A new research study led by Hartpury University aims to produce industry-wide guidelines relating to saddle fit for the rider. It is hoped that the guidelines will add to existing guidance employed by The Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) for saddle fit for the horse.

Despite widespread recognition that saddle fit in relation to the rider is an important consideration when fitting a saddle to the horse, and rider partnership, there remains no published guidance on rider-specific aspects.

“This ambitious study sets out to provide evidence-based guidance developed in conjunction with the saddle fitters and coaches tasked with working with all types of riders, from recreational novice riders to sporting professionals,” said Dr. Kathryn Nankervis, Associate Professor at Hartpury University.

“Improving our understanding of how best to support riders to ride ‘in balance’ will have benefits not only for rider training but for the combined health, welfare and performance of horse and rider partnerships.”

The study is funded by The Worshipful Company of Saddlers and is being led by Dr. Kathryn Nankervis, Associate Professor at Hartpury University, and Dr. Russell MacKechnie-Guire, Reader in Biomechanics (Research) at Hartpury University, in conjunction with The Society of Master Saddlers research committee.

Assessing saddle fit

As part of the study, Hartpury measured areas of agreement between a cohort of SMS qualified saddle fitters (QSFs) and coaches when assessing saddle fit in relation to a rider when riding on a riding simulator.

Following on from this, 60 horses and riders joined saddle fitters and coaches at Hartpury last month to apply the same observational approaches to a ‘real-life’ setting. The aim of the data collection day was to once again find areas where there is a good level of agreement between saddle fitters and coaches when assessing saddle fit for the rider during walk, trot and canter, in order to establish the most pertinent features relating to saddle fit.

All the professionals who participated were volunteers, and the day was supported by BSc (Hons) Equestrian Sports Coaching students. Dissertation students will now help research staff to analyse the results from the data collection day, before findings are presented to industry experts, including the SMS research committee, for feedback prior to publication.

In return for their time assisting the research, delegates and students were treated to an afternoon of CPD around the topic of bridle fit, delivered by Kathryn and Russell (pictured top), followed by a group discussion sharing inter-disciplinary observations

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