There’s a significant link between hind limb lameness and saddle slip, according to a new study from the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust in the UK. The research shows consistent saddle slip in some horses with hind limb lameness, even when the lameness is fairly subtle and difficult to detect. Saddle slip in sports horses can occur for a variety of reasons, including asymmetry in the shape of the horse’s back, riders sitting crookedly, and ill-fitting saddles.

The study assessed 128 horses of varying size, age and type. The saddle consistently slipped to one side in 54% of horses with hind limb lameness, compared with 4% of horses with fore limb lameness, 0% with back pain and/or sacroiliac joint region pain, and 0% of non-lame horses. Diagnostic analgesia was subsequently used to abolish the hind limb lameness, eliminating saddle slip in 97% of cases.

“Our findings emphasize the need to educate owners, veterinarians, physiotherapists, trainers, riders and saddle fitters that saddle slip is frequently an indicator of lameness, not necessarily a manifestation of an ill-fitting saddle or asymmetric shape of the horse’s back,” says Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre. “Detection of saddle slip provides an opportunity for the owner, riders and trainers to detect low-grade and subclinical lameness.”