Riding Technique Affects Horse Force

Scientific American

Click here to listen to this podcast

It’s tough to have a job where the boss is always riding you. That’s literally the case with a horse. Now a study finds that stress experienced by the equine spine can vary drastically with the style and skill of the rider. The findings are trotted out in the Journal of Experimental Biology. [Patricia de Cocq et al., Modelling biomechanical requirements of a rider for different horse-riding techniques at trot]

Your average riders have two basic choices when it comes to staying on a moving steed. They can clamp their thighs tight and try to remain seated, or they can bob up and down with the rhythm of the horse, standing in the stirrups as they rise off the saddle. But which is better for the horse?

Researchers filmed dressage riders as they trotted using both techniques. And they found that riders who use the more bouncy ‘rising trot’ actually keep their center of mass more steady when they stand—which reduces the force on the horse’s back.

Now, jockeys take this position to the extreme. By standing in the stirrups for the entire ride, a jockey’s center of mass follows an almost flat line. Makes for a faster race to the finish, and a less burdened beast.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs.

Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.

© 2013 ScientificAmerican.com. All rights reserved.

View Comments (10)