SRT research associates joined forces to stage a world first in rider performance analysis.

Duchy College in Cornwall played host to the ground breaking event, which was the first ever rider performance clinic to date.


The collaborative pilot study looked at comparisons in rider performance using the riders own / usual saddle, with that of an alternative rigid free design. Through state of the art measuring systems including rein strain technology, biomechanical analysis, pressure mapping, 3D rapid scanning and limb phasing, riders took part in a series of tests.


Methods of performance analysis meant participants were provided with basic feedback throughout the testing, followed by a comprehensive debrief.


When complete, detailed analysis of the results will provide each rider with an individual report including images, with the full results due to be published in the New Year.


MSc student and event organiser Hayley Edwards says she was pleased by the positive response from both participants and spectators, whilst Charlotte Berridge, Tekscan pressure mapping analyst continued by saying: “It was exciting to see the individual technologies working together for the first time. We were provided with robust results that highlighted previously unrecognised trends.”

rein gauge
MSc student and event organiser Hayley Edwards collects data from the rein strain gauge

One of the participants, Anne Lewis attended the clinic with her 4 year old gelding. She reported noticing gradual flattening of the back and was concerned it may be a saddle fitting issue.


Explains Anne: “The clinic was useful in that it made me look closely at the fit of my saddle and how it moves at the back. If I hadn’t gone to the clinic it would probably have taken longer for me to realise. I will be getting my saddler out to remedy the fit of the saddle.


“It is very exciting to think that armatures could access this sort of technology. What I would love would be to be able to repeat these tests every year, so that you can see changes over time.”


Continues Anne: “For instance my horse was asymmetrical before he was backed, and now has one side that is stiff. I would hope to see this improve over time, and it would be great to measure this objectively, to see how successful or otherwise your training had been.”


biomechanical markers
Biomechanical markers were applied to horse, saddle and rider prior to testing

Another participant, Michelle Heale says: “To be honest when we arrived I almost turned and ran! I didn’t think my riding was up to it, or that my horse was fit and god enough for the job. I was so glad I stayed. Everyone was really friendly and although it was daunting at first, I was put at ease and actually enjoyed being a guinea pig.”


Continues Michelle: “It was extremely useful, especially when we put on the rigid free saddle and I noticed the differences. Following an accident I always suffer pain in my left hip. My horse has asymmetrical scapulas and his movement throws my saddle to the right, leaving me to pull the saddle back into position. This constant throw to the right causes me to be thrown off balance and causes my hip to ache.”


Concludes Michelle: “In the flexible saddle I couldn’t believe the difference, my hip immediately relaxed and I could ride much better! I learnt alot from the clinic and would most definitely repeat the experience. I couldn’t have imagined that I would have got so much out of it.”

asymmetrical shoulders
Picture shows Michelle Heale’s horse. The back is very asymmetrical
Research associate Jo Green of Pegasus gait analysis says: “I am very much looking forward to analysing all the data. It will be fascinating to discover if any unexpected effects result from the interaction of horse, saddle and rider.”
limb sensors
Jo Green of Pegasus applies sensors to the lower limbs
collecting data
Charlotte Berridge, SRT administrator records the pressure mapping data
analysis aanalysis b
Demonstrates the lack of synchrony between horse, saddle and rider. A common trend identified from the study.
Anne Bondi, SRT trust Director concludes: “This objective, scientific method of performance analysis provides a more complete picture for the first time. This study has enabled us to observe some very interesting trends and has raised many more questions.”
Continues Anne: “The results of this pilot study will inform the nature of future research for years to come. I believe the lack of synchrony observed between horse, rider and saddle is extremely relevant to the influence on performance of both horse and rider.”      Follow SaddleResearch on Twitter      View Saddle Research Trust's profile on LinkedIn