Ever since BALANCE went public with the evidence of its own research back in 1993, there has been a lot of interest in the work that BALANCE does.
The Co-founders took advantage of any opportunity they had to use more scientific and objective ways to prove the validity of their findings from very early on in BALANCE history.
One of the first studies we did back in the early days of the BALANCE organisation, was to experiment with assessing the difference between a ridden horse in its own conventional and professionally fitted saddle to the BALANCE Saddling System and a BALANCE saddle, by using a force plate to record and analyse the loading on the feet as the horse was ridden over it.
This was all done in a very informal way, just because the opportunity came up and we had no idea whether the results would show anything of interest or significance.
However, what that simple experiment clearly showed was highly significant. :)
As well as taking readings of the horse when trotted over the plate in hand, to assess a base-line pattern of loading, it was, apparently, the first time that someone had attempted to ride a horse over the force plate, at that facility, but it worked well.
The results clearly showed more stability in the way the feet landed in the BALANCE saddle and a reduction of concussion and loading in the front feet, with the weight of the horse more evenly distributed between the front and back feet.
This supported what we had been witnessing visually when changing horses into BALANCE saddles, but it was great to get some unbiased and objectively measured evidence as well.
What the readings showed, was that in the BALANCE saddle, they were very close to matching the readings when the horse was led in hand, with no saddle on its back, whereas the readings when the horse was in its own saddle, showed a deterioration in stability, an exaggeration of an inherent hoof imbalance in one front limb and an increase in concussion.
In 1996, Writtle College asked if they could use BALANCE saddles and methods for a simple project they wanted to do, using CAD to analyse movement patterns in horses when their saddles were changed.
Again recordings and measurements were taken of the horses led in hand and then in two different saddles: their own, conventionally fitted saddles and a BALANCE saddle.
The data collected shows that in the BALANCE saddles, the movement returned to very similar to the readings taken when the horses were led in hand (walk and trot); this matches what we witness time and again when doing Saddle Consultations and Test Rides. This confirms that the BALANCE methods and equipment can minimize saddle influence on the horses and allow them to retain their natural movement.
"a correlation was determined between the flight arc and the fit of the saddle which suggested that a wide fitting saddle mirrored the flight of the horses natural movement. This compares to a saddle of a narrower fit which indicated that the peak of flight occurred in the opposite direction to that of the horses natural movement."
The next study that was undertaken, was at De-Montford University under the guidance of Dr Gail Williams from September 1998 till May 1999
This project was used for 3 students. Amy Bealle, Katie O'Neill and Rachel Fuller, submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a Bachelor of Equine Science degree.
The subject of their research was:
THE EFFECT OF SADDLE FIT ON THE MUSCULATURE AND ACTION OF THE JUMPING HORSE
It was done with a small group of horses over several weeks and included a control group
During the time that the horses were ridden in BALANCE saddles they showed improvements in joint flexibility, bascule over the jump, better recovery and improvement in muscle mass in the saddle area.
"This study aims to test the primary hypothesis, that poorly fitting saddles inhibit the jumping kinematics of the horse. The horses used were 4 geldings that all displayed symptoms of damage from poorly fitting saddles. In total data were taken over 7 collection sessions under one of two conditions."
- Condition 1. The horses were jumped in their normal saddles
- Condition 2. The horses were jumped in correctly fitting, wider Balance saddles
The 3 study horses jumped under both conditions, while the control horse jumped only under condition 1.
Data were taken and recorded with the use of the MacReflex Motion Analysis System(MacReflex 2.5 Qualysis AB, Sweden) and passive reflective markers (Scotchfite 3M 8850).
"The results of this study support the primary hypothesis and suggest that Balance saddles allow the horses more freedom to utilize their own inherent ability and natural jumping techniques."
The most recent study was done during 2018, at Hartpury College as part of a Masters Degree .
Once again the data collected supports the fact that the horses used in the study were able to move better when ridden in saddles that contain the design features found in BALANCE saddles and used as part of a Functional Saddling method.
The full details of this study have been released, and a short video produced to show the method used and the results. This includes footage of the instant transformation of horses when taken out of their own, conventionally fitted saddles and put into a BALANCE saddle and pad combination. See the link below to our YouTube channel and the film about the research.