Dr. Hillary Clayton's presentation III
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, November 27, 2008 10:03 AM
Saddle fit
Dr. Hillary Clayton's team used a special saddle pad with electronic pressure sensors from Novel-Pliance Company. For more information about research projects click here.
  • During movement the pressure under saddle changes and can become quite significant. The problem starts to develop when pressure stays constant and creates a pressure point.
  • They tested regular saddle pads made of different types of material. They found that sheepskin is the best for distributing pressure evenly under the saddle. However, it does not let heat to escape and it becomes quite hot under a sheepskin.
  • The gullet must be evenly wide all the way from pommel to cantle and it should be about 4 inches wide. This way it will not interfere with horse's spine even during turns and circles. The panels should mimic the slope of the horse's back. Otherwise there will be pressure points if angle is too acute or too open.
  • Panels themselves must be wide to distribute pressure over as big surface as possible.
  • The dressage saddle must stay about 2 inches behind the shoulder blade when horse is standing square. This allows the shoulder blade to make it's circular motion free of obstruction.
  • There is an excellent solution on the market to create a well fitted saddle with the one you are already have. It called the Port Lewis Saddle Fit System. It is a Canadian company that sells an impression pad to check the fitting and elaborate system of panels to create a saddle pad that will make your saddle fit your horse. It is very inexpensive, $200 impression pad and another S150-200 for a complete kit of panels including saddle pad to put those panels in. The process is easy enough to do yourself and to keep your saddle always fit your horse, because you can check again and again and adjust the panels as necessary. I have seen it in action at the symposium and it is an excellent alternative to restaffing, buying a new saddle, or for trainers who must ride several horses with only a few saddles.
Bits and action of the reins
This research was done by video recording a standing horse, his head in particular. The video allowed to see the inside of the horse's mouth: jaws, teeth and a bit. The bit was recorded with reins loose and drawn slightly. Bits were - regular snuffle, KK- Ultra, Myler snuffle, etc.
  • The single joint snuffle bit hangs in the mouth with no rein pressure. There is very little room left above the bit and when reins are drawn the bit creates a nutcracking effect in the upper palate. Interesting point from my own observation, when the horse's head is vertical the nutcracking effect is biggest. When the horse's head is horizontal the effect is smallest unless reins are pulled downward like with running martingale or draw-reins.
  • The bars of the lower jaw are actually very close to each other and in KK bits double joints lay very close to the bars and can pinch them. Myler snuffle on the other hand puts almost no pressure on the bars because it's joint in the center allows only rotation on it's axis and not folding.
  • When a small amount of pressure exerted on the bit horses like to take their tongue from under the bit and lay it on top of it. In general their tongue's activity increases dramatically even though it may not be noticeable for the rider or observer.
Elastic contact. Inertia of the horse's head.
The research found that rein tension changes during trot stride. However, rider feels steady and elastic contact in the rein. The horse's head falls under the influence of gravity every time front leg lands on the ground. The nodding motion of the head and neck is transmitted through the reins. The change in pressure fluctuates gradually between 2 and 5 pounds. Good riders with soft and receiving hands absorb this motion and feel elastic contact. Nonelastic side-reins create spike in pressure and do not allow elasticity in contact. Riders with very tense and holding hands do not create an elastic contact. This explains why sensitive horses or horses that like to go behind the bit work better with elastic side-reins.
Happy riding...
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