Reasons for performing study: To a large extent the success of a racehorse depends on effective and health preserving training methods. An important issue is the prevention of back pain. The influence of different types of training saddles (normal tree: SA, treeless: SB, flexible tree: SC) on the saddle pressure patterns in racehorses have not previously been investigated. It is commonly assumed that SA limits the motion of the back especially in the lower thoracic region during gallop.
Hypothesis: SA produces higher pressures in the caudal part of the saddle at trot (rising trot), canter and gallop (both in a jockey seat) compared to SB and SC.
Methods: Saddle pressures were measured in 8 racehorses ridden on a training track at trot (3.5 m/s), canter (6.4 m/s) and gallop (12.6 m/s). Each horse performed the protocol with each saddle. To analyse the pressure distribution over the horse's back the pressure picture was divided into thirds (TDfront, TDmid, TDhind). The stride-mean loaded areas, forces and mean and peak pressures were determined.
Results: At canter and gallop, all 3 saddles were mainly loaded in TDfront (>80% of the rider's weight), with a decreasing gradient to TDmid and TDhind (<3%), which was least pronounced in SC. At trot, the load was shifted towards TDmid and TDhind (10–15%, each). High peak pressures occurred in TDfront at canter and gallop and in TDhind at trot.
Conclusions: The type of tree had no influence on the pressure picture of the caudal third at gallop. The high peak pressures observed in TDhind at trot in all saddles may limit the activity of the horse's back, which is of particular importance since trot is an integral part of the daily work.