The effect of added weight on horses jumping
Endurance and jumping are physically strenuous activities for horses. This study investigates the hypothesis that adding extra weight to the saddle puts more pressure on the horse and changes the stride kinematics during landing and the first departure stride.
Six experienced eventing horses were jumped over a 1.10 high table fence 4 times under 2 different conditions in randomised order; the normal weight of rider and saddle, and the normal weight of rider and saddle plus an additional 18 kg weight cloth. Video analysis of the sagittal plane was then analysed.
The results show that when extra weight was added there was a significant increase in the extension of the fetlock and carpal joints in the leading front leg. Furthermore, with added weight the forelimbs landed closer to the fence, which could be dangerous when jumping wide fences. When assessing the effects on the first departure stride the added weight was associated with increases in the stance durations of both hindlimbs and in the overlap between them, while the advanced placement between the hindlimbs was reduced. With extra weight, it was also seen that the horses’ heads were more in front of the vertical during the landing and the first departure stride.
Expert opinion by Els Smet
The riders felt that the horses jumped closer to the fence, which corresponds with the results of the video analysis. This is probably due to the horses being unable to increase the impulse sufficiently to take off. The riders also felt that the horses were less able to correct mistakes due to the extra weight, and that this could change if trained regularly with extra weight.
> From: Clayton, Equine Vet J 23 (1997) 50-53. All rights reserved to Wiley Online Library. Click here for the online summary.