Assessment of Saddle Fit in Racehorses Using Infrared Thermography

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The aim of this study was to assess the influence of horse, saddle, and rider on saddle fit in racehorses by detecting pressure distribution using infrared thermography. In this study, 22 saddles used on 65 racing horses ridden by 21 riders were used. Data from horses including gender, breed, age, training intensity, and level of performance were collected. Type and mass of the saddle were also obtained, along with information about the rider's body mass and riding skills. Thermographic images of the saddle's panels were captured immediately after untacking the horse at each thermographic examination. On each thermographic image of the saddle panels, six regions of interest (ROIs) were marked, with mean temperature calculated within each ROI to indicate pressure distribution. Saddle fit was evaluated for right/left panel pressure, bridging/rocking pressure, and front/back pressure according to horse's: gender, breed, age, training intensity, level of conditioning, rider's skills, and load (saddle plus rider mass). There were statistically significant relationships (P < .05) between left/right asymmetry and age, training, intensity and load. In front/back pressure, there was a statistically significant relationship (P < .05) for load. No statistically significant relationships were observed between bridging/rocking pressure and the rest of the aforementioned variables. The study indicated that load, horse age, and training intensity influence pressure distribution in racing saddles. Therefore, animal age and load have to be considered in saddle fit. Infrared thermography has been confirmed as a useful tool in the evaluation of saddle fit in racing horses.HighlightsLoad and horse age influence pressure distribution of the saddle fit.Horse age and load have to be considered in saddle fit in racing horses.Infrared thermography is a useful tool in the evaluation of saddle fit.

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