What Causes Saddle Slip

Research has the saddle rolling off to one side is called “saddle slip” and is usually blamed on poor saddle fit, crooked riders, or asymmetry of the horse. Research has demonstrated that slight hindlimb lameness is what causes saddle slip. Recent research has demonstrated a relationship between hindlimb lameness and saddle slip. When lameness was abolished by local analgesia, the saddle slip was resolved. However, there were no studies on the frequency of occurrence of saddle slip and risk factors within the general sports horse population. We, therefore, performed a study to quantify the frequency of saddle slip and to describe the association with lameness, thoracolumbar shape and symmetry, crooked riders, and ill-fitting saddles in a cross-section of the sports horse population. shape and symmetry.

crooked rider

Five hundred and six sports horses in regular work were assessed prospectively. Thoracolumbar shape and symmetry were measured at predetermined sites using a flexible curve ruler. The saddle fit and the fit of any pads or numnahs were assessed. All horses were assessed trotting in hand and ridden by the usual rider. The presence of lameness (in-hand and/or ridden), saddle slip, and crookedness of the rider were recorded. Statistics were performed to assess the relationship between horse-saddle-rider factors and saddle slip.

The frequency of lameness with a quadrilaterally reduced cranial phase of the stride or a stiff, stilted canter was 45.7%. Saddle slip occurred in 12.3% of the horses. There was major left-right asymmetry of back shape in 0.6% of horses. One hundred and three of 276 riders (37.3%) sat crookedly. The saddle consistently slipped to one side in 30.3% of horses with hindlimb lameness, compared with 5.4% with forelimb lameness, 17.4% with the stiff, stilted canter, 20% with quadrilaterally reduced cranial phase of stride, and 5.6% of non-lame horses. Nineteen horses (30.6%) with saddle slip had no detectable hindlimb lameness. However, 14 had a gait abnormality, particularly in canter; for example, crookedness, four-time canter, quality of canter worse on one rein compared with the other, or placing the hindlimbs unusually close together. In 93 horses (18.4%), the saddle had uneven contact and was unbalanced in 166 horses (32.8%).

Statistical analysis revealed that saddle slip was significantly associated with hindlimb lameness and gait abnormalities, with a risk of 52.6 times the odds. Paradoxically, a saddle fitted with even contact and uniform flocking was more likely to slip (15.5 times the odds) than an ill-fitting saddle; similarly, a well-balanced saddle was more likely to slip (3.1 times the odds) than an unbalanced saddle. Saddles that bridge are more likely to be held in a fixed position than well-fitting saddles. Saddle slip was also more likely for riders sitting crookedly (6.3 times the odds) than those sitting straight. However, we believe that this is sometimes an effect of saddle slipping rather than the cause. Of the riders that rode more than one horse, those that were crooked when riding a horse with a saddle slip usually sat straight on a horse without a saddle slip. Horses with a round wide back shape at the level of the eighteenth thoracic vertebra were slightly more likely to have saddle slip (1.2 times the odds) than horses which were less round. This may reflect a greater contact area between the horse’s back and the saddle panels. Therefore, the saddle is more likely to follow the movement of the horse. A saddle may also be more likely to slip over a convex than a concave surface.

This study revealed a startling frequency of lameness in the general sports horse population. Clearly, many horses with hindlimb and/or forelimb lameness go unrecognized. This study reinforced our previous observations that saddle slip may be a sign of hindlimb lameness. Education of the equestrian population to identify lameness and saddle slip is required.