Volunteer Horses Needed to Help Vital Study


The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is looking for volunteer horses to take part in an important study looking at suitable horse and rider weight proportions.

hacking ponies

The issue of rider weight, or more accurately, inappropriate rider weight is one which has been a hot topic in the equestrian sector over recent months, after a joint initiative between World Horse Welfare and the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) set out to bring this tricky topic to the fore.

Working with representatives from across the equestrian community, the initiative aims to understand the factors involved in ensuring that proportions are appropriate when it comes to horse and rider compatibility.

Currently, there is a lack of scientific research on which to base any guidelines for determining an appropriate rider size for each horse and this is what the study carried out by Dr Sue Dyson seeks to address.

The aim of this study is to investigate whether there are any short term measurable differences when horses are ridden. During the study each horse will be ridden by 4 competent riders of different weights. Subjective and objective assessment of gait and behaviour when ridden, measurement of forces under the saddle, heart rate during exercise and recovery, cortisol levels and back dimensions before and after exercise will be assessed. Owners of the horses taking part will have access to free advice from experts in their field, including vets, saddle fitters, nutritionists and professional riders. Each horse will be given a free saddle-fit assessment and any adjustments will also be carried out free of charge. During the study horses will be stabled at World Horse Welfare’s Snetterton centre, under the professional care of the AHT team.

The study does not query what size or weight a rider should be, but will investigate the effect of different   rider to horse weight ratios. This will enable vets, owners and trainers to determine an appropriately sized partnership. A rider can be heavier than another and still work a horse in good balance and posture. However, regardless of the competency of the rider, if they are too big or too heavy and the horse does not have the core strength to support that excessive pressure, injury will occur. No one wants to see a horse caused discomfort or pain, so this is a step towards a practical solution to an increasing problem. 

Horses taking part in the study must be:

  • 450-550 kg bodyweight (Approx. 15 – 16hh)
  • in regular work and capable of working two 30 minute sessions in a day
  • capable of working on the bit in walk, trot and canter
  • available 3 – 8 September (horses will be stables on site throughout the study)
  • able to travel to World Horse Welfare, Snetterton (costs will be reimbursed)
  • vaccinated against influenza and tetanus

Whether you have a happy hacker that is happy to help, a youngster in need of some life experience, or a riding school horse who would enjoy a change of scenery – the AHT needs volunteers. If you horse is able to take part, they would be helping to take the weight off many other horses’ shoulders, for which they and the AHT would be very grateful.

For more information email: equine.centre@aht.org.uk or call 01638 751908.