Back health of the Swiss riding horse population – a survey study

Sport and leisure horses in Switzerland often suffer from back pain. One reason for this is poorly fitting saddles. An awareness-raising campaign aims to show riders how to recognise back pain and poor saddle fit in horses and how to tell when action is needed.


Back problems cause a lot of pain, but recognising this in horses is not always easy. Poorly fitting saddles in particular can cause health problems in the horse. For this reason, the FSVO commissioned researchers from the Equine Sports Medicine Unit at the Equine Department of the University of Zurich to conduct a study into the back health of Swiss riding horses.

The study shows that riders in Switzerland are often unable to judge the fit of their saddle or to recognise back pain in their horse. Here we outline how this problem can arise and what can be done about it.

Back problems – a vicious circle

Back pain and the resulting poor posture lead to incorrect loading. This incorrect loading of the back and limbs can lead to chronic orthopaedic problems and even lameness.

The back muscles may weaken and atrophy. And if back musculature is lost, the saddle position changes. This leads to saddle fit problems, which in turn aggravate the incorrect loading, triggering a painful vicious circle.
Impairments to the horse’s health can be caused specifically by a poorly fitting saddle. But they can also be the result of diseases of the limbs and back, or even incorrect schooling.

How to break the vicious circle?

A campaign aims to make both lay persons and professionals aware of the interconnections between horse, saddle and rider.

Recognising an ill-fitting saddle

In detail

Forschungsdatenbank ARAMIS: Unterlagen zum Forschungsprojekt «Rückengesundheit der Schweizer Pferdepopulation – eine Übersichtsstudie»

Last modification 14.06.2022

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