
when using the light seat.
Contact Number/s:………………………………………………………
Email Address:……………………………………………………………
I in the capacity of the rider, herby give my permission
(Name)………………………………….. To participate in the stated study,
where I will ride the mechanical horse through different gaits in two different
saddles and will partake in the following procedure:
I understand that data collected will be stored and used in par with Data
Collection Act 1998 and that data collected will be monitored by our
supervisor to enable any individuals to be removed from the study at our
If you are under 18 years of age, you must be granted permission from a
parent/guardian before participating in the study. Therefore, before you
partake in the study permission should be gained.
(Please circle appropriate answer)
I am aged 18 or older: Y/N
I am aged under 18: Y/N (if under 18 please fill in the following)
I as the parent/Guardian of (Name)……………………………………….. herby,
give permission for (Name) to partake in the stated study.
Signature of parent/Guardian:
Please read the following and tick in the designated boxes:
I understand that all data will be kept in accordance with the Data Protections
Act 1998 and that it will be kept anomalous and used only for this dissertation
I understand that I can withdraw from the study at any given time, without
I have no past of present injury that will hinder my ability to participate in the
study. Therefore I declare myself fit to ride.
I am a competent rider that can ride to a minimal level of BHS stage 2 or
Please sign to agree with terms and conditions of the study above:
Participant Information booklet:
Name: Amanda Purchas
Supervisor: Vicki Lewis
Contact Details: / 07824306297
Dissertation title:
An investigation into the effect of saddle design on rider lower leg position
when using the light seat.
Invitation to participate:
My name is Amanda Purchas; I am currently undertaking a degree in Bsc
Equine Sports Science at Hartpury Collage (UWE) and I would like to invite
you to participate in my dissertation study. For you to gain full benefit from
the participation in the study and to allow you to decide with confidence; it is
important that you understand the reasons for the proposed dissertation
Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding and concerns or queries
throughout the data collection process. Please take time to read the
following. Please remember there is no pressure to partake in the study and
that you may leave the process at any given time. Thank you for your time.
The purpose of the study:
The purpose of my study is to determine if the General Purpose (GP) saddle
less forward cut allows for the rider to optimally shorten their stirrup length for
show jumping with reference to the ‘light seat’ and whether the GP saddle
can correctly accommodate the lower leg position without interfering with the
correct riding posture. Conversely, I will investigate if the show jumping
saddle exaggerated design better accommodates the ‘light seat’ as it
suggests. I will also investigate whether there is any difference in lower leg
stability in both the GP saddle and show jumping saddle.
What data and data type will be collected?
I will collect body segment angles, by using body markers (Placed on top of
clothing on pre-determined points) I will also collect data on lower leg stability
using markers placed on the hip and heal. All of the described data will be
collected in the form of video. This data will then be analysed using Dartfish
video anaylsis software.
Leg length and stirrup length will be recorded throughout the study.
Do I have to take part?
No. All invited participants will only partake in the study under their own
choice there will be no pressure to partake and the individual regains the
right to leave the study at any time.
If you would like to partake in the study a permission form highlighting the
terms and agreements of the study will be forwarded to yourself and
Are there any pre-requisites for partaking in the study?
Yes. I will require you to ride at a minimum level of BHS stage 2 or
Equivalent, this will allow me to standardise my population sample as it
means all riders should have a competent riding posture.
I will also require a long leg to body ratio this will make data analysis easier
and 27-33inch inside leg length.
Is there any specification on clothing or equipment to be worn or
Yes. In order to make data analysis easier on myself and increase the
accuracy of the study, participants will be required to wear tight dark clothing;
preferably blue or black. They will also be required to wear correct riding
boots and to bring and wear a fitted helmet. Gloves may be worn but they will
remain as an optional item.
What Process will I under go in the study:
After signing the Participant permission form and understanding the
requirements of the study the participants will undergo the following:
Step 1:
Leg length measured:
- Inside leg length
- Thigh length
- Calf Length
Height measured.
Step 2:
Using sticky paper markers (glue used will be machine washable) I will mark
up your:
- Hip
- Knee
- Ankle
- Toe
- Heal
- Shoulder
- Ear (marker will be placed in line with ear on on the hat)
Step 3:
After putting on a fitted riding hat; mount mechanical horse in the show
jumping saddle and shorten/lengthen stirrup length to jumping length.
(Stirrup length will be recorded)
- To ensure the stirrup length does not impair your position, I will
analyse your position to ensure that your position meets the
guidelines stated in the BHS- Equitation manual.
- This will involve:
o Visually analysing the alignment of body segments
o Ensuring you are sat correctly in the saddle
Step 4:
Complete 5 minuet warm up on mechanical horse; in all four gaits, using both
a mix of the light seat, deep seat and rising seat.
Step 5:
1) A static photo of you in the deep seat will be taken and then in the light
2) 1 video will be recorded of you in a steady canter gait in the light seat
for duration of 1minuit.
Step 6:
Dismount from mechanical horse, and GP saddle will be swapped for the SJ
saddle. The same stirrup length will then be transferred onto the GP saddle.
You will mount into the different saddle.
Step 7:
I will then ask you if you feel the need to alter your stirrup length. I will then
carry out the same analysis of your position as stated prior in addition to
ensuring that your leg is sat correctly into the saddle i.e:
- Your knee does not extend that of the knee flap.
- You are sat correctly in the seat of the saddle.
If by strict analysis I determine that the stirrup length does not allow for you to
sit in the saddle correctly and impairs the correct riding posture; I will alter
your stirrup length until all required saddle and postural requirements are
met. However, this will occur after repeating steps 4 & 5.
If stirrup length is to be altered a 3
cycle of step 4 & 5 will be completed with
the altered stirrup length.
Step 8:
I will then debrief ; which will include what will now happen with your data as
well as ensuring that all information gained will be kept and stored in the
correct manor.
Are there any risks to the study?
Yes. However, the risks are small. As I require you to be a competent rider,
who can ride at a minimum of BHS stage 2 or equivalent and you will be
riding a mechanical horses whos motion is predictable and controlled, the
risk of a falling off the mechanical horse is low. However, the following safety
measures will be made:
- A Gym mat will surround the mechanical horse, to prevent
concussive forces if you were to fall.
- You will be required to where a fitted hard hat.
- A emergency stop button is present on the mechanical horse in the
case of an incident.
- You will be allowed any reasonable time acclimatise to the motion
of the mechanical horse.
To prevent an exercise strain injury a 5 minute warm-up on the horse will be
Are there any drawbacks to the study design?
Yes. By using the mechanical horse it allows me to standardise the speed
and gait of the ‘horse’, however the motion of the mechanical horse does not
100% mimic a real horses motion therefore, it may lack a degree of
I will also have to use one standard saddle size, meaning that the saddle
may not fit each of the riders perfectly; however, I hope to overcome this by
standardising the thigh length of the riders.
What if something goes wrong?
If at any stage you feel that you have any concerns with any part of the study
please do not hesistate to contact me at: or
my supervisor at: .
What will happen with my information?
All document associated with yourself and all study data will be stored in line
with regulations stated by the Data Protections act 1988. It will be used for
this study and this study only and will be disposed of appropriately after the
full completion of the dissertation study.
You will remain the right to claim any data regarding yourself at any point in
the study and may request the findings of the study.
What will happen with the results and dissertation findings?
They will be presented to Hartpury collage (UWE) within the completed
dissertation and will be stored both manually and electronically. I hope to
publish my findings and if such scenario occurs the dissertation will be
presented in an appropriate journal.
How do I sign up?
Email me at: and I will send you the
participant permission documents which can be filled in and handed in on the
day of research.
When will I know when the study is taking place?
I will email you with the time and dates of the collection after you have
verbally confirmed your attendance.
If you have a Facebook account you will have been likely invited to ‘Mandy’s
Dissertation’ Event; I will post information regarding times and changed to the
data collection schedule. If you do not have Facebook the same information
will be passed onto yourself by email.
Where will the data collection be held?
The Therapy yard.
Hartpury Collage
Gloucester Road
GL19 3BE
Thank you for your interest and time! I hope to see you soon.
Many thanks
Amanda Purchas
5.0 Test Specifications:
(To be used in conjunction with data collection to ensure stirrup length is
SUITABLE and DOES NOT impair the riders ability to sit correctly in the
saddle or sit with the correct riding posture)
1) Ensure the rider’s seat bones are set in the deepest part of the saddle
2) Ensure the rider’s knee does not overlap the saddle flap and the knee
is set into the knee role of the saddle.
3) The thigh of the rider should run parallel to the cut of the saddle flap.
Rider Position:
1) Ensure riders body aligned in accordance to BHS equitation guidelines
as seen visually below. (Vertical line should be visually seen starting
from the ear to the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle)
6.0 Statistacle output:
Kolmogrov-Smirnov Test for normality output :
1) Overall LLD SJ saddle
2) Overall LLD GP DIFF saddle
3) SL used in SJ saddle.
4) SL used in GP saddle.
5) Negative LLD in SJ saddle.
6) Negative LLD in GP DIFF saddle.
7) Positive LLD- SJ saddle
8) Positive LLD GP DIFF saddle
9) Body segment Angles. GP & SJ saddle.
Paired T-test outputs. Key: (Red- No sig diff/ Pink- Near but no sig diff/ Green- sig diff)
10) Positive LLD SJ and GP DIFF saddle.
Paired Samples Test
Paired Differences
Sig. (2-tailed)
Std. Deviation
Std. Error Mean
95% Confidence Interval of the
Pair 1
11) Negative LLD- SJ and GP DIFF saddle.
Paired Samples Test
Paired Differences
Sig. (2-tailed)
Std. Deviation
Std. Error Mean
95% Confidence Interval of the
Pair 1
12) Overall LLD- SJ Vs GP DIFF saddle.
Paired Samples Test
Paired Differences
Sig. (2-tailed)
Std. Deviation
Std. Error Mean
90% Confidence Interval of the
Pair 1