SRT Research Associate Wins Prize for Racing Saddle Thesis

SRT Research Associate, Grace Maxwell, has recently graduated with disctintion from the McTimoney College of Chiropractic. Not only that, but her thesis, facilitated by the SRT, was awarded the Dorothy Waring Prize.


Maxwell Equine Therapy - Grace provides McTimoney treatment and massage for horses and dogs in Wiltshire and surrounding counties, and all over Ireland.


Grace Maxwell


MSc Equine Science, Masters McTimoney Animal Manipulation


Grace completed an honours degree in Equine Science from the University of Limerick, Ireland, graduating at the top of her class and winning the Ford Prize for excellence. She proceeded to complete a Master of Science degree by research based on equine Virology at the Irish Equine Centre, Kildare. Her thesis; Real-time RT-PCR for the Detection and Quantitative Analysis of Equine Rhinitis Viruses resulted in publication of a paper of the same title in the Equine Veterinary Journal.


After spending time working in various yards in Ireland, England and America, and running a successful breaking and pretraining business, Grace obtained a Masters Degree in McTimoney Animal Manipulation. Her thesis, A comparison of the Forces Acting on the Horse’s Back under a Half-Tree and Full-Tree Race Exercise Saddle at Walk and Trot, very kindly facilitated by the SRT and Tekscan, obtained a distinction and won the Dorothy Waring Prize.



We are pleased to be able to share the findings of Grace's thesis through the SRT.

A Comparison of the Forces Acting on the Horse’s Back under a Half-Tree and Full-Tree Race Exercise Saddle at Walk and Trot

Grace Maxwell, McTimoney College, Abingdon

Grace Maxwell has graduated with a Master of Science Degree in Animal Manipulation from McTimoney College of Chiropractic. The research was carried out in association with McTimoney College of Chiropractic, SRT and Tekscan Inc. The author would like to thank Anne Bondi of SRT and Josh Ingleton of Biosense Medical Ltd. and Tekscan Inc. for kindly facilitating this research and providing technical support, Marcus Foley Racing for providing the facilities and McTimoney College of Chiropractic.

Back problems are reputed to be responsible for poor performance of the racehorse causing lameness, and contributing to wastage in the Thoroughbred industry. Poor fit or improper positioning of the saddle frequently causes back pain and poor performance. In the racing industry, poor performance must be linked to exercise saddles as half-tree and full-tree saddles are used with a ‘fit-anything’ approach. Force sensing technology can be used to accurately and objectively measures pressure caused by the saddle and to evaluate saddle fit The Tekscan Conformat System is a new wireless pressure sensing mat contained within a saddle pad, which records force under saddle in real-time.

The aim of this study was to use the Tekscan system to investigate force under the half- and full-tree exercise saddles. Six horses were ridden by the same experienced rider in a half-tree race exercise saddle and a full-tree race exercise saddle in three different sections: 1) walk, 2) rising trot and 3) trot with the rider in a jockey position. The force measurements varied greatly between horses, saddles and between gaits. There was a wide range of values for total force under both saddles, with neither saddle producing a typical result. Overall, force under the half-tree saddle was slightly higher than the full-tree; however, this was not statistically significant. The trot with rider in jockey position resulted in a lower force measurement than walk or rising trot for both saddles. Force at walk was double that of the trot with rider in jockey position. The highest force measurement was observed at a walk under the half-tree saddle whereas the lowest measurement occurred under the full-tree saddle at trot with rider in jockey position. Force was highest in the front half of saddle for all thee gaits in both saddles.

Based on using lowest over all force as a criterion for saddle fit, the full-tree saddle is preferable for use. However, high variation of force results between individual horses indicates that the appropriateness of saddle fit should be considered on an individual basis. As numbers of horses were limited in this study further research is required to confirm these findings in a larger population and to determine if similar results apply to all race-exercise saddles. Although these brands of saddles are commonly used, more in-depth analysis is required to investigate the pressure patterns caused by each saddle and determine the effects of force on the horse’s back. On the basis of this research neither half- or full-tree saddles can be conclusively recommended for use. But the high variability in force measurements indicates that a wider variety of saddles varying in tree type and overall shape should be used to exercise racehorses. It is not practical or economically viable to fit a saddle to every racehorse but using a wider variety of saddles may reduce discomfort and injury and improve performance.      Follow SaddleResearch on Twitter      View Saddle Research Trust's profile on LinkedIn