Effect of rider weight on tölt quality in Icelandic horses
The Icelandic horse is commonly used for leisure riding and/ or sport. Commonly the riders are adults. Taking into consideration that Icelandic horses are small riding horses, the bodyweight ratio (BWR) between rider and horse is relatively high.
The influence of rider weight on horse performance and horse health is a topic of growing interest in the equestrian world. The aim of this study was to measure the effect of BWR between the rider and horse between a range of 20% - 35%, which is common in Icelandic horses, on stride parameters in tölt. Tölt is a symmetrical four-beat gait, preferably without suspension. Tölt is typical for Icelandic horses and the gait cannot be found in all horse breeds.
Eight experienced Icelandic horses were filmed during exercise. The horses tölted 642m with incrementing weight (by 5%) and rest periods in between. The horses were ridden by one professional rider and to increase weight, lead weights were added to the saddle. The parameters that were analysed were: stride duration, stride frequency, stride length, duty factor (the relative stride stance time), lateral advanced placement, lateral advanced lift-off, unipedal support, bipedal support and height of front leg action.
Duty factor and bipedal support increased with increasing BWR, whereas unipedal support decreased. In addition, stride length became shorter and more frequent with increasing BWR, which is undesirable. The other factors were not affected by BWR.
Expert opinion by Anouk van Breukelen
These results indicate the a higher rider bodyweight might negatively effect tölt quality in the Icelandic horse. However, the balance of the rider and their ability to follow the horses’ movement may also cause changes in gait quality and may not be comparable to dead weight. This should be analysed in future studies.
> From: Gunnarsson et al., Animal 11 (2017) 1567-1572. All rights reserved to The Animal Consortium 2017. Click here for the online summary.