Hind limb lameness is the biggest cause of saddle slip in horses and there is a startling frequency of lameness in the general sports horse population, reveals a new study on the relationship between lameness, saddle slip and back shape.

Saddle slip is usually blamed on poor saddle fit, a crooked rider or asymmetry in the shape of the horse’s back but the first phase of a long-term research project, which was first published in 2012, showed that in fact hind limb lameness is frequently the culprit.

The second phase of the study, 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, has gone on to look at the frequency of saddle slip in and the reasons for it, in a large cross-section of the sports horse population.1

Of the 506 normal, working sports horses assessed, 46% were classified as lame or having a stiff, stilted canter. Saddle slip occurred in 12% of cases, predominantly in those with hind limb, as opposed to fore limb, lameness. There was minimal asymmetry of back shape in the horses studied but 37% of the riders sat crookedly, possibly as an effect of the saddle slip rather than as a cause.

“Given these figures, horses with hind limb lameness and gait abnormalities are more than 50 times more likely to have saddle slip than other horses,” said Line Greve. “Furthermore with nearly half of those studied being lame, many horses with lameness are clearly going unrecognised. This study has reinforced our previous work and suggests that further education of riders and trainers is needed, to help them identify saddle slip as an indicator of lameness.”

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 but you can take advantage of 15% discount if you book by 1st June, £75 for SRT, BEVA, WHW members and students or £150 on the door. Email research@saddleresearchtrust.com or telephone 07775 912202 to reserve your place. To find out more and to download a copy of the programme visit www.saddleresearchtrust.com