At the Saddle Research Trust 2nd International Conference In 2014, Professor Rene van Weeren introduced this question to the delegates and made this observation:
” Although progress in this area is slow and hampered for reasons outlined. there is no reason why progress could not be made and even be as fast as in other (human) sports that have embraced modern technology. Examples are manifold and include bike development in professional cycling, shoes used in running, the klapskate used in speed skating and the introduction of novel athletic techniques such as the “Fosbury Flop” in jumping which was introduced by Dick Fosbury during the 1968 Olympics. The last example is of special interest. While heavily criticised by the leading coaches of the day, who stated that the technique would “wipe out an entire generation of high jumpers because they would all have broken necks” the reality is that since 1980, nobody who did not use the technique has held the world record. Fortunately, also, progress is made in the equestrian world, albeit still modest and at a relatively slow pace. Good examples of scientific studies with practical impact are the work on footing(among others Cravier-Denoix et al.2013, Hernlund et al. 2013 and many saddle pressure studies (among others Ramseier et al. 2013, Clayton et al. 2014). However, the impact on the industry is still relatively limited.
The question is not whether or not we can apply science in the equine industry (van Weeren and Back 2014) but whether we want it and to what extent we allow it to influence our current practice. It is still an open question as to whether the equine industry is far-sighted enough to embrace novel technology that can be of great value in making the sport better and safer for both people and horses on its own initiative, or will have to be forced to do so by external pressure.”
It is only a few weeks now until the 2018 Saddle Research Trust 3rd International Conference and it will be fascinating to hear if we have advanced in this area of welfare and performance in the ridden horse and rider.
Although the conference has sold out, you can watch via live stream, tv quality with a ‘watch again’ feature. The link is on our homepage.