The results of a pilot study on the effects of rider weight on equine performance have been published in the world’s leading journal of equine veterinary education, Equine Veterinary Education (EVE). It not only highlights the need to match horses appropriately in size, weight and fitness for the rider's weight, but that saddle fit is a crucial factor.
The study titled: 'The influence of rider : horse bodyweight ratio and rider-horse saddle fit on equine gait and behaviour: A pilot study' has provided initial benchmark information on the potential health and welfare implications of high rider : horse bodyweight ratios. A rider that is too heavy for the horse in question could induce temporary lameness and behaviours indicative of musculoskeletal pain.
Dr Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust’s Centre for Equine Studies, Newmarket, who led the study said: “The results indicate that every rider and especially heavier riders should ride a horse or pony of appropriate size and fitness for the rider’s weight, with a saddle that is correctly fitted for both horse and rider.”
In their closing statement, the researchers said: "In conclusion, we have clearly demonstrated deleterious effects of inappropriate rider size on equine gait and behaviour. The results suggest that any adverse influence of less than ideally fitting tack for horse or rider may be accentuated by riders who are heavier and/or taller. The results of this study do not mean that heavy or tall riders should not ride, but suggest that, if they do, they should ride a horse of appropriate size and fitness, with a saddle that is correctly fitted for both horse and rider. Further work is, however, required to determine if horse fitness, greater metacarpal region circumference, breed, adaptation to heavier weights and more ideal saddle fit will increase the weight that individual horses can carry."
Funding has now been confirmed for the next phase of research, which aims to determine if horse fitness, adaptation to heavier weights and more ideal saddle fit will increase the weight an individual horse can carry.
Study details: The influence of rider: horse bodyweight ratio and rider-horse saddle fit on equine gait and behaviour: A pilot study Dyson, S, Ellis, A, Guire, R, Douglas, J, Bondi, A, Harris, P.