Reasons for performing study: A comprehensive kinematic description of rider and saddle movements is not yet present in the scientific literature.
Objective: To describe saddle and rider movements in a group of high‐level dressage horses and riders.
Method: Seven high‐level dressage horses and riders were subjected to kinematic measurements while performing collected trot on a treadmill. For analysis a rigid body model for the saddle and core rider segments, projection angles of the rider's extremities and the neck and trunk of the horse, and distances between markers selected to indicate rider position were used.
Results: For a majority of the variables measured it was possible to describe a common pattern for the group. Rotations around the transverse axis (pitch) were generally biphasic for each diagonal. During the first half of stance the saddle rotated anticlockwise and the rider's pelvis clockwise viewed from the right and the rider's lumbar back extended. During the later part of stance and the suspension phase reverse pitch rotations were observed. Rotations of the saddle and core rider segments around the longitudinal (roll) and vertical axes (yaw) changed direction only around time of contact of each diagonal.
Conclusion: The saddles and riders of high‐level dressage horses follow a common movement pattern at collected trot. The movements of the saddle and rider are clearly related to the movements of the horse and saddle movements also seem to be influenced by the rider.
Potential relevance: Knowledge about rider and saddle movements can further our understanding of, and hence possibilities to prevent, orthopaedic injuries related to the exposure of the horse to a rider and saddle.
The generally advocated technique of alternating limbs when riding in rising trot is supported. The VGRF changes between rising on the left or right diagonal were distinct, but minor in absolute terms and therefore unlikely to have direct impact on the occurrence of locomotor injuries. Knowledge of an increase of asymmetry in rising trot is potentially useful for riders/trainers.
The literature suggests that the rider's influence on the movement pattern of the horse is the strongest at walk. For assessment of the horse-rider interaction in dressage horses presented for unsatisfactory performance, evaluations at walk may therefore be the most rewarding. Basic knowledge about rider and saddle movements in well-performing horses is likely to be supportive to this task.
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