Wednesday 27 August 2014

New scheme launched to help combat saddle problems - Issued August 2014

The Saddle Research Trust (SRT) has launched a new referral scheme to help riders tackle saddle-related problems. The new scheme, which will be highlighted at the Saddle Research Trust International Conference, to be held in Cambridge this November, gives riders access to the expertise and advice of a world-leading authority at a manageable cost.

Riders often relate saddle-fitting problems and equine back pain to loss of performance. However, recent studies showed that horses with saddle slip syndrome were more than 50 times likely to be lame or have gait abnormalities; that 46% of horses were lame or had gait abnormalities and that 43% of saddles were ill-fitting. However, lameness can often be difficult to recognise which can lead to potential welfare problems for the horse and can have implications for the rider as well.  A further study has identified a clear link between ill-fitting saddles and back pain in the rider.

The Saddle Research Trust receives around two requests every week for advice on saddle-related issues,said SRT founder Anne Bondi.Many horse owners report that they feel trapped in a seemingly unending cycle of veterinary/musculoskeletal/saddle fit assessments without ever determining the underlying cause of the problem. The lack of a definitive diagnosis can be expensive but most importantly has the potential to result in a permanently damaged horse.”

The new referral scheme, which is exclusive to SRT Members and Friends, aims to help owners resolve their saddle-related problems. Potential cases can be submitted to the SRT for an initial assessment and if deemed suitable will be passed, with the permission of the owner’s usual vet, to the SRT’s veterinary advisor Dr Sue Dyson at the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, for a full assessment at a fixed cost of £335 plus VAT.

Dr Dyson MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, is a world-renowned expert in equine orthopaedics, with a particular interest in lameness and poor performance in sports horses.  A British Horse Society Instructor, who has trained horses and competed to Advanced level Eventing, Grade A Showjumping, Medium level Dressage, Dr Dyson has the additional advantage of a real rider’s perspective.

Dr Dyson will conduct an independent and thorough review of the past history plus an examination of the horse, saddle and rider interaction, including physical and visual evaluations  as well as  in-hand, ridden and  saddle fit assessments. A written report will then be provided for the owner and their associated professional practitioners.

Dr Dyson said: “The SRT has taken a valuable step forward in raising standards of welfare and practice in the industry with this important referral scheme and I am pleased to support it.”

The new referral scheme will be showcased at the forthcoming Saddle Research Trust International Conference, to be held in Cambridge on 29th November 2014 at Anglia Ruskin University. The conference is supported by World Horse Welfare (WHW) and is approved by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). Advance tickets are £100 or £150 on the door –

email or telephone 07775 912202 to reserve your place. To find out more and to download a copy of the programme visit

Friday 22 August 2014

The Eventing Way – Our First Win In a SMART Saddle - Reports from 2013 Event Diary

April 2013 – Hambleden International Horse Trials

“Overall we had a successful weekend with the horses having an educational run and two horses in the money!”

We took three horses to Hambleden International Horse Trials running in SMART™ saddles; Cadanbyrig Moonrunner and Cadanbyrig No Warning in the BE100 and Sabreeze in the Novice.

Cadanbyrig No Warning has continued to improve on the flat and did a lovely dressage test to score 31, rolled a pole in the showjumping and went clear cross country to finish 9th in a very competitive section.

Cadanbyrig Moonrunner scored 39 in the dressage but unfortunately had a few rails in the showjumping through greenness but went very confidently around a strong BE100 cross country track.

Sabreeze has also continued to improve and scored his first sub 30 test with a 29.5, had an unlucky pole in the showjumping and went well cross country to finish 5th in another competitive section!

April 2013 - Bicton

“All of the horses are beginning to look stronger and are building muscle over their backs that we haven't seen before, this is enabling them to work in a more established outline and their jumping technique is improving.”

We took two lorry loads to Bicton; Cadanbyrig No Warning and Cadanbyrig Moonrunner for BE100, Phantom Spark for BE100 Plus, Sabreeze for Novice and The Navigator in the Open Intermediate.

Sabreeze won his section in the novice!
He improved on his success the previous week where he was placed 5th at Hambleden. At Bicton he scored a personal best in the dressage with 29 his straightness has really developed and he is much freer in his movement which has contributed to the improvement in his scores.

His showjumping has come on in leaps and bounds - literally! He has an unusual technique and was always quite tight behind but as time has gone on jumping in the SMART™ RigidFree™ saddle he has got better and better and at Bicton jumped a fantastic clear without breathing on a pole.


He then jumped brilliantly and really enthusiastically cross country inside the time to finish on his dressage score of 29 and win his class.

·         The Navigator did a good test and went very well across country around a strong intermediate track and finished 10th in his section.
·         Cadanbyrig No Warning was first on in the BE100 and did a brilliant test to score an impressive 24 and finished 6th in a very competitive section.
·         Cadanbyrig Moonrunner did her best test to date scoring 29.5 - her first sub 30 test. She jumped much better in the showjumping and went well cross country finishing just out of the placings.
·         Phantom Spark was having his first run for a number of weeks after he had missed events due to cancellations. He was running in the BE100 Plus section. The dressage test is a Novice level test - the first for him so he did really well to score 35. He was very green in the showjumping and definitely lacking match practise but went well cross country improving all the way. 

A great weekend at Bicton with 3 horses taking home prizes.

We also realised one of the real benefits of the SMART™ saddles when we forgot to pack the dressage saddle we use on Sabreeze, fortunately as we had the pads we were able to use another of the SMART™ RigidFree™ saddles and it still fitted perfectly!

Solution Saddle Helped MS Sufferer To Feel Balanced & Symmetrical.

“Having been diagnosed with MS a year ago, tasks which were previously straightforward, such as buying a new horse and trotting, now present a challenge.

Although I managed a reasonable trot when I tried my new horse, when I got him home things did not go so well.  My instructor wasn’t happy for me to trot off the lunge as I was very unbalanced and had to hold onto a neck strap.  We tried a few different saddles but none seemed to help my balance. 

When we heard of Solution Saddles RigidFree saddle range, we called to enquire about them.  I had ridden another brand of treeless saddle before and found it uncomfortable and very wide so we arranged to have a saddle on trial so we could test it out thoroughly.

I felt the difference immediately! I could trot, both rising and sitting, off the lunge, and without holding on.  The change was huge.  The saddle didn’t push me and move me away from the horse, instead I moved with the horse and I could feel the horses action more clearly. I felt balanced and symmetrical and was able to maintain my position without being jostled around.

 The saddle is very comfortable and doesn’t feel wide.  

Kirsty Hosford

Wednesday 13 August 2014

The Eventing Way - Week Four Update, Larkhill BE - Reports From 2013 Event Diary

We have now been using our SMART™ saddles for four weeks on all of our event horses and there have been noticeable changes in all the horse’s way of going and also in their performance at competitions.

We were really lucky to have a Solution Saddles Technical Advisor come to our first event using the saddles at Larkhill to support us with fitting and helping us to get used to swapping the saddles from horse to horse. After a few events and a bit of practice we are now in the swing of using them and now it is straightforward – especially as we use fewer saddles and so packing the lorry for a competition is far easier!

Sabreeze has shown great improvements – being an older horse, when we first put him in a SMART™ RigidFree™ saddle, he wasn’t convinced about it and took a few days to get used to it but he has not looked back since. He is freer in his movement and at Larkhill suddenly found, midway through his show jumping, that he could actually move over a fence and began to throw some amazing shapes! He was 13th at Larkhill, in a Novice section.
Our first runner across country in a SMART saddle - Sabreeze in the Novice section at Larkhill.

Cadanbyrig No Warning (Blott) has been working really well and is building her strength and her jumping is also improving all the time. We are really pleased with how she is building muscle over her back. Blott has scored sub 30 in the dressage at all of her events in the past month.

Cadanbyrig Moonrunner (Mole) has shown a big improvement over a fence since using the SMART saddles. Showjumping is always her weakest phase but at her last event she jumped a lot better. She has been softer and more accepting on the flat.

Phantom Spark has not competed much due to cancellations but he has really improved his straightness and the most noticeable difference is how he is beginning to build muscle over his back and we’re looking forward to seeing how he progresses in the coming month. In the meantime he has been to training camps with the Australian eventing squad and also for lessons with Mark Phillips where we have been working on developing his technique over a fence now that he is much freer in his movement.

Joey has been out competing at an Inter Hunt relay – his first competitive outing and finished 4th, he was beautifully behaved and jumped really well – we were all impressed with him!

Scobie went to South of England for his first Open Intermediate of the season and did a good dressage, but unfortunately he wasn’t right to showjump and so was withdrawn. He is an older horse that is established in his way of going but is showing more freedom over a fence. Scobie is now aiming for two star level competitions at Houghton.
Scobie at South of England Open Intermediate  dressage.

So far we have been really impressed with the SMART™ saddles, they feel really secure cross country and don’t move or slip back which is so important! We are starting to see changes in the shape of the horses back as they are building muscle, we have also noticed that any small lumps, bumps or rubs that the horses had under their previous saddles are now disappearing.

Check back soon for another update from The Eventing Way event diary to find out how they got on at Hambleden International Horse Trials with their SMART saddles.

To read the previous enstallment, click here 

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Ill-fitting saddles are culprits for horse and rider back pain concludes new study: Issued 20th July 2014

Ill-fitting saddles are not only associated with back muscle asymmetry, a stilted gait and back pain in the horse but they are also associated with back pain in the rider.  These are the key conclusions from a new study looking at saddle fit, back shape and horse as well as rider health. However, identifying the order of cause and effect is complex. The results strongly suggest that saddle fit should be checked regularly and that riders and trainers should be encouraged to learn how to identify ill-fitting saddles. In addition, the study highlights the importance of being able to recognise lameness, saddle slip and rider crookedness.  

Although sports horses are becoming increasingly valuable, previously there has been little objective exploration of the horse-saddle-rider interaction. In particular, there has been little work on the potential consequences of a saddle not fitting the horse, or the saddle not allowing the rider to sit in a position in which they can ride in balance.  

The study1 was conducted by Dr Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) and Line Greve, PhD Student at the AHT and was supported by World Horse Welfare (WHW). 

A clinical assessment of the horse and rider was performed and data was subsequently obtained from the same riders via an online questionnaire, without the riders being aware of the link between the two initiatives. The horses were selected from a variety of work disciplines, were in regular work and were presumed by their riders or owners to be sound. Asymmetries of the back were assessed and any presence of lameness observed. Saddle slip, fit and management as well as rider straightness were evaluated from both the clinical examination and questionnaire responses. 

A total of 205 riders responded to the questionnaire. Ill-fitting saddles were identified in 43% of horses during the clinical assessment. Saddle slip was observed in 14.6% of horses, which was significantly associated with hindlimb lameness or gait abnormalities. However, only two riders had linked saddle slip and lameness despite strong associations between a history of lameness, history of ‘back problems’ and history of saddle slip. 38% of riders had back pain and in the clinical assessment this was associated with ill-fitting saddles and either a reduced airborne phase of the step in all four limbs or a stiff, stilted canter, suggesting pain. Rider back pain was also associated with rider crookedness. Well-fitted saddles were associated with frequent saddle fit check. Horses ridden by expert riders were less likely to have asymmetry of the back compared with those ridden by nonexpert riders.

 “Ideally saddle fit should be checked more often than once a year to reduce the instances of ill fitting saddles,” said Line Greve. “Yet this isn’t the whole solution because worryingly, 30% of horses that had their saddles checked at least once yearly still had an ill-fitting saddle. What is unknown is whether these saddles had ever fitted correctly or whether a properly qualified saddle fitter was responsible for the fitting. It can only be of benefit for riders, trainers and other associated professionals to become more educated about the complexity of the links between lameness, saddle slip, ill-fitting saddles and rider crookedness.” 

The full results of the study will be presented at the second Saddle Research Trust International Conference, to be held in Cambridge on 29th November 2014 at Anglia Ruskin University. The conference is supported by World Horse Welfare (WHW) and is approved by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). Advance tickets are £100 or £150 on the door. To find out more, download a copy of the programme and purchase tickets visit 

1 Saddle fit and management: an investigation of the association with equine thoracolumbar asymmetries,
horse and rider health L. Greve and S.J. Dyson, Centre for Equine Studies, Animal Health Trust, Lanwades Park, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7UU, UK. 

 Image shows that the seat of the saddle tips back. The panels 
of the saddle have contact with the horse’s back at the front
and the back but not under the middle of the saddle. This is 
called bridging and causes focal pressure under the front and
back of the saddle. 

Image shows the seat of the saddle tips backwards which, 
with a rider, results in abnormal pressure under the back of
the saddle. The numnahs tend to ruckle up behind the saddle. 

Friday 1 August 2014

August 2014 Solution of the Month – The best purchase I have made for my horse.

"This is my Clydesdale Dougal in his SMART GP saddle.

He has just started dressage and has been placed at his first 3 shows, including a fifth, a second and two firsts. 
I believe that the comfort and freedom of movement his SMART GP saddle allows goes a long way to enabling such a large horse achieve these results.

As a rider of 40 years I can say without a doubt that this was money well spent.

Thank you again to Solution Saddles.

Joyce Shearer